Review: Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars

Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars
Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘I want the world to be a gentler place than it is… I want to believe the good in people.’

This love affair started as a cover crush but ended as an affair of the heart. Unexpectedly, I became enamored with this world of London in the 1960’s as experienced by Anna. Anna is a relatively newcomer to London and she came for a very sheltered upbringing. Her journey was an eye-opener for her but is also a revelation to the readers.

…she was realising with a certain abruptness that her world – her city – was filled to the brim with people and experiences that she had thought nothing about.

Anna is not the only one who sought refuge in London though she may be the one who’s origin in closest geographically. There were Aloysius (Jamaica), Brennan & his wife (Ireland), Ottmar and his family (Turkey), etc. They and numerous others also were seeking refuge due to other reasons; discrimination being high on the list. Each of them struggled with finding their place in London and each is unique in their approach.

‘How is this ever going to work, Brennan? How are we ever going to make things work if men are walking round with these idiot ideas branded into their very soul and womankind is dividing herself up into those who will play the game and die inside and those who cannot even imagine making a life with a man because they say things that make you want to put their eyes out?’

I enjoyed Anna’s tenacity in finding an answer to the mystery but best of all, I’ve loved meeting these diverse of characters and my eyes feasted not only colours but also traditions, beliefs, and lifestyles. I do hope that all readers can learn to better understand others who do not look or sound exactly like themselves.

‘…I sometimes think to have a successful family you have to sacrifice a happy family: at least at first. Maybe the girls can be happy later. Maybe we all can be happy later. Or maybe their husbands will not start from nothing and happiness will come earlier. As far as I can see, the successful family sacrifices happiness to work and the unsuccessful family sacrifices happiness to poverty. I think that I prefer success but some days I cannot tell the difference.’

As acknowledgement, author noted, ‘My intention was to underscore some of the ways in which we have progressed in the past 50 years…and the ways in which we have not.’ and I think that she’s been very successful in achieving this with this book. I didn’t quite appreciate the ending but that’s me and my personality though it was a pretty good one. I wished it could be more to my liking but that’s life and it rather fit into the author’s intention.

Thanks to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for copy eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: Written in Black

Written in Black
Written in Black by K.H. Lim
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So I read this part of the blurb, ‘…Jonathan escapes his grandfather’s wake in an empty coffin and embarks on a journey through the backwaters of Brunei’ and looked at the cover and took it for granted that this is what I should expect from the book BUT… it is not; NOT AT ALL. The cover is rather metaphorical in nature and the blurb is not quite right. I guess he did jump into an empty coffin but it did not last long and he definitely did not go on the water in it. Was I disappointed? Yes, yes, I am very disappointed in my expectation.

On the other hand, it was an interesting book into the Brunei Chinese culture. As my ancestry is Chinese, I can relate to most of it though I’m not familiar with the funeral tradition but then again there are so many variations of it. Jonathan’s mother left a few months ago, ‘for health treatments’, but it’s been a long time since he’s spoken to her and there seems to be a conspiracy of preventing him from speaking to his mum or so he thinks. His older brother has also left home at around the same time; not keeping any sort of contacts and doing who knows what. Then suddenly, his grandfather (Ah Kong – Chinese for grandfather) died. Jonathan was unhappy and now his anger is also bubbling out of him. He needed to do something!

The ending was a little bit disappointing as I still feel issues are unclear and no firm resolution though sometimes that is life; you just have to take one day at a time.

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Asian Lit Bingo Reading Challenge

I saw this challenge on my Insta feed and well, how can I say no?! Despite having 20 other challenges on the go and a handful of them ends this month! In any case, 2 of the library books I borrowed last week fit 2 squares and I own 2 others so that’s almost a Bingo! easily. So, here’s my plan of attack and only 1 of these (which I actually own a copy of) is on the master list. I’m going for the first column.

East Asian MC: Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun

Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father’s infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of thirteen, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the painful difficulties of a life lived on the margins. Joon’s adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and finally toward something resembling hope.

LGBTQIAP + Asian MC: For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu

Peter Huang and his sisters—elegant Adele, shrewd Helen, and Bonnie the bon vivant—grow up in a house of many secrets, then escape the confines of small-town Ontario and spread from Montreal to California to Berlin. Peter’s own journey is obstructed by playground bullies, masochistic lovers, Christian ex-gays, and the ever-present shadow of his Chinese father.

