Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” ― Henry David Thoreau

Brenda’s review

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning is a timely collection of essays and part memoir by poet Cathy Park Hong. She boldly shares her intelligent, thought-provoking arguments and insightful thoughts on race and gender from her perspective as a Korean American woman. She uses her life’s experiences, cultural criticism, history and events to give a voice to a wider Asian American experience. She explores her relationship to the English language, her feeling of shame and depression, her poetry and art making, her relationship with family and friends in a search to both uncover and speak the truth. The essays where she shared her female friendships did lose me and I didn’t find it as interesting as the rest of the essays.

She packs in a lot here, and at times, it felt a little heavy-handed, and it took me a bit of work to understand and take it all in. I took pages of notes and then had to go back and reread a few parts to understand what she was saying, and I still feel a bit went over my head. However, I think I got out enough to see Cathy Park Hong has “some scores to settle first with this country, with how we have been scripted” and to consider the effects of racism against Asian Americans. To challenge those stereotyped scripted lies, white people use to dismiss “minor feelings” and spare ourselves from tears (white tears).

Minor feelings “the radicalized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned and dismissed.”

Things Cathy Park Hong challenges that stood out for me

How Asian Americans are put in a stereotyped box created by a white-dominant society and argues that many see themselves through the lens of whiteness and believing the lies told about their own racial identity.

“The lie that Asians have it good is so insidious that even now as I write, I’m shadowed by the thought that I didn’t have it bad compared to others. But racial trauma is not a competitive sport.”

The fear of the white reign of terror felt by Asian Americans that “can be invisible and cumulative, chipping at one’s worth until there is nothing left” When” minor feelings” are shown, they are “interpreted as hostile, ungrateful… belligerent.” and make white people feel uncomfortable.

How those scripted thoughts “they have it good” and stereotypes add feelings of shame.

“The flip side of innocence is shame.”
“It’s a neurotic, self-inflicting wound.”

White tears – “emotional fragility a white person experiences when they find racial stress so intolerable they become hypersensitive and defensive focusing the stress back to their own bruised ego” .

I highly recommend it, especially now to end “white innocence,” check our “white tears” and see the pain of Asian American. I stand by Asian Women!

Fast-paced and brilliantly unpredictable, J.T. Ellison’s breathtaking new novel invites you to a wedding none will forget—and some won’t survive. ~ book summary

In need of an escape? Grab a glass of wine and armchair travel to this luxurious island off Italy’s coast for a paradise wedding with these characters and see who will survive!!! The body count on this one is one I will not forget!!

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets. ~ book summary

What I love most about J.T. Ellison’s books is her ability to bring the settings alive to create some dynamics with the characters as she creates tension with the mystery the setting holds.

While here it doesn’t seem like anything new with the wealthy ambitious family with secrets to protect at all cost, the handsome groom Jack and younger bride Claire, J.T. Ellison developed some unlikeable characters with some unexpected heart to them and I found it hard to dislike them. This created some suspense as who to trust and who not to. Claire is not what you might think, she is not your naive bride looking to be swipe away by her charming husband. She is modest, creative, strong with survival instincts and has secrets of her own she rather keep to herself.

Claire didn’t want to give up her secrets, and I had to force them out of her. Once she admitted her sins to me, the whole story fell into place. I understand why she didn’t tell me, and when she tells the story of her past in the book, that’s exactly when she let me know, too. Wow, she made it hard on me!” ~ J.T. Ellison

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife. ~ book summary

The story did take a bit for me to get into as time is spent on the characters(there is a few) and setting up the suspense to the story. I enjoyed the engaging mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife with a few twists and turns along the way for Claire to discover. We know early on “the who” and I enjoyed the storm the character created as we find out “the why” Claire makes a great match for “the who” and it was fun and entertaining to watch the dynamics there.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins… book summary

I love a good raging storm to add some dynamics to the story and the tension increases here with a killer on the loose as the drama increases along with the body count!!

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Thank you to the publisher for the invite to the blog tour and my copy!

Hello Friends!!! Well, it’s been a year since the world shut down due to the Pandemic, and I have been doing some reflecting. Today, I am talking about how the last year has changed the way I read and what. Before the shutdown, I decided to shift my focus from print copies from publishers to reading more books on my kindle through NG and EW. With the publishers no longer able to send out books, the timing on that was perfect. With the load of print copies off my plate, I began to look at what I wanted more out of what I was reading, and I began to see more of what I liked and didn’t like from the books I was reading. I questioned if I was influenced as to what to read by the print copies publishers were promoting instead of my interests and the changing world around me. I began to feel more in control of what I was reading instead of being influenced.

That led me to focus more on the books I read and enjoyed and the books’ authors. With authors not promoting their books, I started to add more author Q & A to The Behind the Pages Group. I was thrilled with the response I received from the authors, and their passion shone through. I started to look at their stories differently and feel their love for their stories and characters. My focus shifted from the publishers and myself to the authors. I gained a deeper appreciation for their work and stories as they shared why they wrote the characters and themes the way they did.

From watching how the Pandemic separated us in different sides with wearing a mask I questioned how social justice played in those sides. I wanted to understand how there was such a huge gap between us. That began to influence what I wanted to see in the books I read and I became aware of how often themes of us against them was used in fiction.

The most significant change to what I read came from the black lives matter protests, and I began to see the world differently. I bought a few books on racial justice, which opened up doors for me, and I started to challenge how I thought about the world around me. It became clear what I wanted from books instead of what was expected in books. I then chose to challenge those expectations in books, and I wanted better from what I was reading. My search for better books started.

The book that had the most significant impact on me choosing to challenge those expectations in books and how women are portrayed in fiction was Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. She starts by addressing “flawed if not damaging representations of women we’re consuming in music, movies and literature.” I took a look at my feminism and what that meant to me. I realized how all those expected gender roles for women shaped me, isolated me, and formed my thoughts on women’s roles. I started to question how conditioned we have become with expected gender roles for women and men and wondered how much of an impact what we read and watch has on those exceptions. I connected to her and her thoughts right away, and her tone and approach to her essays that open my eyes to how I connect to the world through what I read, and I started to see how important it is to expected better from what I read. 

Feminism gave me the framework to begin to understand the world more.

I began to challenge the way I thought about racism in Canada and realized I denied it existed here. I didn’t want to believe it did and I broke out of that bubble and read my first collection of essays by Canadian Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott covers a bit of ground here with the subject matter she explores in her personal essays. She draws on her own experiences as she explores colonialism, racism, mental health, abuse, sexual assault, poverty, malnutrition, capitalism parenthood and writing.  With some of the essay I found myself denying her reasons for her arguments and I wanted to argue some of my assumptions with her in my head. I began to become aware of my denial and assumptions towards racism and I realized how important it is to listen instead of defending.

My eyes were now open and I began to look at more Canadian authors sharing their life experiences.

From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle

While I had the privilege of owning a loft in downtown Kelowna BC it overlooked a street where homeless people lived. A much smaller and protected street than the streets Jesse Thistle lived homeless in Vancouver, BC. My perceptive of homelessness did change, and I wondered what their stories were that led them there and wanted to understand more about addiction and homelessness. Jesse Thistle gave a voice to the unseen homeless people by sharing his personal story and journey from his early years in Saskatchewan, abandoned by his parents, living with his grandparents in Toronto, his self-destructive cycle of drugs, alcohol, crime and homelessness, to finding his way.

“I longed to be part of something again. To be known and accepted. To hear my name. No one ever said my name anymore. I never told anyone who I was for fear of being found out. For what? I didn’t know. I had forgotten years ago. I slumped forward on the bench and held my head in my hands, trying to remember how my name sounded. I spelled it aloud to myself. J-E-S-S-E. Jesse.” 

It is an extraordinary, remarkable and inspiring story of survival that offers hope, an inspiration to others, and a lesson in empathy.

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib

I picked this one up because I wanted to understand the importance of identity. While Samra Habib showed me the importance she shared her experience growing up as a Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan, where she was taught to keep her identity a secret to protect herself from danger. Hiding became a familiar way of survival for her, and she continued hiding after reaching Canada as a refugee and following her parents’ rules. She began to realize she needed to find her authentic self, who she identified as. I picked up something valuable here from her and her journey, and she challenged my thoughts on a few things towards racism, identity and the privileges of feeling safer because of the colour of my skin or who I identify as. This was another book that challenge my denial of racism in Canada.

With both books I read on talking to white people about racism, it’s clear to see the authors goals are to open up a meaningful discussion about race, between white and people of color while entering the conversation as equals.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

With her compassionate and understanding tone, Ijeoma Oluo put me at ease right away as I took an uncomfortable look at my own denial about racism. Through her examples of conversations with white people about race and racism, I could see myself as the white person she was talking to, and it opened my eyes up to the assumption we have as white people. I realized the first step was I needed to understand that everyone who is white has white privilege and how I benefit from it. My understanding of privilege came from books I have read that portray privilege as something that wealthy people have or is “good shit you should feel bad about having so that other people can feel better about not having it”  Ijeoma Oluo helped me to understand that privileges are advantages we have that other people don’t. I can’t help myself by saying this, a few authors miss what privilege is. Understanding privilege changed the way I felt about myself and the world. 

Ijeoma Oluo starts each chapter with a question and then explores the answers in a nonjudgmental, understanding way and avoids any tone of us against them by honestly exploring the answers. This also had me thinking about author’s tone in fiction with us against them and harmful that is. She explores “What is intersectionality and why do I need it?” “Is police brutality really about race?” What is school-to-prison pipeline?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and more. 

Ijeoma Oluo ends with the chapter Talking is great, but what else can we I do? She offers us great tips and reminders as well as a discussion guide.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Well, I can see why Reni Eddo-Lodge is no longer talking to white people about race. She boldly lays it all out there why. While it was easy to feel her frustration, her tone comes from exhausting conversations with white people about race. “She is done talking to white people who haven’t thought about what it means to be white, who defend their whiteness and then flip it to a black person’s problem to deal with.” I realized the uncomfortable truth that she is done talking to white people like me. Nice white people who don’t understand or recognizance that racism is a systemic problem, or see the existence of structural racism and it symptoms.

“Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.”

While Reni Eddo-Lodge delves into structural racism and white privilege, she focuses on events and history in Britain, the themes she explores touch all people of color everywhere. Even though I still have more to understand once I check my denial and defence I was able to see the existence of structural racism and how whiteness plays into the world we live in. The thing that stood out the most to me was white feminism, and Reni Eddo-Lodge gives us a good understanding how the feminism movement is not about white women fighting for equal treatment in their workplace, but it is about equality for all women. 

For those who identify as a feminist, but have never questioned what it means to be white, it is likely the phrase white feminism applies

While it was a challenging year, it was a year of so many changes, opportunities to do thing different, and take a look at the world around us. To choose to do better and choose to challenge!!! It opened up a whole new world of information I seek to find from what I read!!!

Want to chat? How has the Pandemic changed the way and what you read?

Brenda’s Review

“It is the nature of the earth to shift. It is the nature of fragile things to break. It is the nature of fire to burn.”

The Nature of Fragile Things is a different kind of story than I expected that centers around four strong female characters, each with their own conflicts. There are elements of suspense, tension, and mystery to this historical time in history. Secrets are the core of the story, with female solidarity themes while exploring the bonds of mother’s love and friendship. On the eve of the earthquake, secrets are revealed that unite the characters, and their lives become connected. At a time when women were seen as fragile, Susan Meissner brilliantly weaves in the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco as a backdrop to the story.

I enjoyed and loved the unique dynamics between the characters and the bonds they developed. They start off not knowing how fragile their world is until everything around them crumbles and set on fire, and they find out just how strong they are together. Susan Meissner creates some twists and turns along the way that I liked and one I had to not overthink. I highly recommend it.

I downloaded a copy from the publisher on NetGalley.

Lindsay’s review

Karl inherits his estranged grandfathers detective agency. After losing his job and his wife, Karl takes the opportunity to start over and jumps in with both feet. He builds up his case load and finds himself enjoying the work. He is approached by an old client of his grandfathers who wants him to investigate a large drug circle and help to bring down the leaders behind the operation.

This was an entertaining novel full of family secrets and undercover espionage. Karl was a down-on-his-luck main character who I enjoyed rooting for. The storyline flowed well and kept me intrigued and curious until the end. I enjoyed the detective agency aspect and what that brought to the storyline. There were several intense scenes that had me on the edge of my seat.

Overall, this was a quick, well-written mystery that I recommend to those who are looking for a lighter suspenseful, easy read.

Brenda’s Review

After his grandfather passes away, Karl Larsson inherits his detective agency. With no better offers and no experience, he decides to set up shop and see where this new adventure takes him. He joins forces with his 19-year-old cousin Kelsey, and they are soon on case. Not one they are ready for, and they must learn as they go.

Karl and Kelsey are strong, fun, likeable characters, and they both share the spotlight here. Arlana Crane takes her time here developing the characters and the dynamics between the characters. They make a great team and it was easy to root for them, and I enjoyed the adventure set on Victoria Island, BC, Canada, they took me on

While the crime here Karl and Kelsey are investigating is a heavy one involving illegal drugs, Arlana Crane delivers us a lighter, easy, entertaining read with some fun humor to it and plenty of tension to the story. It had the vibe like a detective TV show has. I loved the fun, surprising twist at the end of the story!

We received copies from Arlana Crane.

I am raising my hand!!! I choose to challenge and call out gender bias and stereotypes in what I read! I choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements in the books I read!!

From challenge comes change

Brenda

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