Sep 29, 2022

Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto, Book Review


Well, That Was Unexpected


September 27, 2022, Delacorte Press

Genre: YA romance, rom com, multicultural

My goodreads/NetGalley review:

The author describes the book as a "love letter to Indonesia," the country of her birth and current residence. This is a YA romance novel, with an Indonesian-American teen meeting family in Indonesia for the first time, and falling for a handsome young Chinese-Indonesian from a wealthy family.

I like that the two teens discover feelings and attitudes in common which are too modern for their traditional Chinese=Indo families. I also learned a lot about Indonesian culture, cities, geography, and food from following young Sharlot as she discovers her mother's homeland and is shown around by her new friend, George Clooney Tanuwijaya.

This indeed a love letter to Indonesia, and I came away with a new appreciation for its food, its cities, and a new understanding of its traditions. The budding romance between Sharlot and George is a plus to this YA novel, with its ups and downs along the way to their full understanding of each other.

Sep 24, 2022

Sunday Salon: A Thriller and a YA Rom Com

 I read and reviewed fewer books last week, with so many other things going on. But I sneak in a few minutes here and there and managed to finish this first book and start the second one. 

ARC Review

All the Dangerous Things


Isabelle Drake woke up one morning to find her baby Mason gone from his crib and room. After fruitless searches by police and neighbors and a seeming dead end, her husband wants Isabelle to accept Mason's disappearance and move on with life. But she persists in trying to find out what really happened to him.

I found themes of sleep walking and memory loss intriguing, as well as Isabelle's searching into her past for answers that keep eluding her. Her childhood and memories of her younger sister Margaret tie this plot together in the dual timeline of the story.

The book kept me curious to the finish although I had some idea of what the ending might be. An enjoyable and suspenseful psychological thriller.

Currently reading something light:

Well, That Was Unexpected


September 27th 2022 by Delacorte Press

A humorous YA rom-com about a girl who's whisked from LA to her mother's native Indonesia to get back to her roots and finds herself fake-dating the son of one of the wealthiest families there, (publisher)

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Sep 17, 2022

Sunday Salon: The Stand-In, Searching for Sylvie Lee, Letters from Singapore, and Cocoon


The Stand-In: A Novel by 

May 3, 2022, Sourcebooks Casablanca

Genre: rom com, family drama, contemporary, multicultural 
Setting: Toronto 

My comments: 

Gracie Reed wants her mother to live in more expensive senior care facility, but although she has several jobs, she can't afford the facility she has in mind for her mom. When famous Chinese actors Sam Yao and Wei Fangli visit Toronto to star in a play, and Gracie is discovered to be a doppelganger for Wei, they offer her $150,000 to act as a stand in for Wei for two months in her many public appearances. 

Gracie accepts the offer, somewhat reluctantly, but happy to leave a sexually harassing boss at her current job. How she learns to behave and act like Wei Fangli is central to this romantic drama, which involves the handsome Sam Yao. 

A humorous romance, the book focuses on the  personalities of Gracie, Sam, and Wei Fangli, their differences making this novel much more interesting. Themes of  duty versus career goals, family expectations, abandonment and mental health, are also central themes in the book.

I gave The Stand-In a solid five stars, for the plot complexities, character development, the romance, and the social topics it covers.

Also reading:

Searching for Sylvie Lee by JeanKwok 

Family drama, suspense, multicultural interest, immigrant fiction

My comments:

A novel about an immigrant family from China who are unable to support their family in the U.S. and forced by circumstances to give up their first daughter, Sylvie, to her grandmother and cousin who live in the Netherlands. 

Sylvie is reunited with her real family years later in NYC at age nine, but returns to the Netherlands some 20 years ahead when her grandmother dies. Sylvie's younger sister Amy then travels from the U.S. to Holland to find her sister, who has mysteriously disappeared on that trip.

Immigrant culture and conflict, Chinese culture and family norms, anti-Asian sentiment in the Netherlands, and other crucial elements of society combine to define Sylvie Lee's disappearance.

A moving picture of family dynamics, love and desire, which all reminded me of a Greek tragedy taking place  in the two cultures - Asian and European.

Letters to Singapore by Kelly Kaur
Published May 1, 2022; Stonehouse Original
Genre: epistolary novel, contemporary fiction, multicultural interest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My comments: 

Simran avoids an arranged marriage in Singapore when she gets her parents' approval to first attend the University of Calgary, Canada for an undergraduate degree. While in Calgary, Simran's views and experience broaden, so much so that she is delighted to be offered a scholarship to get her Master's Degree after graduation. But her mother writes that it's time for Simran to come home, back to Singapore and her family's traditional way of life.

This is an easily read epistolary novel, with the story of Simran in Calgary revealed in back and forth letters to her friends and relatives in Singapore. I enjoyed learning about life in an Indian community in Singapore and the contrast of Simran's growing love for her life in Calgary.

The novel seems to be partly autobiographical as the author, Kelly Kaur, left her island home in Southeast Asia to study in Calgary. She brings an interesting perspective of an international student first vising and living in North America.

I gave this four enthusiastic stars.
Thanks to Wiley Saichek for a review copy of this book.