At birth, Peter had been given the Chinese name Juan Chaun, powerful king. The exalted only son in the middle of three daughters, Peter was the one who would finally embody his immigrant father’s ideal of power and masculinity. But Peter has different dreams: he is certain he is a girl.

SFF with Asian MC: The Astrologer’s Daughter by Rebecca Lim

Avicenna Crowe’s mother, Joanne, is an astrologer with uncanny predictive powers and a history of being stalked.

Now she is missing.

The police are called, but they’re not asking the right questions. Like why Joanne lied about her past, and what she saw in her stars that made her so afraid.

But Avicenna has inherited her mother’s gift. Finding an unlikely ally in the brooding Simon Thorn, she begins to piece together the mystery.

And when she uncovers a link between Joanne’s disappearance and a cold-case murder, Avicenna is led deep into the city’s dark and seedy underbelly, unaware of how far she is placing her own life in danger.

Graphic Novel with Asian MC: Lola by Elbert Or (Illustrator), J. Torres

Jesse sees dead people, monsters, demons, and lots of other things that go bump in the night that no one else can see. No one except his ailing grandmother — a woman who used her visions to help those living in her small town… the same rural community in all the scary stories Jesse’s heard as a child. Man-eating ogres in trees. Farmhouses haunted by wraiths. Even pigs possessed by the devil. Upon his grandmother’s passing, Jesse has no choice but to face his demons and whatever else might be awaiting him at grandma’s house.

South East Asian MC: Written in Black by K.H. Lim

A darkly humorous coming-of-age novel set in Brunei on the island of Borneo, Written in Black offers a snapshot of a few days in the life of ten-year-old Jonathan Lee, attending the funeral of his Ah Kong, or grandfather, and still reeling from the drama of his mother leaving for Australia and his brother getting kicked out of the house and joining a rock band. Annoyed at being the brunt of his father’s pent-up anger, Jonathan escapes his grandfather’s wake in an empty coffin and embarks on a journey through the backwaters of Brunei to bring his disowned brother back for the funeral and to learn the truth about his absent mother. On a quest that takes him across the little-known Sultanate, past gangs of glue-sniffing poklans (Brunei’s teenage delinquents), cursed houses and weird shopkeepers, Jonathan discovers adventure, courage, friendship and, finally, himself.

 

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Wanna join in? Check out the deets at Asian Lit Bingo Reading Challenge Announcement and Master Post

Review: The Unmourned

The Unmourned
The Unmourned by Meg Keneally
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had the bright idea of going to the Parramatta Female Factory and do a quick youtube review or even just an insta of this book BUT… it seems that it’s not actually open to the public. I checked out where it’s located and noted that I drove past this sandstone fence a lot but didn’t realise that this was where the Parramatta Female Factory was! I just thought it was a gaol and I supposed it was. I was very excited with this second instalment of The Monsarrat Series and this time, it is set in Parramatta which we know quite well; hubby worked there up for a number of year up til the end of last year.

Hugh Monsarrat is back from Port Macquarie with his second ticket of leave, a bit of money, and a position in the governer’s house albeit as a lowly clerk with a special talent (ie. his investigative skill). He now owns a house and has Mrs. Mulrooney installed in his kitchen though he would prefer to think of her as a friend. Their friendship, however, has its own unique dynamic. Hugh was keen also to resume his relationship with an old flame. Life never did run smooth as he is required to display his investigative forte.

The novel opens with a horrible man, Church, on the point of committing some atrocity upon the Factory inmates being gruesomely murdered; stabbed through the eye with an awl (yikes!). As this happened within the Factory’s confines in the middle of the night where none may enter, it must have been committed by one of the inmates. Grace O’Leary has been at the forefront of defiance against Church and so, she became the main and only suspect and will hang as soon as it is practicable. Hugh was detailed to take down witnesses’ testimonies and he was not convinced of her guilt yet who else could it be? Once more, he depended upon Mrs. Mulrooney’s assistance and sharp wit.

I loved the setting and I really loved the characters. The mystery I found rather wanting. There wasn’t, as far as I can see, a believable red herring, and after one particular incident earlier on, it became rather obvious who the murderer is though I didn’t figure out the reason. I also have learnt a lot of how women convicts lived and how badly they were treated… I think I would have gone insane! And I have, therefore, grown to respect and admire those women who survived even more. I won’t swear to the accuracy of historical bits but they feel genuine enough to me.

