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August reading recommendations

Here are my latest book recommendations for the Northwest Asian Weekly:

Pioneer Girl
By Bich Minh Nguyen
Viking, 2014

Ever since she received the box set from her grandfather when she turned 8, Lee Lien has always loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” books.

She uses the books – as well as others – as an escape from the rigid expectations of her Vietnamese family. And having had to escape from a mother who always found something to criticize her entire life, it was no surprise that Lee ended up with a doctorate in literature. With the lifelong goal of getting out of “here” (wherever their family was living at the time), Lee is appalled to find herself back home in the Chicago suburbs with her mother and grandfather, jobless with a degree that may not be good for much.

Then her brother Sam disappears, leaving behind an old family heirloom – a gold pin left behind by an American reporter in her grandfather’s café in Saigon – that takes Lee back to the days when her love for the “Little House” books was in full bloom.

As Lee looks into the pin’s history, she uncovers clues that may connect her family to the author of her favorite childhood books.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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When love doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to

Here are my latest book recommendations for Northwest Asian Weekly:

The Ballad of a Small Player
By Lawrence Osborne
Hogarth, 2014

Meet Doyle — or Lord Doyle, as he comes to be known among the casinos of Macau. Doyle’s not quite the English lord people believe he is. He’s actually a corrupt lawyer who embezzled millions from a wealthy elderly client and fled England once his deception was discovered.

Since his arrival in Macau, Doyle has spent his nights gambling. He spends his days sleeping off the previous night. He doesn’t care whether he wins or loses, since it’s not even his money to begin with, so why should it matter?

But one day, Doyle hits rock bottom and is unable to settle a tab. Coming to his rescue is Dao-Ming, a Chinese prostitute he had spent a night with previously. With Dao-Ming, he feels he forms a connection, something he has not done since his arrival in Macau. For a brief period, she saves him from himself and his gambling addiction. But when he wakes up one morning to find her gone, he returns to the casinos. And while his obsession with gambling is overpowering, Doyle also finds himself wondering what had happened to Dao-Ming.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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Life in a country away from home

Here are my latest book recommendations for Northwest Asian Weekly.

Sisters
Written by Amy Laizans, Illustrated by Sophie Scahill
Little Steps Publishing, 2013

Jane and her best friend are like most other kids their age living in Australia. They like to play outside in the sun, jump rope together, and read books aloud together. The two girls even help their mothers in the kitchen from time to time.

In fact, the two girls are so close, they are inseparable and consider themselves sisters.

But then one day during lunch at school, a classmate asks Jane if she speaks English. And while she was born in Australia and her best friend — the narrator of “Sisters,” who remains nameless — emigrated from Germany, it is Jane’s language skills that come into question.

This is because Jane is Filipino.

Although “Sisters” is a book geared toward grade school children and written in simple language that young readers can easily understand, it touches on the very complex and complicated issues of race and immigration. The narrator and Jane’s friendship is tested as the latter’s race is put on the spot and the former — and readers as well — question why it should even matter.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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Mysteries and thrillers — Book recommendations

Here are my latest book recommendations for Northwest Asian Weekly.

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder
By Shamini Flint
Minotaur Books, 2010

When Alan Lee, a big timber executive in Malaysia, is killed, police arrest his ex-wife, Chelsea Liew, as their prime — and only — suspect.

With the former Singaporean model on death row, the Singaporean authorities send inspector Singh to Kuala Lumpur to solve the murder. But like his Malay counterparts, Singh comes to the same conclusions after looking into the case. Alan was shot at point-blank range and Chelsea had the biggest motivation to pull the trigger, as the two were in a bitter custody battle over their three children.

To figure out the mystery, Singh must work with the Malaysian police, who are just as happy to work with him as he is with them — that is to say, not at all.

As the inspector digs deeper, more skeletons come out of Alan’s closet and it appears that Chelsea may not be the only one to have a reason to want to kill him.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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Memoirs and life stories

Here are my latest book recommendations for Northwest Asian Weekly:

Kapoho, Memoir of a Modern Pompeii
By Frances H. Kakugawa
Watermark Publishing, 2011

Frances Kakugawa was only 5 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Despite still being quite young, she quickly learned what that meant for her and her Japanese American family living in the village of Kapoho on Hawaii’s Big Island. Her family was loyal to the United States, but they still had roots in Japan and were forced to get rid of almost all evidence of these roots during World War II.

This is just one of many stories Kakugawa shares in “Kapoho.” The book is about her life growing up in a small plantation village in Hawaii. She also shares how she worked hard to speak like a “haole,” or a white person, in an effort to realize her dream of becoming a writer and poet, as well as the special relationship she shared with her mother throughout her life.

Kakugawa’s memoir is a collection of vignettes, showing readers little snapshots of her life from childhood to adulthood. She didn’t have it easy. Her family was far from wealthy, and being Japanese during the war was more than a little difficult. But despite those difficult times, Kakugawa has fond memories of befriending American soldiers, as they stood guard throughout Kapoho, and of working as a maid for a white family to pay her way through college. She does not dwell on the bad parts. Instead, she focuses on the bright spots during the dark periods, reminding readers that even in the worst of times, there will always be a reason to smile.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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Life at War — Book recommendations

Here are my latest book recommendations for Northwest Asian Weekly:

Cress
By Marissa Meyer
Feiwel and Friends, 2014

The Lunar Chronicles continue in this third installment right where the previous one ended.

New Beijing cyborg mechanic Cinder and Captain Carswell Thorne are now fugitives on the run from the law — both on Earth and on the moon. And joining the party are Scarlet, a young woman from France who recently lost her grandmother, and Wolf, a genetically mutated operative, formerly fighting for the other side.

The outlaws are working together to overthrow Lunar Queen Levana, who has her sights on conquering Earth just as she has Luna (otherwise known as the moon). Her first step in world domination is to marry Emperor Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth.

Cinder and the gang plan to stop her and their best bet lies with the book’s title character, Cress. Just like Rapunzel, the young Lunar girl has been imprisoned since she was very young, with a satellite acting as her tower and her netscreens as her only companions. Cress connects with Cinder and the others and they plan to rescue her. But things go sideways and the group is separated.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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When two worlds become one

Here are my latest book recommendations for the Northwest Asian Weekly:

The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya
By Nagaru Tanigawa
Little, Brown and Company, 2013

As in the previous book, the latest installment in the Haruhi Suzumiya series features two different versions of the same story and continues where the last one ended.

The first version begins with Kyon, Haruhi, time-traveler Mikuru Asahina, and esper-boy Itsuki Koizumi rushing off to the home of Yuki Nagato, the remaining member of the SOS Brigade (Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya) and their resident alien, who has been ill. The gang does what they can to try and help Yuki feel better.

For Kyon, this means meeting with a group of potentially dangerous individuals from other organizations who are watching over Sasaki, a girl he knew in middle school, suspected of having similar deity-like powers as Haruhi.

The second version follows the SOS Brigade, as they continue the recruitment process to bring new members to their illegal school club.

All the while, Kyon remains suspicious of the individuals tasked with watching over Sasaki. At the beginning of the story, the group remains in the background, but becomes more of a concern to Kyon, as he tries to figure out who they are and what their motives are.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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