December 2023 Books – Part 1

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

“Diaspora meant something different to all of them.” This book is a heist art thrilller novel on the surface but it’s really a look at the experiences of being Chinese Americans. It took me a week to read the first 60% of the book because it was the first week of my trip. We were busy and I was very jet lagged. I think the plot and art heist part of the book was alright but it took a bit too long to develop. What the book does well is showcasing the five characters and their feelings and identities being Chinese in America. The author captured the sometimes mixed third world feelings of it. It’s very Chinese. I could see how other migrants or children of migrants can share the feelings. China looms large because of its power, its history, and its often rigid cultural identity. I related to Alex the most in this novel but I could see myself in most of the other characters. I liked a novel where all the main characters were more like me. This was a good debut novel which is being adapted.

4/5 stars. Read on Kindle Nov 28-Dec 5, 2023.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

This book has been hyped all of 2023. I’ve been seeing it everywhere and based on the premise, I knew I had to read it. It’s a dark story. The narrator main character also experiences panic attacks, anxiety, and PTSD. I did find the panic and anxiety scenes affecting for me. This book is Lolita but for writing and cultural appropriation. The pacing was great and so was all the social commentary. It’s been awhile since I read a book where all the characters are abhorrent but it was well done. I wanted to give this novel a higher rating but I did find the ending a tad anticlimactic. I also think it could have been a bit shorter, but maybe that’s because I like shorter books these days. The novel is great in parts and deserves the attention it has gotten.

4.25/5 stars. Read on Kindle. Dec 6-7, 2023.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Fairies by Heather Fawcett

I loved this. I read it during a heatwave and sometimes outside under the shade at above 30C. I liked the contrast of the book’s setting to my own. I’ve realized that I enjoy romance more in fantasy or mysteries. Particularly if both the characters are adults with realistic strengths and weaknesses. The fantasy element and stakes adds to their dynamic. The book is a fantasy adventure about a Cambridge academic who studies Fairies. With the Botanical Folk Tales and the SJM books, I’ve been encoutering more fairies lately. This book has some of the best world building because it is done in an academic way. The protagonist is curmudgeonly and socially awkward, but very intelligent and determined. She is wholly an adult. Her love interest is less relatable because he is not human but their romance is believable. I enjoyed their banter and all the action. So fun! I look forward to the next book in the series coming out next month. I’ll have to pre-order it when I get home and listen to the audiobook of this book as well.

4.5/5 stars. Kindle. Dec 7-9, 2023.

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