Review: “Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune” by Roselle Lim

42051103Title: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune
Author: Roselle Lim
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Imprint: Berkley
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest opinion.

 

Warm and touching, Roselle Tan’s debut touches on loss, family, culture, self-discovery and the healing power of food.

At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around – she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.

There are those rare books that leave you feeling light and full all the same time. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is one of those books.

Deliciously magical and vibrant, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was a treat to read. Roselle Tan weaved together a charming story that centers on family, community, and self-discovery using food a mediator – a bridge – between characters, bringing them together.

3

Loss – the dealing and accepting of it- is another theme central to this book. Having lost her mother right before the start of the story, Natalie had to deal with anger, loss, and grief. She hasn’t seen nor spoken to her mother in the whole seven years she was gone from their home in San Francisco, and the suddenness of her death understandably brought out some hidden resentments and, of course, regrets. It was heartwarming how Tan handled this part of her story, depicting with great care and love the nuances, values, and rituals of an Asian family.

2

Though Natalie carries the task of moving the story, the secondary characters added more color into the narrative. They are the community Natalie re-discovers and gains amidst her loss, and each one of them has their own thread in the story. Celia and Old Wu are the most memorable of these characters for me, and they were quite contrasting. Celia is such an open person, friendly and bright and vivacious. She takes in Natalie immediately, welcoming her into the fold and guiding her and re-introducing her to their old neighborhood. Old Wu, meanwhile, is a traditionalist. I’ll admit that I didn’t like him at first. He was too harsh Natalie and I felt that he judged her without even trying to get to know her. As the story went on and I got to know his connection with Natalie’s laolao, I understood where he was coming from. I thoroughly enjoyed reading parts where these two supporting characters appear and the difference between them only made them all the more fun to get to know.

1

While I loved most of this book, there were still a few things I thought could have been done better. The story meandered at times, spending too much time dwelling on one moment instead of moving on. The connection between plot threads also felt spotty at some points in the story, but perhaps the biggest issue I had was the romance. It was unnecessary and it felt like it was added as an afterthought. The story could have stood on its own without it. Daniel didn’t add much into it anyway, and I actually think Natalie talking about her ex-fiancé had more page-time than Daniel.

Overall, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was an incredibly delightful read. This is not YA but could easily be enjoyed by a younger audience. It was such a heartwarming and delightful story about family and community. All the food mentions in this book will certainly make you hungry so take it from me and have some snacks handy by your side before reading this.

P.S. I’ll definitely try my hand at all the recipes in this book even if I know I’m a Celia and no Natalie. You’ll get the joke when you read this book.

about the author

Roselle LimROSELLE LIM was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighborhood.

She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother’s) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.

An artist by nature, she considers writing as “painting with words.”

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Review: “The Au Pair” by Emma Rous

37561550
Title: The Au Pair
Author: Emma Rous
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47

ARC provided by publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest opinion.

 

Long-buried family secrets and one woman who knows it all, Emma Rous’ thriller of a debut makes one question Who am I if I’m not who I thought I was?

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

Deliciously intriguing, atmospheric and oh so twisty!

That’s how I would describe The Au Pair should I be asked for a quick review of the book. With mentions of sprites, changelings and witches – not to mention being set in a large Norfolk estate – this story definitely exudes a certain gothic vibe. But behind pretty descriptions of coastal England is a legitimate domestic mystery both tautly and ingeniously plotted as it is entertaining.

I cannot tell you enough just how much I enjoyed this book. I gobbled it up, flying through pages and almost finishing it in one sitting. There’s a lot to love in this book. Quaint, charming setting? Check. Family drama? Chock-full. Plot twists? Bucket-loads! And good luck trying to untangle them! The Au Pair delivers all these and more.

These elements, while definitely factoring into the equation, aren’t what makes The Au Pair a veritable page-turner. It was, for me, the way Emma Rous told the story which really elevates this book.

Rous maximizes both of her narrators – Seraphine and Laura – and uses them to their fullest potential. Both protagonists move and dictates the pace of this book. The dual timeline, with Seraphine’s present day quest to uncover her family’s long-buried secrets and Laura’s time as Edwin’s au pair the summer Seraphine and her twin Danny were born 25 years ago, reveals just enough with perfectly placed hints that’ll surely tease readers to puzzle together the whole story.

