Book Review: Ugly Love

Title: Ugly Love

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Pages: 324 pages; 9 hours (audiobook)

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Tate and Miles agree to a low-stakes relationship because of their personal circumstance. However, things take a turn for the unexpected…or did it?

Review:

This book should come with the warning “when someone tells who they are, you better believe them”. I know it’s fiction, but it paints the picture that one can get into a relationship by disregarding boundaries…and believing the idea that one can “change” a man…

The trauma that the male lead went through, while very saddening, felt artificial. It was like the incident was put there for the shock factor…to explain his aloofness yet excuse his behaviour towards the female lead. This was the case because there was little to no elaboration of why the incident had happened and the immediate effects of that incident (I’m being general here to prevent spoilers).

I did enjoy the shifting point of view, especially how Tate’s pov was in the present and Miles’ was always in the past. It emphasised that he was stuck in the past. Furthermore, Miles’ pov is read in the present only after the resolution between the lead characters. This was a nice touch in the book.

Book Review: Ayesha at Last

Title: Ayesha at Last

Author: Uzma Jalaluddin

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Retellings

Pages: 349

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Ayesha might be a little lonely, but the one thing she doesn’t want is an arranged marriage. And then she meets Khalid…As for Khalid, he’s happy the way he is; and was set on leaving his love life in the hands of his mother until he met Ayesha.

Review:

This book is a Muslim romance comedy. There was good character development, real tension between the two lead characters and a beautifully written and smartly executed resolution. There was suspense, surprise, and shenanigans. The plot was engaging, the issues addressed in the book were given great justice, and the humour was appropriate. In addition, it is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice! It was so good that I read it in one sitting. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Notes on an Execution

Title: Notes on an Execution

Author: Danya Kukafa

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Pages: 306 pages; 10 hours (audiobook)

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Through a kaleidoscope of women – a mother, a sister, a homicide detective – we learn the story of Ansel Park’s life, a serial killer who is scheduled to die in twelve hours.

Review:

The latter half of the book was what raised my initial four-star rating to five stars and why I would recommend this book to others. The commentary on the prison system, mainstream media craze about serial killers (especially when they are young and attractive), and how victims are usually remembered at their last living moment (often how they were brutally murdered).

I think the plot was brilliant, as we moved from the perspective of all those whose lives were impacted by the main character’s actions. Furthermore, it was pretty interesting how the main character’s perspective, the serial killer, counted down in hours to his execution and shifted from first-person to a narration (in which a narrator speaks directly to the readers, almost as if they were the murderer themselves).

The author was cautious in how they wrote each character and addressed the sensitivity of serial killers being psychopaths, sexual violence, loss, and murder. I appreciated how they were no violent descriptions of how the victims were killed.

TW: animal abuse, violence

Book Review: The Best Kind of People

Title: The Best Kind of People

Author: Zoe Whittall

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime

Pages: 404 pages; 11 hours (audiobook)

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

George Woodbury, a well-liked teacher, beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school on the birthday of his seventeen-year-old daughter. The arrest leads to a series of events for his wife, Joan, his daughter Sadie who is a student at the school, and his son Andrew, a lawyer in New York. The book follows the family’s journey of coming to terms with the allegations.

Review:

This book engaged with what happens to the family of a sexual assault offender/predator, how they gripple with the scrutiny, the deceit, and their lives changing forever. The author did a good job of engaging with the plot and issues addressed sensitively. However, I did not like the element of fatalism – several characters not speaking up for themselves, several characters easily getting away with questionable character and the lack of critical dialogue required in a book that engages with sexual violence.

TW: sexual assault, violence, drug abuse

Book Review: Lovely War

Title: Lovely War

Author: Julie Berry

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult

Pages: 471 pages; 13 hours (audiobook)

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Two couples. Hazel, a classical pianist from London and James, a British would-be architect-turned soldier. Colette, a Belgian orphan with serious emotional scars that fail to hide behind her beautiful voice, and Aubrey, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S Army. Their love story is told in first-person perspective and by goddess Aphrodite as she faces judgement on Mount Olympus for her interference with mortal love.

Review:

Romance, History and Mythology – a wonderful intersection! This is one of the best historical fiction I have ‘read’; it was funny, honest, hopeful and historically accurate. A beautiful tale that reveals that though War is a formidable force, it’s no match for the transcendent power of true love. I highly recommend listening to it as an audiobook. It is quite an immersive experience with different voices for different characters and the music the characters play in the background.

Book Reviews: May 2022 Reads*

by Asian Authors

*(3 stars or more)

Book Review: Verity

Verity: Hoover, Colleen: 9781791392796: Books - Amazon.ca

Title: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Romantic Thriller, Adult Fiction

Pages: 324 pages

Level of difficulty: 2/5 Dictionaries

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Lowen Ashleigh is a writer who gets a big break when the husband of a severely injured author, Verity Crawford, seeks her to help continue the author’s beloved thriller book series. Lowen, struggling financially, accepts the opportunity and goes to their house with their husband, Jeremy, to read over Verity’s manuscripts. However, she ends up stumbling upon an unfinished autobiography that paints Verity in a terrible light. As Lowen realises that Verity is evil and grows suspicious of the author’s current medical condition, all while developing feelings for Jeremy, she battles with what to do.

