Jan 27, 2023

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson and TBR Thrillers: Sunday Salon

 I am familiar with Jamaican black cake, a traditional fruit cake with fruits soaked in rum and wine. I went to many weddings and celebrations on the island where this special cake was served. 

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the story of three generations, the novel set in the unnamed Caribbean island, later moving to the U.K. and the U.S. 

The book begins with Bennie and Byron, adult siblings born in the U.S., who find out after their mother Eleanor's death that they have a sister who had been given up for adoption at birth. They also find out the full extent of Eleanor's checkered and secret past, secrets that began in the island and that continued in England and America.

The link between Eleanor and her children and the island she grew up in is the black cake, a traditional plum pudding made with fruits soaked in rum and wine and served at Christmas, at weddings, and at other important celebrations. Their mother Eleanor taught Bennie how to make the cake, a tradition she was careful to hand down.

A lot of research went into this book, which shows very well the multicultural aspect of the island, its history, and how Eleanor's past is an intricate part of it.

My only other comment regarding the book is that the story might be better listened to than read. The tone of the book becomes conversational at times, as the plot is slowly revealed in bits and pieces at a time. This made me impatient toward the end, wishing that the author would get to the important parts faster.

But the wait was worth it. All the threads of the novel are finally knit together and all the questions answered.

RECIPE: Click on the Book Club Kit from Random House Books for a recipe for Jamaican Black Cake.


Thanks to Soho Press for these new supense novels for possible review.

The Motion Picture Teller by Colin Cotterill, Jan. 2023

From CWA Dagger winner Colin Cotterill, set in Bangkok in 1996: a mystery without a crime, where the line between fact and fiction blurs, and nothing is as simple as it appears. (publisher)

I really enjoy Cotterill's mystery books set in Southeast Asia. This one is in Bangkok, where I lived before the time period of this novel.  


The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura, May 2, 2023

Two detectives. Two identical women. One dead body—rapidly becoming two, then three, then four. All knotted up in Japan’s underground BDSM scene and kinbaku, a form of rope bondage which bears a complex cultural history of spirituality, torture, cleansing, and sacrifice. (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

Jan 21, 2023

Year of the Rabbit: Chinese Lunar New Year 2023

 The Year of the Rabbit begins January 22, 2023

Gung Hay Faat Choy is the Lunar New Year greeting in the Cantonese language.
Wishing you all health, happiness, and prosperity
 According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Rabbit will bring a calmer year

Published October 11, 2022; Hanover Square Press

"Five generations of Vietnamese mothers and daughters, drawing on Vietnamese zodiac astrology to chart the fateful events of their lives.

In present day New Orleans, Xuan Trung, former beauty queen turned refugee after the Fall of Saigon, is obsessed with divining her daughters' fates through their Vietnamese zodiac signs.
But Trac, Nhi and Trieu diverge completely from their immigrant parents' expectations."(publisher)

Book beginning: 
The night before the first day of Lunar New Year, Xuan called her children to give them their horoscopes. She did this every year: for at least a week, she pored over the gigantic book with each sign's annual predictions and the star positions, and the daily zodiac calendar with its moon phases, both of which she bought at the Vietnamese bookstore at the strip mall in New Orleans east.   

This enemies-to-lovers debut rom-com filled with Chinese astrology will undoubtedly prove to be a perfect match with readers

Always a matchmaker, never a match...

Olivia Huang Christenson is excited-slash-terrified to be taking over her grandmother’s matchmaking business. But when she learns that a new dating app has made her Pó Po’s traditional Chinese zodiac approach all about “animal attraction,” her emotions skew more toward furious-slash-outraged. Especially when L.A.’s most-eligible bachelor Bennett O’Brien is behind the app that could destroy her family’s legacy.
 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

Jan 18, 2023

Wednesdays: Shelf Control Meme

 Shelf Control is a feature where bloggers pick an unread book from their shelves and talk about it. Shelf Control is hosted at Literary Potpourri

Plucked from my TBR pile:

Jan 14, 2023

Sunday Salon: Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton


Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton 
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Genre: immigrant interest; Contemporary Asian fiction
Publication: April 25, 2023; Harper Via
About: Set between the last years of the "Chinese Windrush" in 1966 and Hong Kong's Handover to China in 1997, a mysterious inheritance sees a young woman from London uncovering buried secrets in her late mother's homeland in this captivating, wry debut about family, identity, and the price of belonging.

