In the plot twist of the century, sis found a 5 star read!
I know. Shocking.
I don’t know what else to say (I’m an incredibly awkward human lmao), and this post is way too long, so let’s just get into it!
And yes, I know I forgot to write an intro and left the word intro at the beginning. We all know I’m an embarrassment anyway.
Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond ★★★★★
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.
A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.
This was truly such a fantastic experience, and I loved this book so so much. This was amongst my top 5 most anticipated releases of 2019, and it not only met my expectations, but blew my expectations out of the water. This is my favourite short story anthology of the year, and likely my favourite ever, since it is (I think?) the only anthology that has received a 5 star rating.
Hungry Hearts is likely the most cohesive anthology I have ever read, with different short stories mentioning different characters from different stories, creating some fantastic crossovers and solid world building. This is a truly diverse anthology, both in terms of representation and genres, which made me so happy. It was also incredibly bingeable with fantastic editing and ordered the short stories wonderfully, imo. And also, the art and map here? Perfection.
I think I’ll be publishing a full review of this anthology (and the future anthologies I read!) on my Goodreads and maybe as a blog post? I don’t know.
Let me know if you’re interested in a separate blog post review of this, because I have one ready if you’re down to read it. (I’ll post it on GR otherwise).
The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) by Libba Bray ★★★★☆
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
SOMETHING DARK AND EVIL HAS AWAKENED. . . .
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries her uncle will discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho is hiding a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened. . . .
Oh my god, I loved rereading this book so much & I’m super grateful that I took the time to participate in the Diviners Readalong! So many people have said this series is perfect to read in Halloween, and frankly, I could not agree more. Especially that last 25%. *shivers* It was also super fun to read my initial thoughts upon my first read of this, and I think I might’ve loved this more upon my reread.
I really adored the characters & their arcs, as well as the sheer diversity of the characters. I loved that this series focuses on the social outcasts of 1920s society, those who are not as seen in history, and the ugliness of 1920s America, which is too often swept under the rug. The 1920s vibes were perfect, and I actually wasn’t as annoyed with the slang as a lot of others were. In fact, I felt that really added to the atmosphere of the novel.
So, I can’t wait to continue on with the retreads and finally get caught up on the series before King of Crows come out. Also, I support Sam & Evie as a ship so much more than Evie & Jericho.
And yes, the audiobook was fantastic. January LaVoy is an audiobook goddess and that’s the truth.
Again, But Better by Christine Riccio ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?
Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!
Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.
Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.
First off, can we talk about that cover? I’m in love. Those colours!!
I liked this more than I expected. The writing was solid for a debut and this was an incredibly quick read – I flew through most of it on a plane ride waiting for a delay (a story for another day). I found the plot to be interesting and I really loved the message of living life for yourself rather than for others, and I think it is a message that so many people (myself included) need to hear. It was a fresh & interesting novel and idea, which I appreciated.
The travelling aspect was really fun! Shane and her friends jet off to many places in Europe during the novel, and I loved reading about the setting and the atmosphere. Also, since the book mostly takes place in London, it made my London-loving heart very happy. While I did feel that the romance was cute, I couldn’t fully root for it due to the grey-area cheating (which becomes definitive cheating as the book progressed), which made me incredibly uncomfortable.
A lot of people have pointed out the self-insertion in the book & really did not enjoy it. I didn’t love the self-insertion (it did get grating at times) but I didn’t hate it either. If we didn’t know the author as well as we do, especially in comparison to other authors, the self-insertion would not have been as obvious and would’ve been far more enjoyable.
I also appreciated the majority of the side characters representing diverse identities – a good amount of the side characters were PoC and/or LGBTQIAIP+, which was awesome. And that magical realism aspect – it was a cool idea on paper, but in practice was a bit jarring and a bit too fantastical for my taste (especially at the start).
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.
The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around–she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.
This was such a lovely & quiet story, and I’m so glad I picked it up! I listened to the majority of the story via audio and I definitely liked the narrator. I also enjoyed the depiction of the neighbourhood and Chinese culture – being a Malaysian Chinese teen myself, I found it to be pretty accurate & its representation made me happy. The characters were generally well fleshed out and it was great to see!
It did have some good plot reveals that shocked me a little and were well pulled off. The main romance of the book was cute, but came off extremely insta-lovey, which was not my favourite. And oh my god, the food! It was so well described and tangible that I really recommend you not read this on an empty stomach. I really enjoyed the magical realism aspect of the book and felt that it made the book really unique.
I really enjoyed Natalie as a character – the book makes it clear that she is a flawed, layered individual and I really liked seeing that in an explicit manner. I really enjoyed seeing her development & found her to be a compelling main character. The generational ties between the Tan women is a major part of the novel, and generational things being a thing I love in books, I ate it up. (Haha, am I funny yet)? As well as the relationships in general, honestly.
One gripe with it though: I was a little confused at some plot points, and need some stuff cleared up. But overall it was a solid debut that I definitely recommend!
The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, Book #2) by Maureen Johnson
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.
For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.
The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.
EDIT: Since posting this, I have lowered my review to a 1.5 stars, because the more I thought about it, the more I just did not like it. So.
This was honestly kind of really disappointing, which was a shame because the majority of the reviews I read said that this was better than Truly Devious and lived up to their expectations. I was hoping that this would redeem how disappointing I found Truly Devious, but I ultimately found it to be a cliché book 2 in a typical YA trilogy – a bridge between Book 1 & 2 that dragged too much & a novel that could have been easily condensed. Honestly? This whole series could have been condensed into a duology and I would have been a much happier camper.
I’m glad that this book finally gave us some answers, seeing as Truly Devious didn’t give us anything (
can you feel my saltiness). To its credit though, this book had some great reveals that my jaw literally dropped. I loved the insights from the 1930s and did prefer that mystery on the whole, and I am truly fascinated by Albert Ellingham, the founder of Ellingham. The writing was solid and like I complained earlier, the pacing was too slow. In my view, it only really picked up in the last 5%, which was too little, too late. And that ending? Too. abrupt. I am also a little confused by some plot points, which I need to clear up.
And honestly, what were the characters doing in this novel? They were so messy. (David, I’m looking at you). That said though, I’ll likely be checking out Book 3 because of that evil cliffhanger, my interest in the mystery, and also, that Book 3 synopsis. Because it sounds SO GOOD.
Overall, 2 stars for everything, plus an additional .5 for those twists.
What are some books you recently read, and what do you think of them? Have you read any of the books here, and do you agree (or disagree) with any of my opinions? Why/why not? I’d love to know.