Favourite Quote:

N/A

Review:

Unfortunately, this thriller had so much potential but failed to deliver.

At the very beginning of the novel, Lowen and Jeremy meet in a traumatic manner, but the weight of that incident is brushed upon, which seems very unrealistic (despite the impression that since they both have had the worst traumatic experiences, they could look past the one that had happened in the beginning scene). This situation is very concerning since it’s a romance that grows on the foundation of (unresolved) trauma.

Furthermore, the romance that brewed between Lowen and Jeremy seemed very instant-love. There wasn’t any significant reason why Lowen liked Jeremy so much, apart from the fact that he was nice to her (which I would argue is a low standard). Considering Jeremy’s situation and the other issues in his family, I was surprised that Lowen was not even a bit concerned about a healthy relationship with Jeremy (until towards the end of the novel) and thus began questioning her feelings just lust or infatuation.

Regarding the thriller aspect of the novel, Hoover tried hard to add every stereotypical element for a thriller novel without genuinely exploring them. Many deaths, toxic relationships, and mental health issues could have been better analysed. Sadly, the medical condition that Verity was in and Lowen’s suspicion of it was severely tackled.

In addition, Jeremy’s lack of first-person narration made him quite an unrealistic character. There were many questions left unanswered about him, especially how he was dealing with all the tragic events happening to him and his family.

Hoover added a chapter that turned the whole novel/storyline on its head. While there is nothing wrong with such an element in a novel, it left a bad taste in my mouth with the nature of the story and its issues. In addition, it felt solely for shock value and thus very unnecessary.

Nevertheless, Colleen Hoover is a beloved romance writer, and while I might not pick up another thriller by her, I would definitely give one of her romance novels a chance.

Book Review: Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Title: Such a Fun Age

Author: Kiley Reid

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction

Pages: 301 pages

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Emira is a twenty-five-year-old who isn’t sure of what she wants to do in life, nor is she fond that she is depending on babysitting to pay her bills. Nevertheless, she loves spending time with Briar, the four-year white girl she babysits. Unfortunately, an emergency babysitting session one night in a nearby grocery store leads to questioning by a security guard and a kidnapping accusation. This incident leads to a chain of events that has Emira questioning what used to be.

Favourite Quote:

N/A

Review:

Such a Fun Age is a beautiful work that accurately portrays how racism creeps into the everyday lives of Black women in the United States in direct, indirect and unknowing manners. It also touches on themes such as purpose and belonging. It is a short yet gripping read. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Ghost Bride

Title: Ghost Bride

Author: Yangsze Choo

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal

Pages: 361

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Li Lan, the daughter of a once reputable but now bankrupt family, gets a marriage proposal from the Lim family, a highly respectable and wealthy family. However, it is a marriage proposal for their recently deceased son, Lim Tian Ching. Despite Li Lan’s refusal to be a ghost bride, she finds herself haunted by Lim Tian Ching and losing her health at the same time.

Favourite Quote:

N/A

Review:

It was a fascinating idea and had so much potential, but the execution was sadly disappointing, in my opinion. I think the first problem was that the intended audience was not clear. Was it for Malaysian or other Asian readers? A non-Chinese audience? Teenagers or adults? As someone very familiar with Malaya and Singapore history and Malay and Chinese culture, there was too much explaining of certain concepts, names, food and places in the novel. While I understand that the explanation might have been primarily for non-Malaysian readers to follow the storyline better, the way the explanations were woven into the story felt forced instead of a ‘show not tell’ manner. In addition, I don’t think there is a huge problem with readers doing their ‘Googles’ and actively learning more about a culture if they happen to be reading a book based on an unfamiliar culture to them.

The second problem I had was that the plot twists in the books were very predictable, and many aspects of the novel felt too convenient. For example, the main character’s love interest in the story was not believable. As a reader, I could understand the infatuation with the first love interest; however, they barely had any interactions to portray the implied deep love between them. In addition, there were even fewer interactions with the second love interest to understand why the main character would so easily choose them over the first love interest. In addition, the motivations for certain characters’ betrayal, help, and the reasoning behind certain characters’ talents were weak. ( I am trying to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers).

The third problem was the execution of Chinese culture and its beliefs of the afterlife as the basis of the fantasy/paranormal elements in the book. I was pretty disappointed because that was a huge motivation for why I picked the book up. I was actually a little nonplussed when one character in the novel turned into a mystical creature. I thought to myself, why them and why all of a sudden and why this creature? In addition, the mystical creature chosen felt a little bit cliché. Since there was little justification for the world-building and certain fantasy elements (despite being based on cultural beliefs and not just make-believe), they fell flat and, as a reader, a bit unbelievable, especially when there were some inconsistencies.

Nevertheless, I still think it was a worthwhile read as I was intrigued to find out how the story would play out and end (though quite conveniently), and I greatly appreciated the representation showcased in the novel.

Other

The book was recently turned into a Netflix show; however, the trailer for the show hints that the series is a little bit different from the book. Here it is: