Nothing but books

Time for another set of mini-reviews, February edition that should have been sent out a while ago. However, school, work, and my personal life got in the way. But now here it is.

Dragonfish by Vu Tran
A thrilling work of sophisticated suspense set amid the Vietnamese underworld in Las Vegas.
Robert, an Oakland cop, still can't let go of Suzy, the enigmatic Vietnamese wife who left him two years ago. Now she's disappeared from her new husband, Sonny, a violent Vietnamese smuggler and gambler who's blackmailing Robert into finding her for him. As he pursues her through the sleek and seamy gambling dens of Las Vegas, shadowed by Sonny's sadistic son, "Junior," and assisted by unexpected and reluctant allies, Robert learns more about his ex-wife than he ever did during their marriage. He finds himself chasing the ghosts of her past, one that reaches back to a refugee camp in Malaysia after the fall of Saigon, as his investigation soon uncovers the existence of an elusive packet of her secret letters to someone she left behind long ago. Although Robert starts illuminating the dark corners of Suzy’s life, the legacy of her sins threatens to immolate them all.
Vu Tran has written a thrilling and cinematic work of sophisticated suspense and haunting lyricism, set in motion by characters who can neither trust each other nor trust themselves. This remarkable debut is a noir page-turner resonant with the lasting reverberations of lives lost and lives remade a generation ago.
Thoughts: Like any Vietnamese story, this book does mention the Vietnam/American war. However, unlike most Vietnamese stories this one also involves the shady, underground business. It also leaves you with a lot of questions in the end that it never resolves throughout the story, and it breaks the white savior complex interestingly.
Rating: 3/5

Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee
In  Native Speaker, author Chang-Rae Lee introduces readers to Henry Park. Park has spent his entire life trying to become a true American—a native speaker. But even as the essence of his adopted country continues to elude him, his Korean heritage seems to drift further and further away.
Park's harsh Korean upbringing has taught him to hide his emotions, to remember everything he learns, and most of all to feel an overwhelming sense of alienation. In other words, it has shaped him as a natural spy.
But the very attributes that help him to excel in his profession put a strain on his marriage to his American wife and stand in the way of his coming to terms with his young son's death. When he is assigned to spy on a rising Korean-American politician, his very identity is tested, and he must figure out who he is amid not only the conflicts within himself but also within the ethnic and political tensions of the New York City streets.
Native Speaker is a story of cultural alienation. It is about fathers and sons, about the desire to connect with the world rather than stand apart from it, about loyalty and betrayal, about the alien in all of us and who we finally are.
Thoughts: It dragged in some parts, but it's still a good spy novel. The classic parents falling out of love after their child dies trope doesn't happen here, but there was still some complications between the parents. Overall the book is a mix of sweet and sad and what the hell.
Rating: 3/5

Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee
Seventeen-year-old conjoined twins Clara and Hailey have lived in the same small town their entire lives—no one stares at them anymore. But there are cracks in their quiet existence, and they’re slowly becoming more apparent.
Clara and Hailey are at a crossroads. Clara wants to stay close to home, avoid all attention, and study the night sky. Hailey wants to travel the world, learn from great artists, and dance with mysterious boys.
As high school graduation approaches, each twin must untangle her dreams from her sister’s, and figure out what it means to be her own person.
Thoughts: A sweet coming of age story about a pair of conjoined twins. Like most twin stories out there there's the classic trope of each twin being opposite of each other, which honestly, is tiring to read by now. A few other tiring tropes that also occurred: another beautiful blue eyed blond that the main character falls for, a person of color being the sidekick, and identical twins (twins aren't always identical people!)
Rating: 3/5

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Jin Wang starts at a new school where he's the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn't want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he's in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee's annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny's reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He's ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there's no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They're going to have to find a way—if they want to fix the disasters their lives have become.
Thoughts: The three different stories connect with each other through magic. It's hard to explain the specifics not unless you read the book. But overall, the book is good at showing how some people in the Asian American community has a self-hatred for their Asian side and it also talks about learning how to love yourself.
Rating: 4/5

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
Ben Tanaka has problems. In addition to being rampantly critical, sarcastic, and insensitive, his long-term relationship is awash in turmoil. His girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, suspects that Ben has a wandering eye, and more to the point, it's wandering in the direction of white women. This accusation (and its various implications) becomes the subject of heated, spiralling debate, setting in motion a story that pits California against New York, devotion against desire, and trust against truth.
Thoughts: Ben is a jerk, the book breaks the trope of how gay people could only be white guys, and it shows the complications of love.
Rating: 4/5

And now the weather:
How Does A Moment Last Forever by CĂ©line Dion

~ Stacy N.


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