I often find it tricky to review memoirs and personal essay collections. It’s embarrassing, almost, to judge what you know is someone else’s personal experience and not feel like you’re either being too cruel or too soft. I didn’t know Michelle Zauner or her music — she records under the name Japanese Breakfast — before I read this memoir. My friend was a fan, and told me about theThe New Yorker essay that inspired the book and served as its first chapter, but I went in woefully ignorant, half assuming this would be a companion piece to an album that I wouldn’t fully grasp. What I came away with was one of my favourite reads of the year, and a vivid example of what a great memoir looks like, how it works, how it feels.Continue reading “Review: ‘Crying in H Mart’ by Michelle Zauner”
Review: ‘People We Meet on Vacation’ by Emily Henry
As soon as I read the synopsis for Emily Henry’s follow up to her wonderful adult romance bestseller Beach Read, I had the certain premonition I would fall in love with it. And call me psychic, because I was absolutely right.
The beauty of Beach Read lay in large part with Henry’s writing voice. There was a real warmth undercut with bittersweetness that made the characters and their central love story come to life in a deeply intimate and immersive way. People We Meet on Vacation takes that narrative voice and applies it to a story that I felt so deeply connected to, it was the bookish equivalent of love at first sight.Continue reading “Review: ‘People We Meet on Vacation’ by Emily Henry”
Review: ‘The Bookweaver’s Daughter’ by Malavika Kannan
When I came across the description for Malavika Kannan’s debut, The Bookweaver’s Daughter, requesting an ARC was a no-brainer for me. Described as a YA fantasy inspired by the mythology of India, it called out to my love of the genre and my constant search for Indian representation in literature. Not only that, but the book’s synopsis said the story took place in a land called ‘Kasmira,’ which I was certain was based on Kashmir.
A personal note — I’m Kashmiri on my Dad’s side of the family, and I had yet to read a YA novel set in or inspired by Kashmir (if I remember correctly, the only book I’ve read at all set in the region is Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children). So I went into this book excited, hoping to love it. Unfortunately, I didn’t.Continue reading “Review: ‘The Bookweaver’s Daughter’ by Malavika Kannan”
Review: ‘All Stirred Up’ by Brianne Moore
The thing with marketing a novel as a retelling is that you’re inviting comparisons to the source material. In the case of successful retellings, this is a great thing — books that can get to the heart of their inspiration and reinvent them are bound to delight readers who are fans of the original work and of the retelling alike. One of the most popular sources for retellings is Jane Austen, whose oeuvre has been mined for everything from zombie movies to Bollywood to Twilight. When done well. Austen retellings become classics in their own right — think Bridget Jones’ Diary or Clueless — but when done poorly, they suffer all the more for having such a beloved source material to pale before.
I was excited going into All Stirred Up because it’s marketed as a retelling of Persuasion, one of my favourite of Austen’s novels. Persuasion, perhaps the original “exes to lovers” angst fest, is fully of enough yearning, pining, and repression to provide excellent fodder to any love story and my friends and I have always searched obsessively for retellings that capitalise on this.Continue reading “Review: ‘All Stirred Up’ by Brianne Moore”
Review: ‘These Violent Delights’ by Chloe Gong
So here’s the thing — I love Romeo and Juliet. Like, I really love Romeo and Juliet. Having done a degree in English Literature, I’ve read a fair amount of Shakespeare, and I will stand by Romeo and Juliet as my favourite of his tragedies, if not his plays overall. I know that it’s considered too “mainstream” by a lot of more academic folks, and that the internet is full of hot takes about how it’s actually a stupid story about stupid teenagers doing stupid things, and I’m the type of person who gets irrationally overprotective in response, ready to trot out a whole “in defense of” presentation at a moment’s notice. Zeffirelli and Luhrmann’s film adaptations, West Side Story, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, High School Musical — I’ve seen all the adaptations. My point is, I love this play. And what’s immediately clear, reading These Violent Delights is that Chloe Gong loves it too.Continue reading “Review: ‘These Violent Delights’ by Chloe Gong”