If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim

A moving, accomplished debut.

At its heart is a love triangle. There is Haemi, 16. The war has forced her, her mother and sickly younger brother, out of their village and into a refugee camp. There is Kyunghwan. They sneak out together late nights on his bicycle, looking for makgeolli to get drunk with. Jisoo is Kyunghwan’s cousin, he’s more well-off than Kyunghwan and wants to marry Haemi before he enlists.

Haemi eventually marries him, as she feels Jisoo is the best way to ensure that her family is secure, but her decision to forsake Kyunghwan continues to affect her – and her family – through the years.

I loved how Kim effortlessly weaves historical events through the story – the aftermath of the Korean War.

Haemi’s story continues to echo in my head even after finishing the book. She’s not an easy character to like as she struggles to accept this life that she chose. But I appreciate that Kim doesn’t turn her life into a bright shiny happy one and instead leaves the reader wondering, would she really be happier if she had chosen otherwise?

If you’ve read some of my book thoughts on my blog/Instagram, you may know that I’m always interested in books that feature food and If You Leave Me will make you hungry for Korean food. While I do love eating at Korean restaurants, I learnt a lot about Korean food that aren’t found in Korean restaurants here, such as steamed silkworm pupae, hotteok (a sweet pancake with brown sugar and walnuts), tea made with persimmon leaves.

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Moon Rush: The new Space Race by Leonard David #TLCBookTours

 

I’ve read many works of fiction that are set in space, watched many movies and TV shows set in space, but I’ve never really read much nonfiction about space.

And you can rest assured that you are in good hands here with journalist Leonard David, who has been reporting on space-related news for over 50 years.

The race to the moon began in the 1960s, between the Soviet Union and the US. But today it is a very different landscape – in January, the Chinese landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon; a spacecraft from an Israeli nonprofit crash-landed on the moon in April; India’s moon-lander is scheduled to take off later this year; or how about Japan, which plans its own lunar rover to land next year? The race to space is definitely back on and this book is published just at the right time to tell us all about the history behind it all, as well as what’s upcoming developments that we can expect in lunar exploration.

 

Some fascinating tidbits of information were gathered from my reading of this book.

Such as:

“Three sealed samples, one each from Apollo 15, 16, and 17, remain unopened, intentionally saved until technology and instrumentation has advanced to the point that investigators can maximize the scientific return on these unique specimens.”

I couldn’t help wondering when exactly that would be. How, for instance, could anyone decide, oh we should open this year, when who knows what kind of scientific advancement could happen next year? It’s not like science and technology is going to stop improving (or at least I hope not) so who makes that decision and how do they make such a decision?

Reading this book made me wonder, would I go to space if that were an option in the future? Would I want to go to the moon? I don’t know if I would. I don’t think I like the idea of hurtling up in a spacecraft powered by rockets (that’s probably why the first astronauts were pilots). How about you? Would you want to be a space tourist?

 

I received this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

 

Pick up a copy of the book: National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Emergency Contact by Mary H K Choi #AsianLitBingo

 

It was thanks to being laid up in bed due to a minor procedure that I borrowed this book. All the other books on my tablet were just too serious and heavy reading for that day and I was looking for something that would be fun and lighthearted and so I reached for YA.

I love how there is so much diversity going on in YA and while I had said earlier in a previous post, how I wished I could be a teen and reading all this, I’m just going to go ahead and get my diverse YA fix now.

Emergency Contact is definitely one book my teenaged self would have approved of. Because Penny is that kind of awkward, cynical, and not very sociable person I was (and sometimes still am). She is introduced to Sam as he is her roommate’s uncle of sorts (his mom and her grandfather were married for a quick minute). But only really talks to him after she notices him having a panic attack in the street one day. She makes sure he’s ok, gives him a ride back to the cafe where he works (and unknown to her, where he lives) and adds her number to his phone to make sure he gets home safe. She’s now his “emergency contact”.

This book has been on the back of my TBR list for a while, but I think that I’ve always been a bit hesitant because I didn’t think I wanted to read a book in which texting seems to be at the forefront. But in the end, the text conversations actually felt quite natural and comfortable to read.

And I found myself just hanging on to every word in this book. I read it in one sitting.

It seems like this is the kind of book that you either detest or love (at least judging from the polarizing Goodreads reviews). I loved it. I can see why some people may not like it but for me, this was a thumbs up.

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – romance with POC love interest

Edinburgh by Alexander Chee #AsianLitBingo

This review is not going to do justice to this book. This book needs a proper, more insightful one than these notes I’m writing. Because it’s the kind of book that makes you go, wow, this is a writer who can write. This is a writer whose words can move mountains, make tea go cold without noticing, tears fall from unsuspecting eyes. This is a writer whom, I imagine, writers look up to, but also are perhaps afraid, wondering, can I write like this too?

For Alexander Chee has taken a subject that is ugly and perverse and has sculpted it into something moving and somehow, beautiful.

(Autocorrect keeps changing my “moving” into “loving” but really, loving is an equally suitable word for this book.)

A young boy joins a boys’ choir. Aphias or Fee is 12 and Korean-Scottish. He may look a bit different from the other boys but like them, he is sexually abused by the choir director.

Edinburgh is the story of how he overcomes this childhood trauma and the loss of those he loves.

It is no easy read but it is haunting and spectacular, even more so when I realized this was his debut novel. It may seem like a weird juxtaposition but this book was both beautiful and brutal.

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

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.