The Au Pair, with the exception of that last plot twist that made me stop for a good hour because it came out of nowhere with little foreshadowing, is definitely an engrossing, compelling read. I’m happy to have this be the first book I finished this year. Fans of domestic thrillers and mystery will certainly find something to enjoy in this one. I recommend it!

🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂

About the Author:

d0yW-IKj_400x400

EMMA ROUS grew up in England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji, and from a young age she had two ambitions: to write stories, and to look after animals. She studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Cambridge, and worked as a veterinary surgeon for eighteen years before starting to write fiction. Emma lives in Cambridgeshire, England, with her husband and three sons.

The Au Pair is her first novel.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

 

Review: “Give the Dark My Love” by Beth Revis

37789836

Title: Give the Dark My Love
Series: Give the Dark My Love #1
Author: Beth Revis
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47

ARC provided by Penguin through their First to Read reader program.

How far would you go to save the ones you love? Beth Revis’s newest dark fantasy asks that question as one country girl looks for a cure to a mysterious disease that’s fast taking over her people and her home island.

When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her.

All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague.

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

I know I’ve said it a hundred times over, but I’d say it again. I love antiheroes and, most especially, antiheroines. You know, those characters who are in the grey, neither good or bad or, and this most likely, part good and part bad. I just think they are closer to people in real life, complicated and simple at the same time. And this, the promise of another antiheroine for me to love and root for was what drove me to request for an advance copy of Give the Dark My Love.

And, oh boy, did it deliver!

Give the Dark My Love is a compelling and intriguing opener to a brand new series that will surely draw readers in. Beth Revis is back at what she does best, writing atmospheric fantasies. The prologue perfectly sets readers up for the forthcoming horrors this book has in store. Things build up from there, escalating and only getting darker as the story progresses.

Now, let’s go to the bit I loved the most in this book – the main character.

Nedra, oh my baby Nedra, I just wanted to hug her when I finished reading, but I have a feeling she won’t let me. She is an interesting character, morally grey and complicated. Her transformation was certainly the best part of this story. She starts out empathetic – a poor girl from a rural town who wants to find a cure for this mysterious disease that’s plaguing and killing her people – but, betrayed and used, she emerges as this fierce commander of an army of her own making. I’m certainly excited to read more of her in the next installments.

There are still a couple of things that could be improved in the next books. Pacing for one. There were points in the novel where I just can’t help but turn the pages one after the other, the pacing just flowing so well; then there are also points where things just seemed to crawl, Revis dwelling on certain scenes too much than she needs to.

Another thing that comes to mind is Grey’s perspective. While the story is mostly told from Nedra’s point-of-view, there are a handful of chapters written through Grey’s eyes. These parts are supposed to provide readers insight on the politics of Lunar Island, which is fine and dandy if only the information he provided was utilized.

There is certainly some chemistry between Nedra and Grey, but I’m only partway sold. I thought things progressed fast, mostly on Grey’s part. I’m willing to let it slide though, and wait and see how things go for these two in the next books because they have potential. I love that Grey, though he doesn’t agree with Nedra, is willing to hear her out and understands where she’s coming from. He can help Nedra pull herself out of the darkness she plunged herself into.

Overall, Give the Dark My Love is an exceptional dark fantasy. Readers will find themselves rooting and empathizing with Nedra even as she acts on desperation and goes dark in the end of this installment. I really enjoyed this one and will certainly be waiting (impatiently!) for the next book to come out.

🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂

About the Author:

img_6021-1

BETH REVIS is a New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and IndieBound bestselling author of novels and short stories for teens. Her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Beth worked as a high school teacher prior to becoming a full time author, and she till keeps in touch with many of her former students (who often begged to be killed off in her next novel). She currently resides in rural North Carolina with her boys: two massive dogs, one small son, and one average-sized husband.

