#ripxiii – Death Notice by Zhou HaoHui

An action-packed crime thriller set in China that sold more than 1 million print copies and is now published in English. The killer styles himself as an avenger of unpunished crimes, calling himself Eumenides & sending out death notices listing their crimes and date of execution. This is the first book in a trilogy has a complicated plot & sometimes stilted dialogue but it was a pretty exciting page turner!

I read this for RIP XIII

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Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

While reading this I had this desperate urge to pull out my old CDs and listen to them again. Why yes, I did once have a CD collection! Of course everything is available online nowadays and with Spotify I was able to pull up some Neutral Milk Hotel, some Teitur, The National…

This book was a quick, fun but also a little sad bit of a read while nursing a horrendous cough that kept me up all night.

It’s very YA – a rock star turns out to be Taliah’s dad, and he drives to meet her in Ohio after she sends letter after letter to him. I mean, isn’t that every teen’s dream? To meet a famous musician and to learn that you’re related?

Luckily the story is a bit more than that.

Not so fortunately though, Julian’s father, Taliah’s grandfather, is dying and he wants her to meet him. She sets off with him and her best friend – her mother is away in Paris for a work trip. And in the first place, her mother had told Taliah that her father was dead. Very YA

“This may sound weird, but there are certain songs, like really great songs – you don’t just listen to them, you know? They make you feel like they’re listening back. Like the person who wrote the song heard you. Music makes you feel less alone in that way. It’s proof that someone out there has felt the exact same way you do and they’ve managed to capture it in this perfect blend of words and sound.”

But as the setting moves to Julian’s small hometown and Taliah meets his family and gets to know her father better, the story improves quite a bit and I get drawn towards this family-not-quite-family that is facing the last few days of a loved one – although in Taliah’s case, more like a person she might have loved if she had gotten to know him.

The other thing I should mention is that I read this for Asian Lit Bingo and the reason for that is Taliah’s mother is Jordanian. Warga’s father is from Jordan and she said in an interview that she identifies as Middle Eastern American and also as biracial.

I do wish we knew more about Taliah’s mother’s family but overall it was an enjoyable read.

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Asian Muslim MC

#AsianLitBingo – Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

“I also began to notice how white everything was. The students, the students’ teeth, and the fences surrounding the outdoor swimming pools we never used. We all seemed to categorize ourselves without ever explicitly saying anything. Where does that leave students who don’t have a clear category?”

It’s not easy being different in school. Leila already stands out because of her Iranian background, but she also holds close to her a secret – she likes girls.

“I’m not ready to announce my lady-loving inclinations as yet. I can hear the whispering, knowing that what they are snickering about could easily be me. I’m already different enough at this school. I don’t need to add anything else to that.”

A new girl joins Armstead Academy and Leila is immediately drawn to her. Saskia stands out – she’s just moved from Switzerland and is Dutch-Brazilian and is the rare person to ask about Leila’s heritage.

“It’s nice to be able to talk to someone about this stuff. Tess and Greg don’t get it, because people see basic white or black when they look at them. It’s the ambiguity that throws people; they want to know which box to put you in.”

Leila is drawn to Saskia – she’s confident, clever, poised, she stands out yet is comfortable with that. She’s not quite so sure why Saskia wants to befriend her though.

Leila constantly worries about coming out to her family. A family they know have shunned their son who was seen kissing another man. How would her own conservative Iranian parents react?

“You know where they’re from, being gay is illegal? They imprison people over there for feeling like I do! Sentence them to death sometimes.”

When I reflect back on Lucy and Linh, the other book I recently read that focuses on teenagers in school, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel is less complex, more simply told. There’s nothing wrong with that though. Sometimes a lighter read is what’s needed. It’s a lighter read yet it discusses some complicated issues that face many teens out there – discovering their own identity, standing up for themselves and what they believe in, relationships with family and friends, and learning that it’s ok to be different.

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo -LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC

See the rest of my TBR list here

Find out more details about the challenge here.

#AsianLitBingo Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung

I thought I would be reading a light-hearted YA teenaged about school friendships. But it was so much more than that. And I am so glad.

Lucy Lam is from the Australian suburb of Stanley, a place “where many people work in banking and advertising – that is, their mums clean banks and their brothers put Safeway ads into mailboxes. It’s a place where people have four cars in their driveways – but only one that is working.”

Somehow she wins a scholarship to an elite private girls’ school. In fact, she is the “inaugural Equal Access student” and the headmistress constantly makes sure she doesn’t forget that.

Her family is from Vietnam and they are Teochew Chinese. They fled Vietnam for Australia when Lucy was just a few years old.

Her father works in a carpet factory and her mother makes a little bit of extra cash by taking on garment sewing in their garage. She also has a baby brother, who spends most of his time in the garage with their mum.

I was kind of excited to see the mention of a Teochew background as it’s something I’ve not come across in fiction before. Part of my family is Teochew, as in our ancestors originated from this region in Guangdong, China (I’m also part Hokkien and Hainanese).

(Back to the story!)

Lucy, writing about her experience in letters to her friend Linh, is at first enthralled with the glamorous school and wealthy classmates. But she soon discovers that the school is pretty much run by a clique of ultra-rich girls known as the Cabinet, even some of the teachers are at their mercy.

