River of Stars by Vanessa Hua #AsianLitBingo

At Perfume Bay, women are getting ready to give birth. It is a facility specifically for women from China who want to have their babies in America, for to be born in America gives their babies citizenship.

Scarlett is one of the twelve pregnant women, sent there by her lover Boss Yeung, a powerful man with lots of guanxi and gets her the best room in the house.

But at an ultrasound, Scarlett discovers that the baby boy she’s been expecting is actually a girl. Another daughter for Boss Yeung. She worries about the future of her daughter, and when she learns that Boss Yeung wants to pay her to hand over the baby, whom he still thinks is a boy, she decides to run away. Another Perfurme Bay inhabitant, Daisy, a teenager whose parents sent her away to have her baby, takes off with her too.

The two pregnant women head to San Francisco’s Chinatown where they struggle to figure out how to support themselves and their two babies. Meanwhile, Boss Yeung continues to search for his son, and Daisy begins to search for the father of her baby. Scarlett’s tourist visa is expiring and while desperately trying to scrounge for money for rent and necessities, she also has to worry about how to stay on in the US.

A solid story about motherhood and the American dream. The desperation and struggles that  the two women go through is honest and moving.

(Spoiler alert!)

 

 

 

 

The women’s stories were compelling but the men in this story seem rather uneven. Boss Yeung, I can’t really tell sometimes whether we are meant to dislike him or not. At times he’s  heartless or is he really just in pursuit of his true love? But for me, the part that doesn’t seem to sit well with the rest of the book is the super-sweet ending that Daisy receives. Maybe if her ending turned out different, I would have rated this higher. Maybe if the book had kept more of its focus on the two women? It bothered me, this saccharine ending. Maybe I am just too skeptical…

 

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Asian Immigrant MC

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Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee #AsianLitBingo

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while but never got around to picking it up from the library. But I wanted to read a book with an Asian superhero for Asian Lit Bingo so this filled the theme perfectly.

Although when we first meet Jess Tran, she’s desperately trying to find out what exactly her superpower is – does she even have any in the first place? Why so desperate? Well, it is post World War III, and there are meta-humans. More specifically, her parents are superheroes – her father can fly and so can her older sister. Her parents are Smasher and Shockwave, the two resident heroes of Andover. C-list heroes that is.

And since Jess will be turning 17 in a week, she needs to find out what powers she has, as no one has presented with powers after the age of 17.

She doesn’t even have an “unacceptable” ability like the power to change the colour of her fingernails. She’s resigned to the possibility that she will never have powers and lands herself a dream internship instead. But it turns out that she’s working for the town’s villains (and her parents’ enemies). On the other hand, she gets to work with Abby, whom Jess has had a secret crush on.

I love that Jess is bisexual Vietnamese- Chinese, and that she struggles with trying to figure out who she is. The background to the story is fun and Jess and her friends are very appealing. The romance in the story was sweet too. But parts of the book were a bit meandering and the plot wasn’t the greatest. I don’t want to spoil it for you but it’s kind of the way Superman puts on his glasses and tada he is unrecognisable as Clark Kent.

It was a fun read though and I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Not Your Villain, which has Bells as the main character.

My Brother’s Husband Vol 2 by Gengoroh Tagame

This is volume two of this two-part series so if you haven’t read it yet, please understand that there may be spoilers!

So go go go! Go read the first part!

Ok!

So since you’re still reading, I’m guessing you know that this is a continuation of the stories of Mike, Yaichi and Kana. Mike is still staying with Yaichi and Kana.

Yaichi continues to understand more about his feelings towards Mike’s relationship with his brother. He’s starting to realize that they make a family too, even though they may not look like your typical Japanese family.

The three of them, as well as Kana’s mother, take a trip to an onsen and you’re going to want to start booking a trip to Japan because oh, I definitely did after reading those pages!

But wanderlust aside, I loved how Yaichi continues to grow in this volume. His talk with Kana’s teacher is a lesson in calm and sensibility. His realization about his treatment of his brother is devastating and yet also redeeming.

And I shed many a tear as the book drew to an end.

What an absolute pleasure this series was to read.

(I just found out that there is a TV series based on the book – three episodes were aired in Japan in 2018 – hopefully it’ll be something that will be available in the US??)

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Graphic novel with Asian MC.

Bad Friends by Ancco #AsianLitBingo

Wow this book was really brutal and, to be honest, quite depressing.

Why read it then?

What made me borrow this book was because it’s a translated comic, and one from Korea. I haven’t read many Korean comics, and this was a rare one on the library shelves.

The story is told from the perspective of 16-year-old Pearl, growing up in the 1990s in a poor neighbourhood in Seoul, South Korea. Her father is abusive, but then so is nearly every relative in the building she lives in, who treat her like a punching bag.

“But in all the times Dad beat me, I never once hated him.

Any parent would have done the same.”

Those lines just made me ache with anger and sadness.

Pearl has a group of close friends at school. Her best friend is Jeong-Ae and the two of them run away for a while, staying at a motel and trying to get work as hostesses. But they both eventually return home. While Pearl has an abusive father, she realizes that her family is more ‘normal’ than the other girls’ families, especially Jeong-Ae’s. That while her father beats her, there is still someone who cares for her and wants better for her. One day, Jeong-Ae doesn’t turn up at school and no one knows where she is, although rumors are rampant. Pearl, ten years later, wonders what happened to her best friend.

“Why did it take me so long to figure out that being beaten didn’t have to be part of life?”