I have really enjoyed the dynamics between Monsarrat & Mrs. Mulrooney; together they are making the world a better place to live a teacup at a time. I am looking forward to the next instalment which will be set in Van Diemen’s Land!

Thanks to Vintage Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a typical Hugo fashion, there were intervening chapters with naught to do with the story. I don’t know if I’m exaggerating since I’ve really only read this and Les Miserables but it feels like it’s his style along with overly romanticising everybody and add to that, the swooning fall-in-love trope. Not that I mind the last bit very much except that the lady is lacking in character somewhat. Dear Esmeralda…

She fainted here!
She fainted there!
She fainted everywhere!

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I expected an intelligent gypsy girl to have more Gumption!

On the other hand, I actually felt sorry for the villain, Claude Frollo, **evil laughs**
I feel his lack of nurture and therefore, inability / incapability to deal with emotions which no one had ever previously stirred in his heart. He was a nut-job obviously but as all of us are defined by the world around us, so was he.

And for the Disney movie lovers… pssst, do NOT ever read this book with the most tragic ending Ever! You have Disney to thank for that ;p

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Review: One

One
One by Sarah Crossan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve just had to wipe off the dry tear stains on my glasses after a session of sob-cry over this book last night! I thought I’d wipe my glasses dry but was obviously not seeing clearly enough (still over teary eyes) to dry them off completely. I knew the book wasn’t going to end with HEA but you know, I always have hope against all hopelessness. Nevertheless, I still do love the ending despite my swollen eyes this morning.

This is my very first Sarah Crossan‘s and truthfully, I haven’t heard of her previously. It has very interesting concepts both in story’s premise and structure. I’m not even sure what you call this structure, narrative poetry? Is there such a thing? In any case, it is amazing! To be able to tell a story with so little words and still send strong messages; Crossan is a maestro of words. Poetry really isn’t my usual cup of tea so I can’t comment on how well they’re formed except that they spoke to me and that’s all that really matters.

One is told from the perspective of Grace, one of the conjoined twin. Grace and Tippi are 15 and due to circumstances, will no longer be homeschooled but will have to attend school outside their home. We hear Grace’s thoughts of her family and as they go out in public, her and Tippi’s response to others’ reaction to them. In essence, this book really is like all YA novels as main protagonists face coming-of-age issues but with one distinguishing feature (conjoined twins).

This is a book that will stay with me a very long time. As someone in her late 30s though, I do find that I contemplate being the girls’ mother than being one of the conjoined twins! Even if we do not hear very much of their mother, she sounded to be a very good mother to them and I could only aspire to be like her (to my own little terrors). I’m going to look for Crossan’s other books and look forward to seeing her at Sydney Writer’s Festival next month!

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Review: Refuge

Refuge
Refuge by A.V. Mather
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Opening a normal-looking door into a whole new world is one of my favourite trope because there are just so many possibilities. In this novel, Refuge, our heroine, Nell McLennan, wanted to run away from her problems, her life. I bet each one of us has felt like that at one time or another… escape the daily drudge or any relationship difficulties and see how they cope when we’re not around or will they miss us at all?

Nell did not have a particularly close relationship with her parents. In fact, they were too busy with work to bother too much with her. And then, just before Christmas holidays, she managed to botch things with her best friend who won’t ever speak to her again. The final kick came when her parents decided to go on a holiday without her. She is being sent to a grandfather she’s never met who lives in woop woop. When the chance of escape was presented, Nell jumped for it.

It was a bit of a slow start or maybe I was just too impatient to get to the other world behind the door. It felt like there were too much setting up in the beginning; a steamrolling of events to drive Nell to truly want/need a ‘refuge’ from ever having to face up to her troubles. However, ‘Refuge’ really isn’t a haven where you do not have problems instead Nell came across a set of different yet the same sort of issues. Refuge is a dark world filled with madness and supernatural talents. Everyone came to Refuge for the same reason and all have their own sets of secrets, enemies, and allies. Who can Nell trust? Will she stay or will she return home?

I didn’t expect Refuge to be such a dark world but I do love the variety & dynamics of characters in this world. Nell was a little frustrating but it’s one of those passenger-driver issue, if you get what I mean. I am fascinated by the mad scientist and ever curious on the backgrounds of the other Refuge-ans (we don’t get to hear very much about them). The ending also makes me think that this is really only the first in a series; am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more Refuge tales.

My sincere thanks to the author for providing e-copy of this book in exchange of honest review

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