My comments:

I felt I was put through a wringer after reading this book. 
The book describes the dramatic and sad life of Sook-Yin in 1966 Hong Kong, beginning with her flying to London to study nursing, pushed out of her home by the jealousy and sibling rivalry of a vengeful older brother. Then we follow the suspenseful search of Sook-Yin's British daughter Lily some 30 years later into her mother's early life in Hong Kong. 

I thought it interesting to show how there is discrimination against Westernized Chinese in the use of the terms “ghost” and “banana.” Sook-Yin's half-British daughter Lily is the Ghost Girl, a foreigner in Chinese eyes, as she is part white, and though she looks Chinese, she is also a banana -yellow on the outside, but white on the inside due to her upbringing. The term "banana" may also refer to Lily’s mother Sook-Yin, who married a British man. 

The complexities of relationships in Hong Kong spins Lily in circles when she goes to China to get information on the early life of her mother. I sometimes had a hard time jumping timelines  from Sook-Yin in the 1960s to Lily in the 1990s and wish the book had a list of the characters that we could refer to.  It may be that the final copy will have such a list of the Chinese and British names. 

Ghost Girl, Banana deserves much praise for showing us just how complex family and culture can be, especially in terms of marriage, and especially for children.

The ARC of this book was provided by NetGalley

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

Jan 13, 2023

Book Beginning: If You Are Lonely....A Short Story by Yiyun Li


If You Are Lonely and You Know It by Yiyun Li
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: short story

Gordon, a single divorced man, has as his only companions a foster pit bull disliked by the neighborhood, and an elderly widow who rents him the bungalow on her property. These contacts seem to be enough for him at the moment, as he goes out of his way to avoid conflicts with the neighbors re his dog, and continues taking care of his crochety landlord by doing her chores and creating a garden on the property. 
An interesting slice of one man's life.

Book beginning:

"She should've given you a different name," Gordon said. "No offence, but Ajax is a terrible name. A terrible role model for anyone. What about Odysseus, with some brains at least?"

The dog's eyes, limpid and devoid of self-doubt, did not show any recognition of the misfortune of his name.... 

Would you read on?

 Visit Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader for this meme. 

Jan 12, 2023

End of Year Book Meme, Using Books Read in 2022

 I've done this meme several years, but not recently. 

Thanks to The Boston Bibliophile for sharing and reviving the meme this year. I'm using her outline. 

Use titles of books you read in 2022 to answer the questions:

Describe yourself: Killers of a Certain Age
How do you feel? Girl in Ice
Describe where you currently live: The Paris Apartment
If you could go anywhere…? Two Nights in Lisbon
Favorite form of transportation: The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World
Your best friend is: The Ingenue
You and your friends are: The Wild Girls
What's the weather like? Beach Read
Your favorite time of day is: Bark to the Future
What is life for you? At Least You Have Your Health
You fear: The Lioness
Best advice: Stay Awake
Thought for the day: In the Dark We Forget
How you would like to die: Breathless

Jan 7, 2023

Chinese Asian American Authors: Literary Fiction


The Book of Goose

by September 20th 2022 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: friendship fiction, literary fiction 

Fabienne is dead. Her childhood best friend, Agnès, receives the news in America, far from the French countryside where the two girls were raised—the place that Fabienne helped Agnès escape ten years ago. Now Agnès is free to tell her story.
The Book of Goose is a haunting story of friendship, art, exploitation, and memory by the celebrated author Yiyun Li.

See my full review on Goodreads.


"the practice of white actors changing their appearance with makeup in order to play East Asian characters in moviesplays, etc." from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

Travel Can Be Fun or Not: Sunday Salon

Books read and to-be-read The Trip by Phoebe Morgan, May 25, 2024; HQ, NetGalley Genre: mystery, adventure, travel fiction, adult fiction B...