what I’m reading: crazy rich asians by kevin kwan.

Crazy Rich Asians was my book club’s latest pick, presumably because the movie just came out in theaters. I’m sure you all know the plot – Rachel Chu is invited by her boyfriend Nick Young to go with him to Singapore for his friend’s wedding. The catch is that she doesn’t know he and his family are crazy rich.

I wanted to love this book, but I thought it was just okay. I think the main reason the book didn’t thrill me was because I had no empathy for any of the characters. Rachel and Nick have practically no backstory and came across as dull and flat. If I had cared more about them and what happened to them, then I probably would have liked the story more.

The book is also filled with so many unlikeable and obnoxious characters. The rich characters were just too over the top and I found them to be insufferable. For instance, there is a character who would regularly spend $200,000 on just 1 dress and whose mother bought her a penthouse apartment because there was a mirror in the bedroom closet that she thought she would like. There is another character that is angry at his family because they don’t have their own airplane when all of his friends do. The majority of the female characters were shallow and only concerned with how rich the guys were and what families they were from. I found almost everyone and their issues to be completely unrelatable.

I’ll admit that I’m not sure if this book is meant to be a satire or not. Were there parts that were supposed to be funny that I missed? Plus, so many fashion references went over my head because I didn’t recognize half of the brand labels. I’m not sure I am the target audience for this book. It just didn’t click with me.

Additionally, I wish someone had told me beforehand that this book has annotations. As a personal preference, I don’t like annotations. They take me out of the story literally when I have to move my eyes to a different part of the page and then back again to figure out where I was in reading before I read the annotation. They also take me out of the story figuratively as they break up the flow of my reading because I have to stop reading the story to read this annotation about the history of a word the author decided to throw into the narration.

I can only hope the movie is better. I haven’t seen it but from what reviews I’ve read of it, it has a lot of fun visuals and great actors that bring a lot to the characters. Perhaps that was what was missing in the book.

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around Seattle: museum of history & industry.

A couple of weekends ago, on Smithsonian Museum Day, I went to the Museum of History & Industry in South Lake Union. I had never been there before and it’s been on my list of places to visit. Since museum admission was free that day, I thought I would see what the museum had to offer.

MOHAI is a history museum that focuses primarily on the history of Seattle and the greater Puget Sound area. It was previously located in the Montlake neighborhood but it moved to its current location at the former Naval Reserve Armory in Lake Union Park in 2012.

The building the museum is housed in is a three-story building. Each floor is filled with exhibits and photographs and relics of Seattle’s history. Most of the displays are in chronological history, depicting everything from the first settlers in the area to the tech boom of Microsoft and Amazon. I enjoyed viewing all the exhibits and learning more about the history of Seattle and the Puget Sound area.

what I’m reading: spinning silver by naomi novik.

There is something simply delightful about Naomi Novik’s fairy tales. The imagery she creates – the villagers, the haunted woods, the magic – makes me feel like the Brothers Grimm will come around the corner at any moment in a horse-drawn carriage. I loved Uprooted and Spinning Silver did not disappoint.

Miryem is the daughter of a moneylender, however her father is not great at his profession. Tired of the villagers taking advantage of her father and not paying back the money they have borrowed, Miryem takes it upon herself to start collecting what debts are owed. She flourishes at her job and soon, her family prospers. When a boast of hers is overheard, that she can turn silver into gold, she is approached by the king of the Staryk, creatures that haunt the forest, and is given an impossible task.

I liked this inspired retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale (although not as much as I enjoyed Uprooted). I kept trying to imagine the Staryk king and kept picturing him as a cross between the Night King from Game of Thrones and Jack Frost. I still don’t have a real picture of him in my head…

But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this book hooked me from beginning to end. The world-building was fantastic and I loved every twist and turn that made me re-evaluate how I felt about each character.

There are a lot of characters in this book and what seems to be almost three different storylines, although they all intertwine at some point in the novel. The book is told from a number of points of view and unfortunately, it is often not clear who is talking until you’ve read a few lines or paragraphs. While the conclusion was satisfactory, I thought the triumph over a bad guy (trying not to be too spoilery here) ended just a little too quickly and easily.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I had been waiting patiently for Naomi Novik to write another fairy tale novel and I was not disappointed. I hope she continues to write more books in this genre because I will be a faithful reader.

what I’m reading: sky in the deep by adrienne young.

Every 5 years, the Aska and the Riki clans come together in an ancient blood feud. A warrior in the Aska clan, Eelyn enters the battlefield this year and is stunned to see her brother Iri fighting with their enemy, considering he died 5 years ago after falling off a cliff. When Eelyn is captured by the Riki and her life spared, she is taken as a hostage to her enemy’s mountain village. Forced to live as a slave, Eelyn must survive the winter with the Riki and vows she will escape as soon as the snow melts.

I really liked this book. I thought the Viking-inspired tale was an unusual story for a young adult novel. Honestly, I had stepped away from YA novels for a while because I was tired of every book being part of a trilogy and I just got worn-out from reading about high school and all these things that seem so important when you’re a teenager. But this book drew me back in.

The action scenes are excellent. The author writes some pretty fascinating fight scenes with some extraordinary descriptions. I felt like I was right in the action with everyone, even though I know nothing about fighting.

