Best reads of 2019…continued.
Since You Asked… & Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
Since You Asked… was Maurene Goo’s first novel and Somewhere Only We Know her most recent. I loved them both. But honestly, I have yet to meet a Maurene Goo novel I did not love. She writes about Korean-Americans and usually references Korean dramas which is the way to my heart. Since You Asked… feels very “first novel” but the snarky heroine, tight friend group, and lack of any overarching plot make up for it. It balances angst with character growth and I found it super heartwarming. Meanwhile, Somewhere Only We Know is the story of a K-pop starlet trying to take a day off and a paparazzi who tricks her into hanging out with him. The K-pop starlet carries the plot with a quirky, driven character and it made for some fun, fluffy reading while still maintaining an undercurrent of emotional punch. If looking for some good YA, I will always recommend Maurene Goo.
From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism and Christianity by Steve Cioccolanti
I recommend this book with a caveat: a formally Buddhist (now Christian) friend recommended it to me while I was studying in Thailand because I was struggling to understand Eastern Buddhism. (It is quite different from Western Buddhism.) The book does a great job differentiating the two. It perfectly fit what I needed at the time. But I would not recommend this to the casual reader hoping to compare the two religions. The main purpose of this book is to be a very short and to the point primer for Christians going on short term missions with the intention of witnessing to Buddhists in Asia. It might be an “insider’s view,” but it is a very select view with a very specific mission.
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza (audio book version)
This was an absolutely delicious audio book and if you decide to read The Knockoff, I recommend checking it out in the audio format. Katherine Kellgren somehow manages British posh, valley-girl, and start-up tech nerd without once making it feel forced or awkward. Delightful. The story itself is a novel about a middle aged woman who returns to her position as editor of a fashion magazine after a long leave only to find her boss turned it into an app. Now, surrounded by Millennials and baffled by e-mail, this Gen Xer must learn to find commonality with her co-workers and save her magazine. Despite a rather over-the-top villain, I found the story surprisingly thought-provoking and sweet. I really liked it. Very memorable.
Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose
This memoir tells the story of an American missionary who was held in a Japanese POW camp for four years during WW2. While it certainly recounts God’s grace to the prisoners during a very harrowing time, my favorite parts were when Darlene Deibler Rose lets down her hair a little and lets you know what she really thinks. For as much grace as she shows to her Japanese captors, she might suddenly name drop someone and be like “Yeah, that woman was a skank who had 3 amazing kids and I have no idea how they turned out amazing with a Mom like her.” And you would think it would come across as offensive and maybe it does to some. But to me it felt genuine. The personality of the storyteller really shines through. This is an imperfect memoir that feels super genuine and honest because of its imperfections.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
So, Crazy Rich Asians made 5 stars. China Rich Girlfriend did not. Jury is still out on Rich People Problems. We shall see. But I sure loved this one. It is a not-so-subtle mockery of the glitzy, rich life of an elite few and I ate up every word. Like the movie, my favorite part is how the intertwining stories balance the soap opera of Nick and Rachel’s life with the [still soap-opera-y] but more hard hitting drama of Astrid’s crumbling marriage. Of course, it is not perfect. Definitely vulgar at times and more language than I like. But so fluffy and ridiculously over the top I could not help loving it.