Tag: book blogger

Book Round-Up: August 13, 2019

Another book round-up! We’ve been super busy handling some work-related drama, so there hasn’t been a lot of time to blog between resting and just all of the other stuff. I have a lot of recent books that I’ve read through and want to share with you all. 🙂 Unfortunately, I got a real hit-or-miss group of books to share this time, so hold on tight…

Jade City by Fonda Lee
Published by Orbit
My rating: 5/5

I need to do a full review of this series because I seriously just got thrown off my other hobbies and immediately got sucked into this story. My cuz and hubs has been raving about this book (and talking about it and spoiling it in front of me, but jokes on them, I forgot what they said), so I finally said FINE. I’ll try it. I don’t really read fiction but I’ll do it.

Absolutely no regrets. I’m a sucker for yakuza/gang stories, and this is right up that alleyway, along with heavy Asian inspiration and fantasy and romance and hnnng. It’s all a hapa lady could hope for. It really had me holding my breath and feeling anxious at some points, so it was a great ride.

I’m now onto Jade War, and really hope to meet Fonda Lee for signatures at some point……..

Exposing the 20 Medical Myths by Arthur Garson Jr and Ryan Holeywell
Published by Rowman & Littlefield
Releases on Sept 15, 2019
My rating: 3/5

My NetGalley review:

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley.

I’m a healthcare nut — I study healthcare, work in healthcare, and live in the industry. So when I picked this up I was looking for an interesting read on the industry, but found myself quickly skipping through pages.

I found this to be a really dry read. It feels like it’s meant for clinical staff, mainly physicians, to understand the state of the healthcare industry in the United States. There’s a lot of explaining of terminology that I already knew working back end but that someone in the clinical realm often doesn’t know.

While I think this might be a good educational read for someone with little exposure to healthcare, I quickly found myself bored with the content.

The Nani Iro Sewing Studio by Naomi Ito
Published by Zakka Workshop
Released on Jun 25, 2019
My rating: 4/5

My NetGalley review:

*** I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. ***

As someone getting into sewing, I’ve seen Nani Iro pop up quite a bit. There are some basic clothes to make, but a lot of the clothes are of what’s popular in Japan right now: big and baggy shirts, dresses and pants. There’s nothing wrong with that trend (esp as someone who does follow some parts of that fashion), but not everyone may be interested in these styles.

Thankfully, I was happy to see that they had smaller sizes, which has been a struggle when looking for patterns for some reason.

Each project is laid out in detail. You get finished sizes, the materials needed, and how to lay the patterns on the fabric to cut the pieces. The construction steps are very detailed but easy to understand for even a newer sewer, especially given that they include illustrations on what needs to be done. There’s not a lot of guesswork that needs to happen when putting the clothing together.

I reviewed some cookbooks and craft books within the past few weeks as well, but they’re not coming out for a few months so it’s a tad too early. I’m really excited for some of the things coming out, especially since one has a really good cookie recipe! (Making gluten-free baked goods is an ART y’all.)

I’m open to any suggestions for books similar to Jade City/Jade War. I love yakuza/gang family fiction and manga, so anything up that alley I’d be willing to look at. 🙂

Book Round-up: July 27, 2019

This is just a quick book round-up of the books I’ve completed reading (and haven’t done a full review on yet) and ones that are in progress. I have a lot of outstanding books still in my TBR that I’m slowly getting through… and for some reason I keep getting more to add to my list. 🙂 That added up with a busy work schedule makes for slow reading.

Note: ARCs have been received in exchange for an honest review from their publishers through NetGalley, and a number of these ARCs will be reviewed in full at a later date.

Releases August 13, 2019

Diagnosis by Dr. Lisa Sanders
Published by Crown Publishing
My rating 5/5

My short (NetGalley) review:

If you liked House or like to follow any type of medical mysteries, this book is for you. This book is chock full of a variety of short experiences about patients with weird problems being diagnosed with a variety of illnesses that aren’t always what they seem. Not every story is a happy one, but in real life it is unfortunately what happens.

I found myself flipping through a lot of the stories in one sitting. They’re interesting enough to just keep going, and each experience is so unique you just want to see what the next person’s experience was. It is written in such a way that a person doesn’t need a lot of medical knowledge, just some basic understanding of the human body and disease, to get what’s going on.

This is definitely a unique read, and as someone who dealt with being misdiagnosed for almost a decade, I felt somewhat vindicated by the commentary and stories in the book. Would definitely suggest reading this.

Released June 5, 2012

Redshirts by John Scalzi
Published by Tor Books
My rating: 4/5

My short review:

For some reason I found this in the horror section at a Half Price Books, and this is totally not a horror story (but still good nonetheless). If you know anything about Star Trek, you’ll likely know about the idea behind red shirts, or also known as dispensable extras on the television series.

So with that in mind, this book was a fun read that had some unexpectedly emotional feels along with some interesting concepts and theories around the whole red shirt concept. I found it to be fun! This was also my first Scalzi read and got a kick out of him just writing that a character died, straight up, no frills.

