The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu – At times emotional, at times heart-rendering, and at times horrifying, this book is Asian-inspired SFF at its best

Summary:

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

My review:

It took me months to read The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. Not because it was a bore – in fact, far from it. The Paper Menagerie is one of the most affecting books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Some of the stories hit me so close to home that I had to take long breaks, but it didn’t change how much I loved this short story collection.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a collection of short stories that explore a plethora of unique and fascinating ideas. Some were speculative fiction, some were fantasy, some had elements of magical realism, but the best part was that most of the stories had Asian protagonists and were centered on Asian mythology and philosophy. There’s something so powerful and validating about reading something that feels important and familiar to me. In that sense, reading The Paper Menagerie was a personal and emotional experience; I have a feeling that, for years to come, The Paper Menagerie will be a book that I hold very close to me.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I expected light and fluffy; instead I got profound and emotional

Summary:

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My review: 

I have loved every single book written by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I adored Maybe in Another Life and Forever, Interruptedand One True Loves and After I Do were superb as well. Whilst her previous books explored the lives of ordinary everyday women and the mundane but significant turning points in their lives, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo dives into the extraordinary, grand, and tumultuous life of infamous bombshell classic actress, Evelyn Hugo. Indeed, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was significantly different to her other books, but what I did not expect was that I would come to love The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo so, so much. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is Reid’s best book yet.

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – The ending that fans of the series deserved

Summary:

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?

My review:

I knew, the first time this book made me cry, that this would be best installment in the trilogy. By the end, I was dead-certain: Always and Forever, Lara Jean was my favourite and, I’d wager to argue, the best book in the trilogy. I loved it immensely.

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I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo – Cute, fluffy, and bloody outrageous

Summary:

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

My review:

This was one of my most anticipated books of 2017, and though I didn’t get what I was expecting, I Believe In A Thing Called Love was nonetheless full of pleasant and quirky surprises.

The first thing you should know going into I Believe In A Thing Called Love is that it is outrageously silly. Indeed, largely influenced and inspired by romantic Korean dramas, or K-dramas, this book has all the hilarious and heart-melting tropes common to K-drama: tragic family stories, near-miss life and death situations, love triangles(!), and melodramatic moments. If you love K-dramas, I Believe In A Thing Called Love will make you laugh and it will make you feel like rewatching all of your favourite K-drama scenes.

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The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork – Heartbreaking, hopeful, honest; a rare story about depression and grief

Summary:

Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.

That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.

Note: suicide will be discussed extensively in my review.

My review:

Often when we read books about mental illness, we follow the trajectory and development of an individual’s experience with mental illness. The Memory of Light offers something a little different; rather than looking at the events preceding a traumatic event or exploring the age-old question of ‘what drives a person to take their own life?’, The Memory of Light explores its aftermath.

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