Book Review | So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam by Karin Esterhammer

so happiness to meet you cover.jpgAfter the recession hits their Los Angeles family hard, Karin, Robin and their adopted son Kai move to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Though they’ve touristed there before, the story of becoming residents in a district where they are the only non-natives is eye-opening. While Robin is able to secure a job teaching English, Karin is left to home school Kai, do freelance work and take care of their home while befriending the neighbors.

Esterhammer’s background in writing makes this book a delightful read. Feelings, humor and challenging situations are shared with great insight and tact. The memoir is a very entertaining and quick read, with frequent chapter breaks, making it easy to pick up and put down. It would be especially appealing to those who love to travel and/or experience other cultures. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway. *Fans of So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam may be interested in Songs of the Baka and Other Discoveries by Dennis James (2017). 

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Book Review | If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

This is an interesting collection of 11 short stories involving Indian Americans. Recurring topics include interpersonal relationships, family business, sexual relations, and cultural perceptions, among others. Most characters seem to be in their 20’s to 40’s and dealing with issues present in everyday life. While the narrators could be from any background and experiencing their issues, the stories are injected with an Indian flavor that makes the book stand apart from other similar works.

Easily digestible, each tale has a specific focus and voice. While none of the stories is particularly uplifting, each one does hold the reader’s interest and create a curiosity for what is to come. Clearly, many of Patel’s cultural insights come from personal experience, which he is able to share in a way that makes the characters relatable. This book is recommended for fans of ethnic fiction, realistic short stories, or those looking for a quick read while in transit. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating. *Fans of If you See me, Don’t Say Hi, may enjoy A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma (2017).

Book Review | You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

you thinkn it i'll say it cover.jpgReleased in April, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a well-written collection of ten short stories. One piece describes the reunion of a divorced man and the woman he never knew had a crush on him during high school, while another follows a new mother and her antipathy toward another mother in various group session settings. These realistic stories contain diverse characters, various adult themes and several laughs.

As advertised, the stories in this book deal with day to day events. Most readers will be able to relate to some of the characters’ experiences. Sittenfeld has an appealing voice and tone, which make the stories very readable. I found this book to be more of a good way to pass the time than a thought provoking, memorable read. It would be great for readers wanting down to earth distraction in short story form. Check it out at a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading You Think It, I’ll Say It, you may be interested in Come West and See by Maxim Lokustoff (2018).

Book Review | Come West and See : Stories by Maxim Loskutoff

come west and see cover.jpgReleased last month, Come West and See is a well-written collection of twelve short stories. They introduce the reader to the rebel territory of the Redoubt in the North West and various characters involved in trying situations there. One piece describes a man falling in love with a bear, while another follows a couple who have been impaled by long arrows. Sometimes outlandish, these stories are packed full of real emotion, raw tragedy and some good laughs.

Loskutoff’s voice and writing style are very appealing. Soon after I started reading, I attempted to find other works I could get my hands on by Loskutoff, but this is his first major publication. These stories are great. This is one of those books you can easily pick up to take your mind of whatever happens to be bothering you. Check it out at a library near you!

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Come West and See, you may be interested in Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun (2016).

Book Review | Points North : Stories by Howard Frank Mosher

points north cover.jpgSet in Kingdom Common, an area in Vermont bordering Canada, Mosher’s Points North shares stories of the Kinneson family. These tales, taking place over the course of a century, focus on various family members at different points in their lives. Themes include men searching for their lost loves, relatives at odds, family business, religion and nature, among others.

Published posthumously, this final book by Mosher will be enjoyed by many fans. For those new to the Northeast Kingdom chronicles, this may not serve as the best introduction. New readers may have trouble keeping track of the many Kinneson family members. The first story is hard to break into, but the tales do improve as the book continues. These non-chronological stories amble along, with a relaxed pace making it easier to put the book down at points than to continue reading. Points North will appeal to those interested in small town slice of life stories, family sagas, and general Mosher fans. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton

soldier boy coverBased on a true story, Soldier Boy recounts Ricky’s initiation into Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Ricky is just a child when his village is stormed and he and his brother are forced to watch as his parents and sisters are burned to death in their family hut. Taken captive, the two boys become model soldiers for the LRA as they are shaped into valuable resources with prominent positions fighting government troops and raiding other villages. Simultaneously told is the story of boy soldier Samuel, recovering from traumatic leg injury many years later in the Friends of Orphans compound.

Hutton has crafted a very successful novel in Soldier Boy. This YA book deals with a very heavy topic and breaks it down into digestible chunks for younger readers. The terror and violence suffered by the Ugandans comes across clearly in this tastefully written account. The text carries along at a good clip with clean writing and visualizable descriptions. This book would be a solid supplement to a history class dealing with Uganda or an English class looking to broaden world views and understanding. Check out this highly recommended read from a library near you.

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Aki and Christa are high schoolers who fall in like at first sight when their church groups join up in a small town to help with the construction of a new church. The girls sneak off in the evenings to make out with each other and deal with trying to hide their relationship by day. The book mainly addresses a teen coming to terms with her (bi)sexuality while on a summer youth group trip to Mexico, but also includes broader social issues within the context.

Our Own Private Universe keeps a decent pace and tells a story that holds the reader’s intrest. Some sections, especially that narrator’s internal monologue, are a bit repetitive. As a YA novel, it’s successful in its inclusion of diversity, budding sexuality, and melodrama. Adult readers may be put off by all of the characters lying to each other or the narrator’s tendency to blow things out of proportion. The book could serve as a good introduction to teens trying to orient themselves on the LGBTQIA spectrum. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.