Reviews

Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda
American Panda

by Gloria Chao

Synopsis
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

What I thought

American Panda is a young adult contemporary novel about 17-year-old Mei Lu. Mei’s parents have her life planned out; 1) attend and graduate from MIT, 2) become a doctor, and 3) marry a pre-approved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer preferably a doctor. The problem with that is Mei is only happy with one of those three things.

Mei who does not want to become a doctor is faced with the issue of being honest with herself or following the path that has been laid out for her. Mei’s passion is dance specifically Chinese dance. Mei feels that she needs to hide this part of her because her parents feel that it is a waste of her time. Mei with the support of some of her friends sees that to be happy she needs to find her own way.

I love how the Taiwanese culture is woven throughout the story. The author also made sure to look at “other” families and even show that there are differences and that the culture and how things are handled are not all the same.  I always like learning more about other cultures and in this story, you really get to see how culture and being one’s self can clash. There is a lot of growth in this story not just with Mei but also with her mother who has to learn that she may not understand what is best for her daughter and that the hardest thing is letting her daughter choose her own road and not knowing the outcome.

As a whole, this story is very cute and I really enjoyed it.

My Rating: /5

4 Stars

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Review: The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

The Last Queen
The Last Queen

by C.W. Gortner

Synopsis
In this stunning novel, C. W. Gortner brings to life Juana of Castile, the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who would become the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne. Along the way, Gortner takes the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England.

Born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify and strengthen their kingdom, Juana, at the age of sixteen, is sent to wed Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her dashing young husband, and at first, she is content with her children and her married life. But when tragedy strikes and she becomes heir to the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it costs her everything.

What I thought

The Last Queen is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Juana of Castile. Juana was the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain. In this book Juana’s story beings when she is 13 years old during the fall of Granada. At 16 Juana was married off to Philip of the Habsburg empire. What seemed to begin as a fairy tale marriage turned very tragic as tragedy struck Juana’s family and Philip became more power hungry. With each tragedy, Juana moved higher in the line of succession for both Castile and Aragon.

As Philip saw what he thought was his chance to rule the Spanish empire he began declaring Juana as insane and began locking her up to keep others from seeing her.  Philip believed that this would then leave the Spanish throne to him as her husband. Due to this ploy, Juana ends up spending more than 40 years in imprisonment. First by her husband, then her father and lastly her son.  No matter what happened Juana never abdicated her throne.

In my personal opinion, Juana could have ruled her kingdom if she would have been allowed to. Yes, she suffered from depression but once you look at how many people she lost, then to be locked up by those that once cared for her just to take her power.  I think given the chance and not being locked up she would have ruled as well as her mother had. But then again this is only my opinion.

C.W. Gortner did a wonderful job telling Juana’s story. He kept to as many facts as he could find and for that, I truly appreciate this story. I see myself picking up another of his books in the future.

My Rating: /5

5 Stars

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Review: Victoria & Abdul by Shrabani Basu

Victoria & Abdul
Victoria & Abdul

by Shrabani Basu

Synopsis
Tall and handsome Abdul was just twenty-four years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Within a year, Abdul had grown to become a powerful figure at court, the Queen’s teacher, or Munshi, her counsel on Urdu and Indian affairs, and a friend close to the Queen’s heart. “I am so very fond of him.,” Queen Victoria would write in 1888, “He is so good and gentle and understanding….a real comfort to me.”
This marked the beginning of the most scandalous decade in Queen Victoria’s long reign. Devastated first by the death of Prince Albert in 1861 and then her personal servant John Brown in 1883, Queen Victoria quickly found joy in an intense and controversial relationship with her Munshi, who traveled everywhere with her, cooked her curries and cultivated her understanding of the Indian subcontinent–a region, as Empress of India, she was long intrigued by but could never visit. The royal household roiled with resentment, but their devotion grew in defiance of all expectation and the societal pressures of their time and class and lasted until the Queen’s death on January 22, 1901.
Drawn from never-before-seen first-hand documents that had been closely guarded secrets for a century, Shrabani Basu’s Victoria & Abdul is a remarkable history of the last years of the 19th century in English court, an unforgettable view onto the passions of an aging Queen, and a fascinating portrayal of how a young Indian Muslim came to play a central role at the heart of the British Empire.

What I thought
Victoria & Abdul is a biography about Victoria later in her life and her relationship with her Mushi (teacher). It seems that for the most part this is not a widely know part of Victoria’s life.  Her son Edward went to great lengths to erase all reference of Abdul from his mother’s history. This story shows how much Victoria cared for her subjects even if they were a continent away. Victoria went to great lengths to learn the language and customs of her subjects in India.   She relied on Abdul’s teachings to become a more understanding ruler and for that, I find that I admire her even more.

