a couple of my thoughts | mini reviews #1

by - 12:02 PM

Hi friends! Today I wanted to share some of my thoughts on a couple stories that I managed to read during Bout of Books. I figured that rather than writing individual reviews and getting overwhelmed by the number of posts I had to format, I'd do a shortened version because I do have some thoughts I'd like to share about these recent reads. :) 
pages: 464 | source: NetGalley
publication date: June 2, 2020
genre: young adult, historical fiction, retelling of Les Misérables
Les Misérables was one of the stories that I grew up with - my parents used to listen to the musical on repeat and I've had the privilege to even watch the show on Broadway a couple of times. I even managed to read the original tome back in high school as part of AP Lit and fell in love with the complex story even more. When I found out that A Court of Miracles was about Eponine, I was instantly sold. The underdog of the musical gets placed center stage and thrust into a high stake world of the underground. 

The Court of Miracles is a complex web of criminal guilds and Eponine (Nina) has made her mark as one of the best thieves. Despite her renown, she will always remember how she joined the Thieves Guild in order to protect herself from the Tiger - the Lord of the Guild of Flesh. This story was fascinating and fast-paced from the very beginning and Kester Grant sets up so many little details that build the foundation for various different tension points in the plot. 

I really loved the portrayal of Nina and Cosette's relationship - it's a bit of a tough-love portrayal but there's also this undying devotion to each other. It was nice to see Cosette as more than just the beautiful girl who falls in love with a revolutionary. She becomes a victim of poverty, famine, and injustice as well as a symbol of purity that has been dirtied by the cruelty of society. Now that I think about it, the character relationships were all really fun to read about - they weren't necessarily as fleshed out as Nina/Cosette's but since there will be a sequel (I think) I hope we'll get more of that development.

ultimate verdict - thievery, revolution, murders, oh my!

pages: 384 | source: NetGalley
publication date: June 2, 2020
genre: young adult, contemporary fiction
There have been many less than stellar reviews circling the internet about this novel but I was still holding onto the hope that I might somehow enjoy the story. Iris Wang has got to be one of the most irritating characters I have ever read about - she's incredibly self-obsessed with the intelligence, common-sense, and emotional depth of a rock (and that's an insult to rocks). I kept waiting for a moment where something would click in her brain and she would start to show some character development. While Iris claims to have "developed" and "experienced growth," I honestly could not pinpoint where exactly that happened. 

This ultimately damaged the reading experience for me because the story was so heavily character-driven. Iris' voice is so prominent which could be a testament to Lindsay Wong's ability to craft her characters, but because she was so unlikable, I couldn't get past that to enjoy the other elements of the story. Iris inherently represents the negative reaction many people face when trying to reconcile their dual culture - she has little to no respect for tradition and doesn't really care to learn her parents' language (only going on to later complain about why she can't understand people). While I'm glad that we are getting more stories by Asian authors, the portrayal of her character feels damaging to the narrative that many Asian American readers like myself are hoping to find.

Ok, so what are some good things - I did enjoy the portrayal of Beijing culture. There's a good introductory conversation about the rich, nouveau rich, and the poor - the very polarizing class systems in Beijing society. I almost wish this could have been expanded upon more especially when Iris realizes the luxuries of her middle-class American lifestyle in comparison to her cousin's origins. There's also an immersive introduction to Chinese culture - the food, the art, the history which Iris, unfortunately, doesn't appreciate for  95% of the book. Despite that, I had to admit that Lindsay Wong is skillful at bringing her culture to life through her words and that did make the reading experience slightly more bearable.

ultimate verdict - an eye-roll workout

pages: 346 | source: own/e-book
publication date: January 7, 2020
genre: young adult, magical realism, retelling of Thumbelina 

There was something about this story that has stayed in my mind ever since I first read the synopsis before its release and I'm so glad I finally picked it up. When Stars Burn Bright reads like a fairytale. The writing is very easy to read and the plot is relatively fast-paced, enough so that it doesn't feel like an almost 350 page book. In this world, there are Symrics, people with diluted fae blood that give them magical powers and our main character Lina has the gift of a beautiful and addictive voice. This leads to her getting kidnapped by another Symric who whisks her away to New York City in hopes of securing a position for himself in a vaudeville troupe.

Everything about this story felt like watching a black and white movie. It almost feels reminiscent of something familiar but I'm not able to accurately put my finger on what exactly. On one hand, the writing feels very simplistic and again, easy to read, but on the other, there are a lot of complex layers amongst the characters themselves. The vaudeville business is a dying one and you see the human desperation play a key role in the motivations of the characters. Lina and Nik become bound together by their desire to break free, putting aside the fame and glory that comes with their Symric abilities and show business, in order to be reunited with their family. There's definitely an interesting juxtaposition between the complexity of human greed and the simplicity of genuine relationships.

ultimate verdict - a wholesome read

That was fun! I definitely didn't expect to read so many books in May so it's nice to get to share some of my thoughts. On a side note, Blogger recently changed their format and I can't get the book summaries to text-wrap around the cover 😑so apologies for how clunky the formatting might look, I'm still trying to figure out solutions.

Have you read any of these books - what were your thoughts? 

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  1. Great review! I've never heard of The Court of Miracles but it sound so good! I wanted to read Summer of Love and Misfortunes but all the reviews say the mc is really unlikeable and I just chickened away, because I know it's something I can not tolerate!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

    1. Yeah the MC really ruined the story - it had SO MUCH potential T_T I've heard some mixed things about The Court of Miracles but I definitely found it enjoyable and I had a good time reading it :) If you pick it up, I'd love to know your thoughts!