Beth splits her time between writing, reading, and traveling.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram

Review: “Darius the Great is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram

37506437Title: Darius the Great is Not Okay

Author: Adib Khorram

Publisher: Dial Books / Penguin Publishing Group

Publication Date: August 28, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-Million

(Digital ARC graciously provided by Penguin Publishing Group via their First to Read program)

 

A bi-racial teen discovers the other half of his heritage in Adib Khorram’s heartbreaking and hilarious coming-of-age tale.

Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming – especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darious – the original Persian version of his name – and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darious on his own.

I didn’t know what I was expecting when I requested for Darius the Great is Not Okay. The blurb looked interesting and I was looking for something light to read, so uncontrollable me hit the request button. Little did I know that I will be handed one of the best books I’ll read this year.

There’s just so much to love in this debut – an awkward, relatable main character who will endear himself to readers, a healthy friendship, an honest portrayal of depression, and the sounds, smells and taste of Iran. I just gobbled everything up!

This one relies heavily on its main character, Darius, an awkward, nerdy teen who struggles with depression. Darius does not fit anywhere, not in school where he is a prime target for bullies like Fatty Bolger; not even in his own home where, no matter what he does, his father seems to disappointed of him. So, when his parents take him and his sister to Iran to visit his ailing father for the first and probably the last time, he’s even more out of his element.

It was so precious reading Darius’ growth. He starts out with pretty much a very negative perception of almost everything. He doesn’t really have any friends at school, except for the Persian girl who he occasionally have lunch with. He also doesn’t have a close relationship with his father, often referring to him as an “übermensch.” But, in Iran, he slowly opens up and instantly connects with Sohrab, his grandparents’ young neighbor and the son of his mother’s childhood best friend.

Sohrab becomes Darius’ first real friend and their friendship, I think, is something that both boys needed. Like Darius, Sohrab also doesn’t fit in. He is Baha’i, and this makes him a prime target for the other boys in his neighborhood. Through Sohrab, Darius discovers how it feels like to be included, to have someone to talk to and someone who’ll give him that much needed silence when he needed it, and he learns to trust himself in the process enough to start opening up. himself to the other people in his life.

As much as I love that though, what got me is the realistic and very truthful portrayal of depression in this book. Since the story follows Darius very closely, some parts may be clouded by his persistent self-loathing and overreactivity. The talk Darius and his dad had nearing the end of the book tugged at my heartstrings and made me spill a few tears. It was just so sincere and honest, and practically one of the best scenes in the whole book.

Darius’ sexuality isn’t discussed much, only hinted at, and I was actually pretty okay with that, the same way that having no romance was just fine. I think the story’s main point was to have Darius open himself up, and Adib Khorram accomplishes it successfully.

Darius the Great is Not Okay is an amazing coming-of-age story with a main character who’ll endear himself to readers. This one comes with high recommendations from me.


adib-headshotAdib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. He was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. A theater kid in high school, he went on to study design and technical theater at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, with an emphasis in lighting design. He later attended one year of film school in Vancouver, BC.

He returned to Kansas City after school, and has worked in the event production industry ever since. His first novel, DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, will be published in August 2018.

When he’s not writing or working at his dayjob, he enjoys swimming, ice skating, food, wine, video games, board games, and Kansas City barbecue.

You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at adibkhorram.com

 

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Darius the Great is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


This is going to be a quick one because I have to hurry to work. Nope, not running late but I just always make it a point to be at the clinic at least 15 minutes earlier before my shift that way shift change endorsements are done just before my colleague’s shift ends. Traffic’s always mad crazy in the city and I want her to go home earlier, or at least clock out on time. It’s a little favor we all do for one another at work, and trust me, it makes working a very stressful job a wee bit easier.

Anyway, back to the topic of books. I’m currently reading this week’s CWW pick alongside Annie Sullivan’s A Touch of Gold, and I got to say I’m enjoying the first few chapters of it I already finished.

37506437Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

Darius the Great is Not Okay has been a funny read so far. I love Darius’ wit and sarcasm, and can’t wait to get to know his character more. This one is releasing at the end of this month, August 28, but I’ll try to write up a review for it once I finish it. Maybe this weekend? Not sure, but at the pace I’m going, I think I’m all good.

That’s it for me today. I hope all of you are doing fine this mid-week.

💗💗💗

Rachel

let's chat

What book/s are you excited for this week