I loved how this book handles elitism and privilege, racial prejudice and the experience of Asian immigrants in Australia. It was thought-provoking and also rather amusing especially when a parent of Lucy’s classmate invites her home to demonstrate how to make rice-paper rolls.

“I could just see her at the market, Linh, marveling at the beauty of it all, extolling the parsimony of ethnic women and their ability to select ripe avocados and mangoes, bitter gourds and rambutans.”

Lucy and Linh was a sharp, funny and just fantastic read. We don’t get many Australian books here in the libraries of suburban America, which is such a pity, so this was an extra pleasure to read.

I read for Asian Lit Bingo – Asian Refugee MC.

Find out more details about the challenge here.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by MC Beaton

A dreary morning makes for bad lighting but reading this book has cheered me up. It’s a delightful romp about a poisoned quiche entered in a village cooking contest. Agatha Raisin, recent incomer from London, can’t cook to save her life and had in fact bought said quiche from a bakery, sets out to put things right.

Warning: grumpy main character; lots of microwaved meals; might make you think twice about retiring to little English village

#RIPXII The Bear and the Nightingale

 

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From the very start of the book, I am hooked.

And that is not a usual thing. I am a reader of many books. By that I mean that I tend to read several things at once. So it can sometimes take me several tries to get into a book.

(You might just wonder then, why not just concentrate and read that one book, finish it, and then move on to another? Well, that’s just not the way I work. I just like multiple books going on!)

First of all, I love that it’s a fairytale. And more than that, that it’s a snowy, wintry kind of read. I have lived most of my life near the equator – where the only seasons are hot and dry or hot and rainy. And I now live in Northern California where winters are, at the most, rainy, although we could easily drive a few hours to find snow. So I’ve never really been in that kind of dense and intense winters that  the north of Russia must have.

Vasilisa is the youngest child of a wealthy lord of a northern Russian village. She can see  the spirits of the house, forest, river, the spirits that protect them from evil, like the domovoi, which lives in the oven. Her new stepmother can see these spirits too, but she calls them demons and seeks refuge in the church. She soon forbids the household from honoring these spirits with offerings. But Vasya tries to continue this ritual when she can, fearing that something bad is about to happen.

“The domovoi was small and squat and brown. He had a long beard and brilliant eyes. At night he crept out of the oven to wipe the plates and scour away the soot. He used to do mending, too, when people left it out, but Anna would shriek if she saw a stray shirt, and few of the servants would risk her anger. Before Vasya’s stepmother arrived, they had left offerings for him: a bowl of milk or a bit of bread. But Anna shrieked then, too. Dunya and the serving-maids had begun hiding their offerings in odd corners where Anna rarely came.”

Things get even more interesting when Father Konstantin is sent to their village and the villagers grow more fearful, and so is bold and brave Vasya.

“No, Vasya was frightened of her own people. They did not joke on the way to church anymore; they listened to Father Konstantin in heavy, hungry silence. And even when they were not in church, the people made excuses to visit his room.”

Something is waking, something evil. And without these spirits’ protection, crops start failing, the creatures of the forest roam closer, danger lurks.

The Bear and the Nightingale was an absolute charmer of a book. I loved all the Russian folklore throughout and the rural setting. Perhaps the only part that didn’t sit too well with me was the last act, which seemed a bit rushed.

 

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This is my fourth read for RIP XII

Everything We Lost

 

Sometimes I join a book tour having already read an author’s work, or sometimes it’s because I’ve heard of the author and want to read her books. Occasionally, it’s a completely new-to-me author and I’m just intrigued by the premise of the book. Other times, I haven’t the faintest idea why I decided to join the tour.

And this is one of those times.

 

When the package arrived, I was actually out of the country, so when I returned, I had to scramble and read this book with my jet-lagged brain (I was in Singapore, 15 hours ahead of California). So maybe I hadn’t been concentrating hard enough but suddenly I realized that this book wasn’t quite what I had imagined it to be.

There were UFOs. Or rather, the possibility of UFOs. And conspiracies.

This was rather unexpected.

And at first, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not.

Everything We Lost is best described as a coming-of-age although it’s touted as a “psychological thriller”.

In 1999, 16-year-old Nolan disappears.

It is ten years later, and his younger sister Lucy returns to Bishop, California, where their mother still lives, in search of answers.

She starts to have some memories of the lead up to his disappearance. And begins to uncover more about the truth of what really happened.

We learn that Nolan and his obsession with all things UFO has made him an outcast among his peers – and an embarrassment to Lucy. But what really happened to him and what was Lucy’s role?

As I wondered what I had gotten myself into with this book, I realized that I was actually kind of hooked. And I had to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep that night. That is, after all, the sign of a good read, isn’t it?

Geary does a fantastic job with the storyline, as we see it from both Lucy and Nolan’s points of view, throwing up more and more questions about a variety of things like extraterrestrials and mental illness.

Perhaps it is the books that defy categorization that are the ones that provide the best fodder for thought.

It definitely was in the case of Everything We Lost. 

 

I received this book from its publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review.

Check out the other tour stops here

 

Pick up a copy of the book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Connect with the author: WebsiteFacebook, and Instagram