My Rating: /5

3 stars
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Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

a court of frost and starlight
A Court of Frost and Starlight

by Sarah J. Maas

Synopsis
The Winter Solstice. In a week. I was still new enough to being High Lady that I had no idea what my formal role was to be. If we’d have a High Priestess do some odious ceremony, as lanthe had done the year before. A year. Gods, nearly a year since Rhys had called in his bargain, desperate to get me away from the poison of the Spring Court to save me from my despair. Had he been only a minute later, the Mother knew what would have happened. Where I’d now be. Snow swirled and eddied in the garden, catching in the brown fibers of the burlap covering the shrubs My mate who had worked so hard and so selflessly, all without hope that I would ever be with him We had both fought for that love, bled for it. Rhys had died for it.

What I thought
A Court of Frost and Starlight is the novella that is breaching the gap between the Court of Thorn and Roses series and the spin-off series that we will start seeing next year.  I will be honest I didn’t how I was going to feel about this book. Part of me wanted it and part of me was worried that it would just leave more unanswered questions so to get people to buy the spinoff series.  

This was the ending to the story that I didn’t know that I needed! I loved this book more than I ever thought I would.  

At the end of the book, there are a few chapters that unveil who the next series will be about and I have to say it is what I wanted.  Only one other character could have made me happier. I won’t spoil it for you.

My Rating: /5

5 Stars
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Review: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Apprentice
Assassin’s Apprentice

by Robin Hobb

Synopsis
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

What I thought
I read this book along with the Name of the Book book club.  I enjoy watching their booktube channels and was super excited to see them start this.

Assassin’s Apprentice is an adult fantasy novel. This is the first book in the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb, it is a slow-paced political fantasy and spends time laying out a lot of groundwork for the rest of the series.  This is the story of Fitz, the narrator’s life everything you get is all one-sided so as of this first book there is only one POV.

You are following Fitz’s life from the age of 5 to 14.  This poor kid just gets railroaded time and time again.  One thing that I really did not like is that it seems that all of his turmoil comes from all of the adult characters in this book  This book is also a product of its time when using female characters. So as long as you can accept that you will be fine.

Even though you are getting this narrative from Fitz I did not like him very much. In my opinion, he accepted his lot too easily. My favorite character in this book is the Fool.  I really liked the mystery surrounding them. I use them because you do not know the age or gender of the Fool I feel that they may have a bigger role later in books. I can’t wait to order the next book.  I just need to order it from the book depository. I am not a fan of the US mass market books so I order the British paperbacks and the shipping is free. I’m not an affiliate I just like getting books from there.

Has anyone else read this and if so what did you think?

My Rating: /5

4 Stars

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Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked Deep.png
The Wicked Deep

by Shea Ernshaw

Synopsis
Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

What I thought
The Wicked Deep is a young adult witchy magical book.  Two centuries ago the town of Sparrow put three sisters to death by drowning for witchcraft. Every summer since, these sisters have been seeking revenge on the town by inhabiting the bodies of young women and luring boys to their watery deaths.  Penny a native of Sparrow has accepted the towns fate during what they call Swan season, beginning June 1st and runs until the summer solstice. This summer Bo unsuspectingly wonders into the town of Sparrow just before June 1st.

I absolutely loved this book it is beautiful inside and out.  It was exactly what I needed to read at this time.  I was pulled into this story and I did not want to put it down. The writing was just beautiful.   I am going to end this with my favorite quote from this book.

“Love is an enchantress—devious and wild.
It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.”

My Rating: /5

5 Stars
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Review: Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

Love, Lies and SpiesLove, Lies and Spies
by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis
Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.


What I thought
Love, Lies and Spies is a young adult regency era romance novel.  In this story, you are reading from two perspectives, Juliana and Spencer.  Neither of these two are looking for marriage. Juliana is a whity strong-willed lady of 18 and is using her season in London to find a publisher for her research on the Lady Beetle.  Spencer, an officer in the war office is trying to flush out French spies, is only focused on his career. Their two worlds collide in a way that is most unexpected for them.

Oh my, where do I start! The banter! The angst! I love it all.  Every time I sat down with this book I would find myself smiling.  The story kept my attention the whole time. I loved this story so much.  After finishing this book I took a gift card that I got for my birthday and promptly order her two other books.

My Rating: /5

5 Stars
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