Beauty (2040 Books Awards): Chiu, Christina: 9781733777759:  Books

Amy has not had an easy life. Her parents’ marriage is a mess and she has always lived in the shadow of her perfect sister, Georgie. In spite of this, Amy is just trying to navigate her career, her love life, and her complicated relationship with her family. The portrayal of Amy’s voracious sexual appetite without shame is refreshing. I was riveted, watching Amy grow up over the years. Her voice and perspective mature as she gets past more of life’s hurdles and milestones. We are able to witness the way she navigates obstacles and keeps going regardless of what may be holding her back. The storytelling abilities of Chiu are impressive, and she has an uncanny ability to bring all of her characters to life. She does not shy away from abrasiveness or raw emotion but presents them in all of their messy, vulnerable glory.


Sparks Like Stars: A Novel: Hashimi, Nadia: 9780063008281: Books

As the daughter of the advisor to the president of Afghanistan, Sitari’s whole world is shattered during the start of the Saur Revolution. Everything and everyone she knows has changed, overnight. She manages to get out of the country with the help of many kind-hearted people and becomes a doctor in the US. When she hears about an investigation to find the bodies of those murdered that night, she goes back to Kabul, a home she hasn’t seen in 30 years. Learning about a piece of Afghanistan’s history through Sitari’s story was fascinating and gut-wrenching. The people there have endured so much in the recent decades, and their suffering is still continuing. The book is poignant and brave and absolutely heartbreaking, but it is also full of hope and endurance, and the ability to overcome.


Little Pieces of Me: A Novel: Hammer, Alison: 9780062934871:  Books

The premise of this story reminds me a lot of the memoir Inheritance by Dani Shapiro, where a DNA test reveals the truth about paternity that was not in question originally. Paige is still dealing with the death of her father, years later, and feels the void in her life acutely. When another man is identified as her father on a DNA website, she doesn’t know what to believe. The story goes back and forth in time, revealing to the reader the truth of the circumstances that happened when Paige was conceived and why her mother kept it from her. The characters were very likable and realistic, and the friendship Paige has with Margeaux and Maks is so genuine and heartfelt.


The Perfect Family: Harding, Robyn: 9781982169398: Books

Each member of the family has a secret they are trying to keep hidden. When their house seems to be a target for vandalism, they start to point fingers at each other in an attempt to keep the attention off their own personal shame. The chapters are short and action-packed, the perfect format for a page-turning mystery/thriller. Some of the plot points seemed a little contrived, and the characters are not easy to root for. Alternating between the family members’ POVs, it was clear that all of them were primarily focused on self-preservation, and lacking compassion and empathy for others. As the book went on, the family started to unravel more and more. But the setup is intriguing and the story is propulsive, keeping me interested throughout the narrative.


The Tiger Mom's Tale: Butler, Lyn Liao: 9780593198728: Books

This is a light read about Lexa, a half-Asian girl who did not know who her biological father was growing up. When she finally meets him and her half-sister at age 8, she is excited to finally connect with that part of her identity. However, not everyone welcomes her with open arms and a fallout causes her to not return to Taiwan for decades. Tragedy forces Lexa to reopen old wounds and face the difficult truth that pushed her away from her Taiwanese family. The dichotomy between the protagonist and antagonist is a little too stark, lacking nuance and well-rounded characters. But the story is an important one to tell and one that many people will be able to relate to.


Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

This is the first book in the series where a previous case is not just mentioned but questioned and plays a prominent role. We are also introduced to our first criminal mastermind! It gave me Sherlock Holmes vibes, which I am totally here for. I am really amazed at the way Louise Penny is able to write books in this series in a way where they are self-contained but also very much a part of a larger story. The ongoing conflicts between the English and French play a significant role in this book, highlighting the tension and unease that still exist in Quebec. While there is an ongoing investigation about a murder that occurred in the Literary and Historical Society, Beauvoir is also revisiting the last case in Three Pines. We also learn about the momentous case that went wrong and involved the entire Surete. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and am excited to continue the series.



Big Mushy Happy Lump: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection (Volume 2): Andersen,  Sarah: 9781449479619: Books

This book does not disappoint. Her comics are concise but always hit the nail right on the head. It’s nice to be able to laugh about pet peeves and idiosyncrasies that I thought I was alone in. Her comics are always so relatable and extremely funny, particularly for my Millenial generation. I’m a big fan of her unique style and uncanny ability to depict everyday life in a hilarious way.


Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow

Reading this book felt like I was peeking into a scrapbook of the author’s family history. The story primarily focuses on her mother’s life, the things she experienced, and the grief that was felt after she was gone. The photos that are included bring the story to life, the types of personal family photos that all of us have of our family members, and that people outside of the family seldom are privy to. The way the author was able to bond with her mother, despite cultural and generational differences is extremely inspiring. This memoir is addressed to the author’s mother as she contemplates life before and after her death, how the entire family was impacted deeply by her mother’s existence and departure. She also weaves in important commentary on the prevalence of racism in the US, against Asians and other minority groups.



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