Some of the bits of his writing are a little hard to get through, like some of the long character conversations going back and forth between multiple characters, but I found it to be an enjoyable read that complaint aside.

Released July 18, 2019

The Watanabe Name by Sakura Nobeyama
Published by Black Rose Writing
My rating: 4/5

I just reviewed this the other week! Go take a look at my full review to see all of my thoughts. Suffice to say, I thought it was a good read.

Releases September 3, 2019

Fentanyl, Inc. by Ben Westhoff
Published by Grove Atlantic
My rating: 5/5

You like drugs? Public health? Policy? Politics? Interested in the current opioid epidemic? This is a good fit to itch those likes.

I was expecting a book more focused on personal stories of drug users and fentanyl, but what I got instead was an interesting telling of the drug situation not only in the United States but around the world as well. The history around designer drugs is told in length.

The international politics, especially between the US and China, is discussed and made me think about whether there were some historical reasons around China’s current lax attitude about the drug labs.

I found this to be very educational, especially as I start taking classes on population health and societal health issues. Would recommend. It’s not a dry read like some other drug books I’ve picked up recently.

Be ready for more books soon, and maybe an update to by webcomic for the first time in half a year! 🙂 Anyone reading anything they’d like to suggest I add to my big pile of TBRs?

New Release: The Watanabe Name by Sakura Nobeyama

Title: The Watanabe Name
Author: Sakura Nobeyama
Release Date: July 18, 2019
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
My Rating: 4/5
Trigger Warning: violence, sexual assault
Find it on: Amazon Barnes & NobleGoodreads

My NetGalley review:

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley.

This is a book that starts extremely sluggishly but picks up and goes full-throttle until the end, keeping you reading for more to figure out what happens next. I was really slogging through the first bit and was super close to DNF’ing it until a major event finally occurred. The rest of the novel makes up for the slow start.

The Watanabe Name is a thriller/historical fiction about a traditional Japanese family that has some notoriety due to the war. When the patriarch is found dead, the story really unfolds into a thrilling telling around the family itself and who might have wanted him gone.

Those who are familiar with the atrocities around the Japanese occupation will understand references in the book, especially to some heinous, problematic aspects of the occupation.

What I liked:

  • If you’re familiar with the Asian family hierarchy, you’ll find that the author does a very good job of illustrating the frustration of respect and the politics around handling traditional relatives. You can really feel yourself getting frustrated on behalf of the different family members (ok, maybe not everyone) for the way that the patriarch handles everything with an iron fist… just like in real life!
  • If you’re not familiar with Asian culture, the beginning of the book (albeit a bit slow paced) will be a good introduction and guide you right in to the mentality around decisions made throughout the story, which is incredibly important.
  • This book dives into Japanese/Chinese history around the time of the wars earlier in the 20th century. I felt that she did a good job of portraying the situation, including tidbits about some notorious parts of the occupation that were extremely problematic, and tied it into the mystery of who killed the general. I told Mr. Renzol that it was appreciated that she didn’t glaze over or trivialize the treatment of people during the occupation.
  • She also did a great job of humanizing all of the characters: most of the characters had reasons for acting the way they did, like being selfish or playing political games to get the desired outcome they’re looking for. I found myself sympathizing with different characters, especially as the mystery unfolded and the killer(s) became obvious.

What I disliked:

  • Trigger warning: this is a book that includes portrayal of the occupation by Japan and includes violence, sexual assault, and related topics.
  • The first part of the book was extremely slow to me, but it may be because I’m already familiar with the family hierarchy and Asian culture in general, so it was a lot of rehashing of previous knowledge. I felt that some of it could have been shortened, but for Western readers without that background it might be important.
  • The time-shifting between the past, near-past, and present was a bit confusing to me. There was a point where I was reading a chapter on the present but first thought it was the near-past and had to double-check what time period the chapter was set in. I would actually like if the author had grouped them together by time periods AND the date to make it easier to follow along.

Who should read this?

If you enjoy an Asian-style thriller mystery with adult content, take a peek at this book! I had a slight inkling of who the killer(s) might have been, but the story was interesting enough to keep me reading until it was confirmed.

Jade City Review

This review is a long time coming, but I got to Jade City a bit late. I was introduced to the book by a cousin after talking about how I wanted to see a more Asian take on the modern/urban fantasy setting, as well everything I had seen up to that point hadn’t scratched an itch I was looking for. Jade City scratches those itches and opened a wonderful and deep world to me by introducing No Peak and the Kauls. 

I’ll admit that I am largely ignorant of hype and buzz around a book’s release, I generally use the same cousin to learn this information from. I’m the kind of person that reads what they like when they like it with disdain towards marketing pushes or general buzz. I blame it on almost a decade of community manager experience and seeing how the sausage is made. That said, I do regret not experiencing Jade City when it was first released. The unique universe and people of Kekon are both familiar and warm to me, while still being foreign enough that I was able to learn many things that surprised me. It’s the first book in a long while to actively get me truly emotionally invested, I’ll go into why in a bit.

