Wednesday, May 31, 2017

[Review] Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #3 
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4 stars

Published: May 2nd 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.
But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.
When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
This was such an endearing end to one of my high school favorites. It seem like all my favorite series are ending this year. While To All the Boys I've Loved Before is my favorite of the trilogy, Always and Forever brought me back to my own senior year of high school. There's the growing up and the separation from family and friends, as well as the fair share of drama.

[Review] Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3 stars

 Published: 1987

Goodreads Synopsis:
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
A poignant story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.
This is a hard book for me to review.

I say this with the knowledge that my friend recommended me this book many years ago and I finally picked it up and finished it for #asianlitbingo not quite understanding what I had read. It is clear that Murakami writing style is artistic, even poetic at times. It even bares likeness to Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which our narrator Toru mentions reading - this likeness I will explain shortly.

I was really unsure as to why my friend has recommended this book, beyond the fact of reading literature outside of YA; Norwegian Wood is depressing and dark, written by Murakami during a period of depression. This review mostly stems from my discussion with her after I read the book. There are deep meanings behind it - of loss, of sexuality, of youth, especially in one's college years (in a way, a coming of age novel), and of importance (what we find important now vs. later).

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

[Review] Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Format: ARC Paperback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Published: May 16th 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires. Renee Ahdieh is well-known for her The Wrath and the Dawn duology, which was a romantic retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. 
I received this ARC from Miss Print's (Emma) ARC Adoption over here! Thank you Emma!

Flame in the Mist has its hints of romance, yes, but this is a dark story. Emphasis on dark. It's nothing like TWATD. The way Ahdieh juggles two extremely different genres is masterful and precise. You know you're in for one hell of a ride when the opening pages feature the seppuku of a character's father. 

What a great ride it was. Flame in the Mist had the action, but it also had a great story behind it, as well as well-rounded characters. 

[Review] Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Published: March 17th 2015

Goodreads Synopsis:
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.
This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.YA Westerns usually fall under the same premise. Girl lives normal life, something changes girl's life forever, girl must disguise self as a boy in order to either seek revenge or make it big out West. To me, it's an overused concept that can get tiresome after so many times unless it is well done.
Under a Painted Sky was  one of those well done Westerns. Our heroine Samantha has just lost her father and must head westward to stake her claims. But, given the times and the fact that she is both Asian and a girl, she must disguise herself as Sammy, and journeys west with her new friend Annamae, who in turn becomes Andy. They join up with a trio of cowboys - Cay and his cousin West, and their friend Peety. 

This was a very heartwarming book, and what I loved about it was how Sammy's relationships with others changed over the course of the novel for the better. Of course, there is her father, who, despite dying early in the story, remained a constant presence for her, one of strength and courage. She is initially wary of Annamae, but soon enough, she can't imagine parting ways with her, and it is this sisterhood that really took me. Their banter was playful and displays their strong bond over the course of several long weeks. 

[Review] And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Version: HC
Rating: 3.5 stars

Published: May 21st 2013

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
This book marks my completion of Khaled Hosseini's works, and now that I've read them all, I can do a comparative review. For my next review on Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, I can't even say the same, because it's the first book I've read by him!

But for both books, I feel similar feelings. While both authors craft beautiful stories and have such a marvelous usage of language, I am not quite sure of what to make of the story. 

And The Mountains Echoed differed from Hosseini's two other stories in that there were multiple POVs. There was not just two main characters on which we focused on, but numerous characters, all intertwined in the smallest of ways. One minor character, mentioned for just a sentence in one chapter, becomes the narrator of the next.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

[Review] Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney
Version: ARC paperback
Rating: 3.5 stars

Release Date: May 30th 2017

I didn't expect myself to enjoy this as much as I did, but it was certainly an adorable read.

From my knowledge, this book is supposed to be based off of Kate and Pippa Middleton, with Prince William in tow. If they were all in high school and had high school-esque problems, as everyone in high school tends to do.

The first 100 pages reminded me of The Thousandth Floor - everyone is rich, everyone's got something to lose, and everyone was just so damn spoiled that I almost got tired of reading it and wanted to put it down.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My #AsianLitBingo TBR!

Hey everyone! Long time no see. This is a little bit of a late post, but I've been really excited for this reading challenge. Here are the books I'll be reading/have read for this reading challenge.

1. Historical Fiction with Asian MC - Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee