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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong @OneWorldLit @cathyparkhong

Minor Feelings 
by Cathy Park Hong


Publisher: One World
Publish Date: February 25, 2020
224 Pages
Genre: Nonfiction

A ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged exploration of the psychological condition of being Asian American, by an award-winning poet and essayist

Asian Americans inhabit a purgatorial status: neither white enough nor black enough, unmentioned in most conversations about racial identity. In the popular imagination, Asian Americans are all high-achieving professionals. But in reality, this is the most economically divided group in the country, a tenuous alliance of people with roots from South Asia to East Asia to the Pacific Islands, from tech millionaires to service industry laborers. How do we speak honestly about the Asian American condition—if such a thing exists?

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively confronts this thorny subject, blending memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings." As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these "minor feelings" occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you're told about your own racial identity.

With sly humor and a poet's searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This intimate and devastating book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship. A radically honest work of art, Minor Feelings forms a portrait of one Asian American psyche—and of a writer's search to both uncover and speak the truth.

My Review:

Wow. All the things I felt growing up put into a book and hearing my voice is at once disturbing and freeing at the same time. These essays at once give you history along with how Asian Americans feel in this world. Not white. Not black. Denied by both. Accepted by none.

"Asians lack presence. Asians take up apologetic space."

I have SO many things I want to say here and there are SO MANY quotes within this book. I remember in a literature class in college, we were reading a book that had an Asian person as one of the characters and it touched on the tradition of taking off your shoes at the entry of the house. I remember one person saying Asians must be lazy and not wanting to clean and that's why they make people take off their shoes. Um, what? There will never be a house cleaner than my mom or my aunt's. I guarantee you that.

"Racial self hatred is seeing yourself the way whites see you, which turns you into your own worst enemy."

I went on a date in high school with a white guy and I remember him telling me he didn't believe in interracial relationships. I stood, dumbfounded because I'm a product of such relationship. But he said it wasn't the same because even though my mother is Korean, she still has white skin. No, she doesn't. Obviously we didn't go on another date but I was stunned. There is truth that is touched on within the book about how Asians are perceived as the "next white". No, we most definitely are not. While we are neither white, nor black, we are almost invisible at times - until it suits some other race's platform for us to be around.

"Patiently educating a clueless white person about race is draining. It takes all your powers of persuasion. Because it's more than a chat about race. It's ontological. It's like explaining to a person why you exist, or why you feel pain, or why your reality is distinct from their reality. Except it's even trickier than that. Because the person has all of western history, politics, literature and mass culture on their side, proving you don't exist."

As being only half Korean, I dealt with not being able to fit in anywhere. In the US, I'm just another Asian girl.. in Korea, I'm that American with the bug bites all over my face (freckles). My cousin being full Korean had her own issues to deal with and we've discussed how our experiences were different because of that.

I could go on an on and on but really, if you're Asian American, read this and feel seen. If you're not, read this and understand a bit please. 


Friday, February 28, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert @berkleypub @jessmapreviews

Death in the Family 
by Tessa Wegert

Publisher: Berkley Pub
Publish Date: February 18, 2020
Kindle Edition
320 Pages
Series: Shana Merchant #1
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

A storm-struck island. A blood-soaked bed. A missing man. In this captivating mystery that's perfect for fans of Knives Out, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant discovers that murder is a family affair.

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she's taken a job in her fiancé's sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor'easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they're dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana's right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they'll strike again.

My Review:

Ah... the whodunit in an isolated place ala Clue style (kudos to the Clue nod within).  This was a fun read.  Quick paced, everyone is a suspect.  A family where everyone is screwed up in some way... god they were some interesting characters! And let's not forget our main character - Shana Merchant. Dannnggggg.  I loved getting a little bit of her background without it getting too detailed and convoluted.  Tim as her partner was a good one to have as I think they cliqued well together.

Ok, so here's the thing.  I could've done without the whole Carlton part. That's just me. Meh. Bye.  And the process of elimination by basically calling everyone out got to be a bit tedious.  When you end up going "well it was obvious...." … um, was it? Was it really?  So while I devoured the majority of the read, towards the end I just wanted to know who it was already!

Will I continue this series. Yeah, I think I definitely will.  I'm curious where we will go now.  Will we learn a bit more about what exactly happened to Shana in the past?  Will another crazy family need their help or underestimate them?  I'm definitely curious and I like that Shana has a bit of a wtf streak happening. 

See ya for #2.


Jessica's Review:

This year has already been great for debut novels with thrillers and crime fiction, and DEATH IN THE FAMILY by Tessa Wegert is no different! This is the beginning of a new crime series and I already can’t wait to see where this continues. We get not one, but two different mysteries to follow. I think that one will continue throughout the series and I’m anxious to see the development of it with our main character Senior Investigator Shana Merchant.
We learn immediately that Shana Merchant was abducted by a serial killer and kept as a hostage. She managed to survive the ordeal and was then relocated to upstate New York for a change. Our next case begins when she is called to a scene with bloody bed, a house full of suspects, but the body is missing. To make things even more difficult – the small island Shana and her partner, Tim, are on for the case gets isolated when a huge storm rolls in. They quickly realize that they are on their own for this one, and as we all know, small towns aren’t always the most welcoming to outsiders that begin poking around.
I liked how the author sprinkled in bits and pieces of what Shana went through when she was abducted. This is a story line that I’m sure will be more developed as the series continues and she already has me dying to know more details. Wegert gave us just enough information and clues throughout the book that it kept me guessing until the very end.
If you love Agatha Christie mysteries then this will be one you need on your TBR. I loved the atmosphere the author created, a sense of claustrophobia being stranded on the island, and the suspense of trying to solve the case. The way it ended will keep me anxiously waiting for book two in the series to come out!
5 stars

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review: The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare @duttonbooks @abidare_author

The Girl with the Louding Voice 
by Abi Dare

Big thanks to Dutton Books for this copy.

Publisher: Dutton Books
Publish Date: February 4, 2020
384 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Literary Fiction

A powerful, emotional debut novel told in the unforgettable voice of a young Nigerian woman who is trapped in a life of servitude but determined to fight for her dreams and choose her own future.

Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education. This, her mother has told her, is the only way to get a “louding voice”—the ability to speak for herself and decide her own future. But instead, Adunni's father sells her to be the third wife of a local man who is eager for her to bear him a son and heir.

When Adunni runs away to the city, hoping to make a better life, she finds that the only other option before her is servitude to a wealthy family. As a yielding daughter, a subservient wife, and a powerless slave, Adunni is told, by words and deeds, that she is nothing.

But while misfortunes might muffle her voice for a time, they cannot mute it. And when she realizes that she must stand up not only for herself, but for other girls, for the ones who came before her and were lost, and for the next girls, who will inevitably follow; she finds the resolve to speak, however she can—in a whisper, in song, in broken English—until she is heard.

My Review:

A beautifully written debut novel about Adunni, who has lost her mother and just wants to make her proud while finding her voice in this world.  However, her dreams are stunted when her father sells her to an older man at the age of 14 to become his third wife.  WHAT.  Now Adunni goes through a variety of struggles on her way to still finding her louding voice, and her voice can't be silenced. 

While this is a work of fiction, there are a few chapters where at the beginning are facts re Nigeria. One being that it is true marriages have been, and still are, being arranged where "women" of such a young age are being married off and bearing children.  What Adunni goes through is all to real. Adunni's character, however, manages to somehow maintain a happy spirit for the most part and luckily finds people who realize how smart she is and she finds solace where she can.

While I do think this is a powerful book and appreciate I was able to learn about a different culture, I didn't feel as emotional or connected as I hoped that I would.  Don't get me wrong, I still felt very strongly for Adunni's plight and was riveted with her story.  I think some of the writing style may be difficult for some readers as it's written in a lot of broken English through Adunni's mouth.  I, personally, found this gave an authenticity to her character and watching her grow and learn was a pleasure.

I'm left with questions on what happened to her family.  I need to know.  This is a good sign of the investment I had within the story, right? Either way, as a debut, brilliantly done.


Review: This Won't End Well by Camille Pagan @LUAuthors @cnoepagan

This Won't End Well 
by Camille Pagan

Thank you to Lake Union and NetGalley for this copy.

Publisher: Lake Union Authors
Publish Date: February 25, 2020
Kindle Edition
295 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

An ingeniously witty novel about the risks—and rewards—of opening your life to new people by Amazon Charts bestselling author Camille Pagán.
No new people: that’s Annie Mercer’s vow. It’s bad enough that her boss sabotaged her chemistry career and her best friend tried to cure her with crystals. But after her fiancé, Jon, asks for space while he’s gallivanting around Paris, Annie decides she needs space too—from everyone.
Yet when Harper moves in next door, Annie can’t help but train a watchful eye on the glamorous but fragile young woman. And if keeping Harper safe requires teaming up with Mo, a maddeningly optimistic amateur detective, who is she to mind her own business?
Soon Annie has let not one but two new people into her life. Then Jon reappears—and he wants her to join him in France. She’s pretty sure letting anyone get close won’t end well. So she must decide: Is another shot at happiness worth the risk?
My Review:

My third book by Pagan! I'll be honest, when I started this one, I wasn't sure I was going to finish. Annie very quickly got on my nerves and I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle an entire book dedicated to her thoughts.... which are plentiful.  But as I continued to read, she quickly grew on me and I fell in like with her.  Her quirkiness and view on life are pretty funny at times but also very relatable on that human level... and this is what Pagan excels at - giving us relatable characters that we end up rooting for and that feel like our friend.

Written in journal and e-mail format - we get a full on look at Annie - who sees life in a very specific way.  Then things go belly up a bit when her fiancé tells her he's going to France while he's on the plane taking off, she has to leave her job due to circumstances that are less than pleasant all while dealing with her best friend's new found interests in crystals and how they can change your life.. (Annie, girl, I feel you on this one).  

This is most definitely a feel good story as we see our lovable protagonist find her way.  I certainly understand the want to just lock everyone out of your life because WHAT IS THE POINT... but the point is, they're all there for a reason - sometimes you just need to see it.


#ATBR2020 Review: Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald @jessmapreviews

Behind Every Lie 
by Christina McDonald

Thanks to Gallery Books for these copies!

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: February 4, 2020
336 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Mystery

If you can’t remember it, how do you prove you didn’t do it?

Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened but the police are highly suspicious of her.

Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London—Kat’s former home—for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know who to trust. Least of all herself.

Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald has crafted another “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell’s I Found You and Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, Behind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.

My Review:

Forget Murphy's law... we now have Eva's law because if the worst can happen repeatedly to someone, it's definitely Eva.  I have VERY STRONG MIXED FEELINGS about this book.  After reading The Night Olivia Fell (which I loved), I was extremely excited to receive this latest by McDonald.  And I'm glad I read this one, but PHEW.  There's a whole lotta lotta going on in these pages.  A WHOLE LOTTA LOTTA.

We have dual time lines and the protagonist who gets hit with lightning and survives, which might be the only good thing that happens to her (in that she survived, not that she got hit)... then again, her mom dies that same night and now she's a suspect but she can't remember shit... so yeah, there's THAT.  

Listen, this book is fun in that it's fast paced and I think I went crazy right along with Eva while she was trying to figure shit out.  And I read it in one sitting on a very slow work day, which means it was interesting enough to keep me going.  What I'm having trouble with is ALL the coincidences and SO MANY twists, my neck freaking hurts from my head spinning.  I was even fine with suspending all the realities until that last part came and I may have dislocated an eyeball from rolling it too hard.

So with a heavy heart I'm having to rank this low but will still be on the look out for her next release.


Jessica's Review:

Last year I read and absolutely loved McDonald's previous release, THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL. So, needless to say that I was incredibly excited to receive an early copy of her newest release, BEHIND EVERY LIE. I'm really curious to see what other reviewers think of this one because I feel torn. I flew through it but there were some things that just didn't completely work for me.

Plenty going on in this book to keep you focused and pulled in. Dual timelines, alternating perspectives, and all kinds of bad luck for Eva in this book. I definitely want to say that you need to suspend some reality while reading this because there were a lot of parts that just didn't work for me as a reader - so many things felt too farfetched.

I'm split on where I stand with this book because I did enjoy the pacing and the writing. Like with THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL, I started this one and didn't want to stop, but it just missed the mark in the end. Overall, I definitely plan on picking up more from McDonald because I love her writing style and can't wait to see what she releases next.

3 stars 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

SPOTLIGHT: When The Time Comes by Adele O'Neill @adelesbooks @aria_fiction

When the Time Comes
by Adele O'Neill

Her husband says it's suicide. The police say it's murder.

Liam Buckley was a married man with two teenage children when he moved out of the family home to start a new life with his lover. His wife Jennifer never forgave him, but now she needs him to come back: she's been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the kids can't cope alone.

One day after Liam moves home, Jennifer is found dead. Liam thinks it's suicide. But the police, led by DS Louise Kennedy, are convinced it's murder.

Liam hires a retired detective to help prove his innocence, but it's no easy task. The children are distraught, and Jennifer's best friend, Sarah, is waging a campaign against Liam, determined to expose him for a liar and a cheat.

As secrets surface from the complex web of Buckley family life, DS Kennedy must decide. Did Jennifer Buckley end her own life, or did Liam take it from her? The answer, when it comes, will shock them all...

Buy links:




Google Play:

Adele is a writer from Co. Wicklow who lives with her husband Alan and her two teenage daughters. Influenced by writers across all genres she has a particular fondness for fiction that is relatable and realistic. Her debut novel was awarded The Annie McHale Debut Novel Award for 2017 and is a character driven story of survival, dark family secrets and sibling loyalty, just like life. Her second novel Behind A Closed Door is another emotionally harrowing tale of impossible choices, loyalty and friendship. Adele writes overlooking the Irish Sea, which she credits for the tumultuous dynamics in the relationships and lives of her unsuspecting characters in her third novel, When The Time Comes, another dark tale that tests the lengths we go to protect the ones we love.

Follow Adele:

Twitter: @adelesbooks

Facebook: @adeleoneillbooks

#ATBR2020 Review: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix @quirkbooks @grady_hendrix @jessmapreviews

My Best Friend's Exorcism 
by Grady Hendrix 

Finally got to read my copy by joining in on a group read on Bookstagram AND knock out one of my #bravethebacklist reads - WIN WIN!

Publisher: Quirk Books
Publish Date: May 17, 2016
330 Pages
Genres: Horror, Young Adult

The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries—and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

My Review:

Take me back to swatch watches, soap operas, game shows, E.T., all the slang (that we wouldn't dare use now but is so reminiscent of its time), high school angst, roller rinks etc. and then throw in some double dutch and four square because why not? May pole anyone?

As an 80s kid, I LOVED all the references strewn throughout the pages. Each chapter heading had a new song in my head (and yet somehow my mind kept drifting to *If You're Happy And You Know it, Exorcise! (your demon!)*) because I too also always made up new words to songs. 🤷🏻‍♀️

I had way too much fun with this book. Thank goodness for a slow, yet long, day at work so I could finish it today. This isn't a scary book by any means, but there were definitely some "ew" moments and I loved seeing Gretchen's journey from great friend, to bat shit, to super popular, to what in the ever (literal) hell?! I felt for Abby as the girl who's always on the outside of the group, even when she's in, who is fiercely loyal despite it all. I also liked the ending as we got to see further on... this just reminded me of those '80s "scary" movies that weren't that scary and you loved watching them. If you know, you know.

And finally a full exorcism book that kept my interest and made me happy (sorry not sorry but psh on The Exorcist and Head Full of Ghosts - those were just meh reads for me). 😏

Jessica's Review:

This book was all I was hoping for and more. The 80's references alone are worth the read. As if the stresses of high school aren't enough, imagine your best friend becoming possessed. Hendrix created a couple memorable characters in best friends Abby and Gretchen. Their relationship is the core of this story and the trials they go through.

Abby, Gretchen, and a couple of their other friends decide to drop acid on Halloween night in a remote cabin. Nothing could go wrong, right? Well, Gretchen is the more impulsive of the group and disappears into the woods to go skinny dipping before Abby can stop her. She's found the next morning with no memory of the night before - but something definitely happened to Gretchen in the woods that night. The rest of the book is her slow decline and Abby's increasing desperation to help her friend. 

The pacing was great and the chapter titles are were fun. All kinds of 80's nostalgia for readers and just enough creepy elements to keep the horror vibe going. There are some heartwarming moments, gross and dark parts, and some sad parts - Hendrix brings us on a roller coaster and it all culminates in the end. Hendrix quickly became an auto-buy author for me and I can't wait to pick up his next book! 

4 stars

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: The Antidote for Everything by Kimmery Martin @kimmerym @berkleypub @jessmapreviews

The Antidote for Everything 
by Kimmery Martin 

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: February 20, 2020
352 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT

In this whip-smart and timely novel from acclaimed author Kimmery Martin, two doctors travel a surprising path when they must choose between treating their patients and keeping their jobs.

Georgia Brown’s profession as a urologist requires her to interact with plenty of naked men, but her romantic prospects have fizzled. The most important person in her life is her friend Jonah Tsukada, a funny, empathetic family medicine doctor who works at the same hospital in Charleston, South Carolina and who has become as close as family to her.

Just after Georgia leaves the country for a medical conference, Jonah shares startling news. The hospital is instructing doctors to stop providing medical care for transgender patients. Jonah, a gay man, is the first to be fired when he refuses to abandon his patients. Stunned by the predicament of her closest friend, Georgia’s natural instinct is to fight alongside him. But when her attempts to address the situation result in incalculable harm, both Georgia and Jonah find themselves facing the loss of much more than their careers.

My Review:

Whew! So much I want to say about this book.  I adored Kimmery's first book so was beyond excited for this read - especially with the subject manner as this world and our legalities when it comes to fairness to humans across the board is diminishing.  It's heartbreaking and I applaud the author for bringing this to her pages.

Georgia is a very independent female who has relationship issues (girl, I feel you).  While I adored her character in her loyalty to her friends (especially her friend who became family, Jonah), sometimes she couldn't look outside her own box.  Jonah is a breath of fresh air that brings some levity to this very serious story while dealing with some extreme issues.  Their friendship is fantastic and I enjoyed seeing their closeness and reading their banter.  Their trip to the coffee shop in Amsterdam seriously made me laugh out loud.  Mark, as Georgia's love interest, well... while I think this part of the story may not have been entirely necessary, I do think it was important in having an outside factor make Georgia realize some things about herself.

In all honestly, I spent a lot of time getting angry when reading what was happening to Jonah.  From the discriminatory practice of the hospital to their patients, to Jonah himself and just the overall want to yell FUCK YOU about a zillion times, I was getting LIVID. And unfortunately this is actually going on in the real world these days.  The author's research and own personal experiences can be felt throughout this read. I can only hope that eventually we'll go two steps forward rather than two steps back.  PLEASE.

I do think some things got a little bit convoluted in how it all panned out and the actions that took place to get there but I can't get into it as I don't want to spoil anything.  I also wanted more of Jonah's story - his patients, treatments, dismissals and more of his point of view.  I know this is something the author couldn't write from and she touches on this in her notes but that doesn't stop me from wanting more.  I do know that when I turned that last page, read the acknowledgments and author's note (and please please do read these), that I had very strong feelings and a lot of heart for this story. 


Jessica's Review:

I absolutely loved Kimmery Martin's debut, THE QUEEN OF HEARTS, so I was anxiously waiting for her next book to release. What I loved the most about her first book was how authentic everything felt - her expertise and experience shine through and that is something I look forward to in all of her books to come! Martin covers some very prevalent topics and I think she handles them very well.

Georgia and Jonah are coworkers and close friends - they consider each other family. This is honestly the best part of the novel in my opinion. How much they care for each other and what they're willing to do to help one another is heartwarming and their interactions feel real and never forced. As Georgia is leaving for a medical conference overseas, Jonah is having to deal with new policies taking place at their hospital. They are no longer allowed to treat patients that are transgender. Jonah refuses to turn away any of his patients and quickly loses his job as a result. What will Georgia do when she returns?

This book will bring you through a rollercoaster of emotions - you'll be laughing along with the characters, getting unbelievably frustrated at the situations some have to deal with, and so much more. That is a mark of a great read in my opinion - one that makes you feel everything along with the characters and that leave a lasting impression.

Martin gives the readers plenty to think about and she does it all so well. The writing flows and keeps you engaged, well developed and complex characters, and all with the author's knowledge of the medical field. I highly recommend picking up either of her books and the wait begins again for her next book!

4 stars