Fonda Lee’s writing style is a great, modern, smooth style of writing. Her writing flows cleanly from paragraph to paragraph, with entire pages passing in a matter of moments if you’re not paying close attention. She includes excellent examples of the feeling a scene or situation can give you, from an extra humid night that makes you feel how sticky the air is, to the deep seated fear someone feels when they are forced to encounter something they’ve been fearing all of their lives. Somehow, despite all this excellent detail, things never feel like they’re becoming bogged down. There were points where I would sometimes absorb the more minute details and not actively remember reading them until I would go back and review the page or chapter. The fights were written just as we, Fonda Lee’s experience with martial arts shows through her clean and concise fight scenes. It just built a scene in my mind that stuck with me until the end of the scene. I might have the benefit of being part-Asian and as such having a close familiarity with the situations, people, and locations in the book, but I feel like anyone can appreciate this level of detail.

If you want to know more about the story, well it’s mostly a Kaul story, bro. The story is set slightly before our current modern time and centers around Kekon, an island country with Asian influences that was recently occupied by a foreign power and modernized seemingly against its will. I know, sounds like any number of island Asian countries in our current world. The difference is this country, while ostensibly being governed by a publicly elected government complete with a non-legislative royal family, is actually controlled by the clans. No Peak and the Mountain are the two largest clans that rule over the country and were once allies during their foreign occupation. However, many years have passed and now the original clans two generations removed, and hostility is flickering at the edges of clan society. 

The clan is my blood, and the Pillar its master.

Fonda Lee, Jade City

The clans operate by and large like a modern large Asian mafia organization, with one head that controls everything with the support of a few key individuals that then filter down to the foot soldiers. The heads are known as Pillars, their two close advisors are the Weather Man, in control of the finances and day to day dealings of the clan with their army of Luckbringers, and the Horn, which is the clan’s military leader who in turn lead Fists who then in turn lead the Fingers. The focus of the story is on the No Peak clan, lead by the Kaul family. This family has three children, Lan, Hilo, and Shae. At the start of the book, Lan is the Pillar, Hilo is the Horn, and Shae, having gone against her family’s wishes, has left the country with a foreign lover. Through several events that happen through the book, we’re introduced to more characters like Anden and Bero, the thief. Without giving anything away, we see the relationships within and without the clan and the dynamic of the world that was originally presented to use change radically. By the end of the book so much has radically changed that it leaves you wanting to know what’s going to happen in the future of No Peak and Kekon at large.

The key point of interest in this book and country is jade, a unique mineral only found on Kekon. While similar in color and shape to the jade that we know, the jade in Kekon allows people who are properly trained and of the right bloodlines to call upon supernatural powers to do things like deflect thrown knives or bullets, steel against blows, or gain lightness that allows one to move with unnatural speed. The country exports a small amount of its overall mined jade with the clans controlling most of the jade in the world. Jade, family fealty, and personal honor are the key themes in this story with all characters, be they No Peak, Mountain, or other working around the rules set within this warrior society in order to pursue their own interests. Sometimes these cultural norms are violated by certain characters, often with disastrous results. These themes are explored in detail and are well portrayed with character’s motivations clearly influencing their actions, and in some cases real human emotion can be felt when a character does something that isn’t strictly logical but it’s the best they can think of at the time.

The largest reoccurring theme in the book to me is the theme of family, and interdependence. Since this is an Asian story written by an Asian person in a fictional Asian country about Asian people, this makes sense. Collectivity is a core feature in many Asian countries and fealty and loyalty to one’s family (or clan, as it were) is something that is still felt today.

Each of the main character is wonderfully fleshed out and realized, with real growth coming to each character through the course of the story. My favorite character is probably Hilo, the hot-headed younger brother of the Pillar, Lan, and Horn of No Peak. As the world forcibly changes around him, he realizes that he must learn how to be less of a fighter and more of a thinker lest he and his clan crumble to ruins. His evolution as a person is incredibly believable and comes from such a realistic and grounded place that I swear I know someone who has been forced in to similar (albeit less dangerous) situations that have caused similar results to occur. His dynamic with this younger sister, Shae, is something that is very real to me, having a younger sister of my own. There is one character, Bero, that doesn’t get as fleshed out as the others, but his actions are an important turning point for the story, especially regarding the Kaul family. Since this is the first in a trilogy, I know that we’ll be seeing more of him, as he’s left in as much of a cliffhanger as everyone else is by the end of the book.

I’ve left a lot out of this review both because I don’t want to spoil anything because this book has so much going for it that it’s difficult to jam in here. So, taking things down to brass tacks, Jade City is an Asian Urban/Modern Fantasy about family values and martial arts anime magic. If you like thrilling plotlines, intriguing mystery, raw action, and a bit of tragedy, this book is for you. Even if you aren’t really a huge fan of these things, I’d encourage you to give an excerpt of preview of the book a try. One note though is that this book is absolutely not for kids as it’s got some graphic and well-written erotic content in there. To nearly anyone else though, I recommend this book. If it was my top read of 2018 and its sequel is coming out very soon this year and I can’t explain to you how much I was looking forward to reading it (past tense because well, I have already read it. It’s better than I had thought.)

Five outta five, 100% stars. An excellent example of fiction title.