I WANT TO DIE BUT I WANT TO EAT TTEOKPOKKI / 죽고 싶지만 떡볶이는 먹고 싶어 by Baek Se-hee / 백세희 – 3.5 stars
I started seeing this title on Bookstagram last year and picked up a copy of the original Korean book while I was in New York last month. While I knew it was about the author’s battle with depression, I hadn’t known that the book is largely about the conversations she has with her therapist and her reflections following. Some of the dialogue felt a bit dry due to the technical language used but I appreciated the back-and-forth between the author and her therapist, which no doubt has made therapy less taboo and more approachable for people in Korea. The version of the book I purchased has both the first and second volumes so I still have to read the part 2 to look forward to!
RUNAWAY by Erin Keane – 3.5 stars
Part-memoir and part-journalistic writing with a little bit of cultural commentary, Runway is about author’s mother and others like her who ran away from their homes and left their childhood behind too early. Keane writes about the uncomfortable truths and the dangerous realities in which the young girls found themselves.
ALL GOOD PEOPLE HERE by Ashley Flowers – 4 stars
This was a solid thriller! I will say the plot does not pick up until it is about 70% in. While the story up to that point wasn’t so slow that I was completely bored by it, not a ton happens and the suspense doesn’t build (I would say not very present to be honest). Once you’re about 3/4 of the way in though, thing are really happening and there are quite a few turns which kept me on my toes. Sometimes I do get annoyed by the flip flopping of the very obvious suspect (I’m looking at you, The Maidens) In All Good People’s case, it made sense. Besides the pacing of the book, no complaints here!
NO ONE LEFT TO COME LOOKING FOR YOU by Sam Lipsyte – 3 stars
This was the first book of my Greenlight First Editions Club pick, a Christmas gift from Alex. Though he chose this book subscription specifically based on the fact that their previous picks and my reading history overlapped quit a bit, No One Left to Come Looking For You is quite different from my usual reads and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Set in 1990s NYC, the book begins as Jack Shit realizes both his bass and his roommate/bandmate, the Banished Earl, have gone missing. Jack and his other bandmates begin a search for the Banished Earl which turns into a whole adventure with a lot bigger picture. Honestly, I think I would like it more if/when I re-read it. It took me quite long to figure out Lipsyte’s writing style and to get acquainted with the setting but again, that is more me than the book itself!
THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY by Jamie Ford – 4.5 stars
In The Many Daughters of Afong Moy, Ford tells the stories of multiple generations of Moy women–beginning with Afong Moy, who was the first Chinese woman in America–all of whom experience trauma in their own, unique settings thanks to the tumultuous historical period and multiple moves across the ocean. Despite the fact that all of them endure their trauma alone and do not speak only about it, it is passed down in their genes to the offspring. By exploring experimental treatment, Dorothy makes an attempt at breaking the cycle.
Mixing historical fiction and magical realism, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy presents a unique take on the impact of intergenerational trauma. This is a topic I have been thinking a lot about, especially after reading a lot of memoirs and historical fiction set in 20th century last year. So many of us are direct descendants of wars and other calamities, it’s no wonder we carry so much hurt. The Many Daughters of Afong Moy highlights the importance of knowing our own’s history.
THE BOYFRIEND PROJECT by Farrah Rochon – 3.5 stars
The Boyfriend Project begins with Samiah learning that the guy she has been talking to for the past few weeks has been talking to multiple women, whom she ends up befriending. The three of them make a pact to work on their own goals for 6 months before dating again but soon after, a new guy starts working at Samiah’s workplace and they develop a flirty friendship. It’s sort of a forbidden love–Samiah because of the friendship pact, Daniel Collins because he’s an undercover government agent who has lied about many things and will be leaving as soon as this project is over.
The pace of the book was a bit slow for me for the first half, maybe even 3/4. But you know I love an equal relationship with two independent adults with their own lives, interests, and strengths! The next two books, The Dating Playbook and The Hookup Plan, in the series are on my list!
THE MAGIC FISH by Trung Le Nguyen – 4.5 stars
The Magic Fish is about a Vietnamese-American boy, Tiến, who comes out to his mother about being gay. it’s quite a simple story but beautifully told and illustrated. There are enchanting elements of fairytales incorporated throughout The Magic Fish as parallels are drawn between the narratives of the Tiến and the fairytales. This graphic novel made me emotional and warmed my heart.
SPARE by Prince Harry – 4 stars
I regularly get British royal family stories (read: drama) on my TikTok For You Page (FYI I am on Harry/Meghan’s site of the story) and had been looking forward to reading Spare, the new memoir by Prince Harry. Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on the audiobook narrated by Harry himself within a week of its release (thanks to my sister Jiyoung). Spare delivered what I expected out of it (and any memoir really): Harry telling his story from his perspective. It is on the longer side but it kept my attention though I struggled quite a bit during the chapters about his military years (frankly not my interest but you know, it’s his life). You might’ve seen some dramatic videos on the Internet of random sentences from this book with little to no context that make it so scandalous and dramatic but I don’t find those to be an accurate reflection of the book.
INTIMACIES by Katie Kitamura – 3.5 stars
The unnamed protagonist comes to The Hague to join the International Court as as an interpreter. After some months, she has a lover named Adrian who is separated but still married to his wife and an acquaintance-turned-friend though she is still not sure if she feels at home in The Hague.
Intimacies is one that made me think quite a bit though I’m not sure if I have conclusive thoughts about it. It is a complicated and thought-provoking piece.
ILLEGALLY YOURS by Rafael Agustin – 4 stars
You know I love immigrant stories, and Illegally Yours was not an exception. A writer for Jane The Virgin, Agustin writes about moving from Ecuador to the United States and growing up “illegal” in his own, often humorous, way. Listening to it on the audiobook allowed me to appreciate his personality and unique voice even more. Heartwarming and inspiring!
BOOKWORM by Robin Yeatman – 2.5 stars
I don’t know if it’s because of the dreamy cover or the fact that it’s classified as romance on Goodreads but Bookworm was not what I expected and not in a good way. Victoria is unhappy–with her husband who is a condescending, check-the-box-type of guy, with her parents who never understood her and like her husband more than they like her, with her best friend whose choices and lifestyle she judges constantly. One day, she notices a guy at a coffee shop she goes to regularly and develops an obsession with him after deciding he is the one for her. The fact that I didn’t like, couldn’t relate to, or root for any character definitely affected by reading experience. Supposedly, it’s a black comedy but I don’t think it’s funny? A psychological thriller would be a more appropriate genre in my opinion.
Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Perennial for the advanced reader copy.
HOW TO KEEP HOUSE WHILE DROWNING by K.C. Davis – 5 stars
How to keep House While Drowning was the shortest book I read this month (~3 hours on audio) and the most impactful read. While it is categorized as a self-help book and it does give you some how-tos but it really is more about fundamentally changing the way you think and approach household chores. Davis talks about how “anything worth doing is worth doing partially (or half ass)” and how not keeping the house clean and tidy at all times does not make you a bad person because these tasks are functional and not moral. These all made sense and I felt so validated because the values we grow up with say the opposite. This is a book I recommend it to everyone!