I came away from this book wondering if Korean culture was still like that – this acceptance of physical abuse. Parents, usually fathers, hitting, kicking, punching their children. Students physically hurting each other in school. Even teachers abuse their students.

It’s not uncommon to have canes in households in Singapore, even today. I don’t know about schools now but when I was in primary school, I remember that some teachers had canes. Is it something that’s just more accepted in Asian societies?

A harsh but honest look at the lives of these young women. One of the most disturbing books I’ve read.

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Poor or working class MC

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay #AsianLitBingo

This book took me by surprise. I often go into books not really knowing much about them. And this one I knew absolutely nothing about at all. I could tell by the author’s name that she was South Asian and I wondered what the flowers and the title meant.

From the first chapter, we know that this is not a happy story. The narrator, a woman aged 30, talks about a man who vanished from his home in the mountains, a man who vanished partly because of her, because of things she said and things she didn’t say. And she also mentions the death of her mother. A woman who could be vicious, a woman who could be snarky.

“It’s hard not to wonder how much might have been prevented if only I had loved him more, or, perhaps, loved her a little less. But that is useless thinking, and perilous. Better to let things stand as they were: she, my incandescent mother, and I, her little beast.”

Shalini travels to Kashmir in search of a man who was once a big part of their lives – her and her mother’s. She doesn’t know anyone else there but somehow these complete strangers help her, let them stay with her. She becomes a part of their lives. Yet her being there threatens their safety.

I loved reading about the mountain villages in Kashmir. I have never been to Kashmir or India but when I was in university, I traveled to Nepal to do a trek to Annapurna base camp. And while it was years ago, I can still picture all those little mountain villages we walked through and stayed at. I always remember marveling at these two young kids in school uniform – an older girl and a younger boy – skipping and hopping down the path ahead of us, out of their village and off far away to wherever their school was, something they did every day, twice a day, probably passing many other foreigners like us who were slowly clomping and stomping their way through the mountains.

It also brought to my awareness the conflict in Kashmir, something I know little about, but wanted to know more of after reading this.

The author writes beautifully but her main character Shalini was not easy to connect with. She sometimes seems a bit naive for her age and that proves disastrous for the people around her. But I loved reading about Shalini’s foray into village life in Kashmir, so far and different from bustling Bangalore where she’s from. And it’s these little moments that make this book a beautiful and moving one.

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – South Asian MC

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

A book like this just makes me wish I were years younger! When I was a teenager, YA didn’t really exist. And really, pretty much all the books I was reading as a teenager were probably written and starring white people. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of these books I read (especially for school), were great books. I am especially grateful to one of my A-Level English lit teachers for introducing Carol Shields to me. But I hardly remember reading anything with an Asian protagonist. Or if there were Asian characters they tended to be your stereotypical nerdy Asian kids.

So to read this book by Maurene Goo, many years too old for this genre, was with a wistful, oh, if only I could have read this when I was younger. But also a eh, who cares if I’m reading this too late, I’m just glad someone out there is writing this for the young girls of today.

Clara Shin is a prankster. But she takes a prank one step too far and is suspended from school, along with, Rose, the girl she fought with.

Clara’s dad, who owns a food truck selling Korean-Brazilian food, convinces the principal to switch the suspension to having them work on the KoBra for the summer and pay off the damage they caused. And that becomes a life-changing experience for her.

First of all, I love that this book was pretty much a love letter to LA. I have been to LA a few times but I don’t really know it that well, still it was fun to read about places they go to. And while I live in the northern part of CA, where there is a pretty decent variety of food from Asia, it cannot beat LA especially when it comes to East Asian food.

And on that note, a book that features food always makes me happy. I really want to try some kimchi and cheese pasteis. I love kimchi (although I’ve not eaten it with cheese!) and we eat Korean food regularly but I’ve never had Korean-Brazilian food before.

Clara wasn’t easy to like at first. She comes off initially as really immature but as the story progresses, she grows into herself and I really liked being on this journey with her and her friends.

I’m excited to read the rest of Maurene Goo’s books. And whee, she’s got a new one out!

This is my read for East Asian MC for AsianLitBingo

#AsianLitBingo 2019 TBR list

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Happy May everyone! Yes, I realize that we are indeed several days into May already, and so this is a slightly belated post to say that I’m joining in Asian Lit Bingo again!

I had such great fun with it last year – and read so many amazing books! You can see my 2018 wrap-up here.  I also wrote up a TBR list last year (although I didn’t manage to read them all).

You can find all the details about the challenge at Lit CelebrAsian.

 

Here are some of possibilities.

 

East Asian MC – The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

Asian Refugee MC – Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai

Asian immigrant MC – Native Speaker by Chang Rae-Lee

Asian MC with disability –Love Made of Heart by Teresa LeYung Ryan

Multiracial/Multiethnic Asian MC – Mambo Peligroso by Patricia Chao

LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC – Edinburgh by Alexander Chee

West Asian MC

Asian Muslim MC – Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Religious Asian MC

Poor or Working Class Asian MC

SFF with Asian MC – Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Historical Fiction with Asian MC – The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim

Retelling with Asian MC – Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Contemporary with Asian MC – Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Graphic novel with Asian MC – My Brother’s Husband Vol 2

Queer romance with Asian MC

Romance with POC/Indigenous love interest – The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Central Asian MC – Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Translated work by an Asian author – The End of the Moment We Had by Toshiki Okada

South East Asian MC – America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

Asian Superhero MC – Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Asian Transracial Adoptee MC

Non-fiction by Asian Author
The porcelain thief: searching the Middle Kingdom for buried China by Huan Hsu

South Asian MC – The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay