Solo Lisa Reads: June 2017

Solo Lisa Reads: June 2017 book review round-up #indigofaves

Happy Monday, dear readers! We're deep into summer now, and even though the weather in Vancouver hasn't exactly been sunny, the season still calls for a breezy beach read or two. Whether you're lounging poolside or headed to a coffee shop to while away a rainy afternoon, these books will make the leisurely hours and minutes just fly by.

1. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. Lisa See's latest novel dives deep into the world of the Akha ethnic minority in the tea-growing province of Yunnan, China. The protagonist Li-yan is a young girl growing up in a remote village in the mountains, educated and bright compared to her peers. Her life revolves around the traditions of the Akha and the growing and harvesting of tea. Through serendipitious twists and turns—an encounter with a young boy who later becomes a lover, meeting strangers from afar in search of pu'er tea—Li-yan has a baby daughter out of wedlock as a teenager and, instead of leaving her to die as Akha custom dictates, abandons her infant daughter at a local orphanage with a tea cake tucked into the blanket.

This decision haunts Li-yan as her first marriage falls apart and she moves to the city, pursues an education, and becomes immersed in the lucrative world of buying and selling pu'er tea. Meanwhile, her daughter, Haley, has been adopted by Americans and grows up in privileged comfort in California, yearning to know more about her roots and the mysterious tea cake that she was found with. This is an epic and satisfying story that spans decades and brings the world of the Akha and tea-trading to life, with characters who linger in your mind long after you close the covers. And bonus: I learned a lot about the beliefs and customs of the Akha and what makes pu'er tea so valuable.

2. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. The third and final Lara Jean book sees our heroine in her senior year with many things going right for her. Lara Jean's relationship with "the handsomest of all the handsome boys" Peter Kavinsky is better than ever; there are good times to be had with friends at prom and on senior trips; and her father is about to marry Ms. Rothschild.

Not all is perfect in Lara Jean's world though, as college acceptances throw a wrench into her plans to stay close to home—and close to Peter—and compel her to expand her horizons beyond the cozy confines of her existence. The plot breezes along from one small adventure to the next, and fans of the first two Lara Jean books and of Korean dramas in general will enjoy the many moments of humour, romance, and delight sprinkled throughout the narrative. Han has said in author interviews she didn't want to write a third Lara Jean book unless there was still enough story left to tell; I for one am pleased that she did and that I got to spend more time with the Song sisters before bidding farewell.

3. Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan. As soon as I saw the comparisons to Bridget Jones and Becky Bloomwood on the cover and read the premise, I knew I had to buy this book. New stay-at-home mom Ashley Keller considers herself a hot mess when it comes to motherhood: the house is in shambles; her baby won't sleep; and she's so disheveled and exhausted that when she goes grocery-shopping, an alarmed-looking woman tries to give her change. Why can't she be as Pinterest-perfect and Instagram-ready as her idol, mommy blogger extraordinaire and lifestyle guru Emily Walker? Ashley's chance finally arrives when she scores a coveted spot in the Motherhood Better bootcamp run by none other than Emily herself, and of course, hilarity ensues. Laditan's skewering of social media norms and the unrealistic expectations moms place on themselves and on each other is pitch-perfect and laugh-out-loud funny.

4. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan. The conclusion to Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians trilogy is juicier than its predecessors and filled with even more OTT details, if you can believe it. Nicholas Young's grandmother, the matriarch Shang Su Yi, is on her deathbed and the entire Shang-Young clan has turned out for the occasion, each hoping to inherit their share of her massive fortune and the biggest prize of them all, the Tyersall Park estate. Meanwhile, scandal plagues Nick's goddess-like cousin Astrid Leong as she tries to divorce a bitter ex-husband and pursue a happy ending with Hong Kong tech tycoon Charlie Wu; Kitty Pong remarries and deals with feelings of insecurity when she compares herself to her glamorous new stepdaughter, Colette Bing; Eleanor Young yearns for a grandchild and drives Nick and Rachel up the wall; and Eddie Cheng is just as materialistic and obnoxious as ever.

If I have one complaint about this book, it'd have to be that sometimes the details of the extravagant lifestyles overwhelmed the narrative and unmoored any feelings of empathy I might have had toward the characters. The other two books were more Nick- and Rachel-heavy, both of whom have a more relatable outlook and serve as the audience's proxy as they observe and react to the obscene wealth around them; this book goes full-tilt into Crazy Rich Asians territory with no such moderating influence. Nonetheless, it's a dishy and enjoyable send-off for the series. P.S. Has anyone else been following the movie casting gossip as closely as I have?

What's on your reading list this summer? Let me know in the comments! And if you're looking for other book recommendations, check out my round-ups from January, March, and May.

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