But the book is not just about fighting. There’s a romance that I thought was very sweet between Eelyn and the Riki warrior who saved her brother’s life. I thought that Eelyn was a strong character. A large portion of the novel deals with the inner conflict she faces between what she was raised and taught to believe and her loyalty to her family.

This was a fantastic and fun stand-alone novel.

what I’m reading: sometimes i lie by alice feeney.

Amber Reynolds wakes up in the hospital and realizes that while she can hear everything around her, she cannot see and cannot move. From people going in and out of her room, she determines she is in a coma but has no memory of how she got there. Was it something to do with her sister Claire who seems to be always around? Or Amber’s husband? Is something going on between her husband and sister? Or was it something else?

The book is told in three parts – “Now” when Amber is in the coma, “Then” the days leading up to the accident, and childhood diaries from years before.

Through the flashback scenes, we slowly figure out what happened to Amber and what led to her being in the hospital. There are plenty of twists and turns and I thought the author set everything up flawlessly. Things popped up that I wasn’t even thinking about and I was kept guessing until the end of the book. I even went back and reread some parts to make sure there weren’t any hints that I missed.

I did have a couple of nit-picks:

  1. I didn’t get the twist/shocking ending on the last couple of pages and thought I missed something until I went on goodreads and read the Popular Answered Questions section (one of my favorite sections on goodreads). I think the book could have done without the little epilogue; however I read that there is going to be a sequel so I suppose it is setting that up.
  2. There was one character that I could have done without. I didn’t understand his inclusion in the novel as he only seemed to serve as a red herring. I felt there was enough questioning as to what actually happened to Amber that we didn’t need him.

The title of the book is Sometimes I Lie so I guess it’s up to you as to whether you believe Amber or not about what happened.

lady yum: macarons & mischief.

Continuing my quest to find some of the best bakery/dessert places in Seattle, over the weekend I went to Lady Yum in downtown Seattle, located right next to the Amazon spheres.

Honestly, I had never heard of this store before the Seattle location opened last year. I’m not going to lie – when I first saw the sign go up, I thought it was some sort of adult type store. But nope, like the sign says, Lady Yum is in the macaron business.

The macarons are $2 each. You can order individual macarons or you can get a pack. They also sell drinks like champagne, wine, and coffee. The Seattle store is a little small with only about 4 tables to sit at. There are more tables outside on the sidewalk to sit at, however if you purchase alcohol you are required to sit inside.

There are 20 flavors of macarons you can choose from. I ended up buying 3 macarons and some bubbly champagne. After a lot of deliberation the macaron flavors I decided on were salted caramel, toffee, and unicorn (I think the unicorn may have had strawberry filling).

Conclusion – the macarons were delicious. These confections were cakey with just the right amount of filling. My favorite was the salted caramel, but that may be because I like my desserts to be both salty and sweet (I think the salt really brings out the sweetness). The unicorn macaron was delicious as well but I thought the toffee macaron could have used a little bit more flavor.

Lady Yum was a fun and novel place to go. If you like macarons I would recommend visiting, purely for the wide variety of flavors offered.

what I’m reading: the coincidence of coconut cake by amy reichert.

Lou is the owner of Luella’s, a struggling French restaurant in Milwaukie. Al is a British transplant who writes restaurant reviews for the local newspaper. An anonymous tip sends Al to Luella’s however, he doesn’t know that he’s shown up on the worst day of Lou’s life as she just caught her fiancé cheating. Al also doesn’t know that the woman whose restaurant he just gave a scathing review to, is the same woman he keeps running in to and can’t get out of his mind. As her restaurant is on the verge of closing, the only bright spot for Lou is the new guy she just met and has agreed to show around the city. Al doesn’t know that the woman he is falling for is the owner of the restaurant he slammed and Lou doesn’t know Al is the reason her restaurant is failing.

I have to confess this book was not as great as I hoped it would be.

There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed. The story is sweet and charming and, according to Goodreads, is a mix between You’ve Got Mail and How to Eat a Cupcake. The storyline was definitely something that I could see being turned into a Hallmark movie – she’s a chef, he’s a restaurant reviewer/critic, there’s a case of mistaken identity, and a meet-cute where they literally run into each other.

I felt the conflict between the characters was real. There are too many times where I read stories or watch movies where the conflict is based on miscommunication or a lack of communication and there are so many instances where the characters could come clean and they don’t. But here, I never felt that was the case. It was clear that by the time the characters figure out who each other is, there was never going to be a simple solution and nothing would have been solved by Al/Lou telling the other who they were.

But despite liking those things, the book just didn’t draw me in as I had hoped.

The timing is a bit off in the book. The book spans about a year or so in time, yet it seems like Lou and Al only spend a day together maybe once a month? The parts where they are not together are kind of skimmed and skipped over and we don’t know what’s happening in that time. I think I needed more of Al and Lou to be together for me to become invested in them. The romance was nice but I didn’t quite care enough.

Also, while I don’t know anything about the restaurant review business, I am a little skeptical that Al’s one review would cause so much damage. As far as I can remember, we are never given the name of the newspaper Al works for, but I am led to believe it’s a local paper. Considering that the characters mention that Al has never given a restaurant a positive review, I am just doubtful that one bad review would cause Lou’s restaurant to fail (especially when we are told many times how great a cook she is and how good her food is), but I guess it could happen. Again, I have no knowledge in this area, but it was something that bugged me while reading.

And finally – this book should definitely come with a warning that reading it may make you hungry.