Publication: October 4, 2022; World Editions
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

China: the past as seen in the grandparents, the present as seen in the parents, and the future as seen in the children who don't understand.

I had the impression of young people wanting to understand their grandparents who went through the Cultural Revolution, and their parents, who are in the midst of a new capitalist-minded China, struggling to get ahead in life, leaving behind the traditional way of life of the old China.

Young people have to deal with grandparents they don't understand, parents who leave them behind to search for a future, or divorced parents who go separate ways and let the children be taken care of primarily by the grandparents. The stories are sometimes raw and everything sordid or good is shown to the reader.

I think this novel is so specific to time and place that the readers for which it was intended, the people in China, will get much more from it than readers in another culture, reading a translated version, and trying to understand the context and complete underlying message.

I can see why this author is popular in her home country.

View all my reviews

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Sep 10, 2022

Stay True: A Memoir / Disorientation: Contemporary Fiction


Stay True: A Memoir
by Hua Hsu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication: September 27, 2022; Doubleday

My review:
This memoir is written by the author to remember and honor a college friend, Ken, who died in a mugging and senseless kidnapping while in his third year at UCLA. Hua thinks of the What Ifs that could have saved Ken from that death - what if he had gone swing dancing as Ken had wanted that night, what if he had gone back to Ken's party in the early morning so Ken would not have been alone during that mugging.

The book focuses on the many reasons Hua and Ken became friends even though they were such different personalities. Both Asian Americans, yet one was Taiwanese American and a new immigrant, the other a Japanese American with deep roots established in the U.S. Their love of different kinds of music and movies, and their interest in analyzing everything for fun and intellectual sharing are only some of the aspects of this college friendship.

Deeply moving in parts, Stay True, the memoir, delves into the minds and hearts of a group of young university people in search of meaning and identity.

Library Find:  



A Taiwanese American woman’s coming of consciousness ignites eye-opening revelations and chaos on a college campus.

An uproarious and bighearted satire, alive with sharp edges, immense warmth, and a cast of unforgettable characters, Disorientation is both a blistering send-up of white supremacy in academia, and a profound reckoning of a Taiwanese American woman’s complicity and unspoken rage. 

Chou asks who gets to tell our stories—and how the story changes when we finally tell it ourselves (publisher)

View all my reviews

What are you reading this week? 
Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Sep 3, 2022

Sunday Salon: Crime Solving and Romance

 Book Club Pick: 

The Thursday Murder Club

(Thursday Murder Club #1)


We had so much to discuss with this murder mystery book at our book club this week. We loved the main characters, all eccentric in their own way, but very likeable characters. We enjoyed the complexity of the plot and the red herrings, plot switches in the novel, and the humor in the telling of the story.

We did agree however, that there are so many characters, about 27 in all, that we had trouble remembering who did what and to whom, and some of us had to make cheat sheets to keep track of the murders and who the final culprits turned out to be.

Nevertheless, we were enthusiastic about the book, the first of three in the series, and all wanted to read more about main characters, especially Elizabeth and Joyce, all senior pensioners in an upscale independent living complex in Kent, England, who are able to solve murders in their Thursday Murder Club before the police do. 

I just borrowed number 2 in the series from our library, The Man Who Died Twice, and am enjoying this one as well. 

Delightful Rom Com:

The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao

Publication: January 7, 2023; Berkley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The novel is part Pygmalion and the story of Icarus, who fell from the sky after flying too close to the sun. At least this is how working class woman Kyla Zhao sees herself, especially when she pictures herself failing in her bold attempt to infiltrate the highest levels of elitist Singapore social circles.

This clever romantic comedy reveals Singapore's upper class behavior and aspirations. Kyla is shown as a daring young woman whose own aims are to become a writer and public relations person for the most prestigious society magazine in Singapore. But first she must show herself socially worthy to be part of the higher echelons of that exclusive group. Kyla enters a pact with two upper class friends to have her pass as a Singapore socialite. 

I liked reading about the ups and downs of a Cinderalla-like young woman chased from the ball by time and by deceitful individuals who may block her in her pursuit of her career goals. 

An enjoyable romantic comedy.

Just finished: 


Murder at the Porte de Versailles

(Aimee Leduc Investigations #20)

PI Aimee Leduc and her investigative group work to clear a friend, Boris, of a crime she knows he didn't commit - bombing a police laboratory in Paris. The bombing happened during a birthday party for Aimee's three-year-old daughter Chloe which Boris had just attended.

The complex world of international spies, world politics, and the aftermath of the 2001 World Trade Center bombing in NYC has everyone on edge, even in Paris. Aimee rushes in and through the city that she knows so well, finding clues and interviewing people who might know the reasons behind the deadly bombing at the Paris police lab.

Added to this is Aimee's personal, romantic life, which brings more intrigue and drama to the novel.

I enjoyed this 20th in the Paris mystery series, and through reading it, find Paris as enticing as ever, what with the detailed descriptions of history, place and people in the book.

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month: Four Novels

For  Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month   (May),  I'm posting my book reviews by several Asian American novelists. The f...