Under a Painted Sky – A book review

Under a Painted Sky – A book review

I love reading rag tag groups or misfits coming together to save the day. A little into the book, I realized Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is a feminist historical fiction set in the westerns and falls under the misfits ensemble genre. Did I love reading it? Read my review to know more.

About the book

Under a Painted Sky book review

Book Name: Under a Painted Sky

Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: Fiction – RomanceYoung adult, Historical

Characters: Samantha, Annamae, Peety, Cay, and West, Ty Yorkshire

Setting: Missouri, Oregon TrailThe USA

Plot Summary

When a middle aged, rich, white man cornered young Samantha, the same night her father succumbed to a fire accident, she did what she could to defend herself. She didn’t expect Ty Yorkshire to break his skull or his slave Annamae to walk in.

Fortunately for this Chinese American girl, the street smart runaway slave Annamae joins her flee from the law. They take on the Oregon Trail, under the disguises of Sammy and Andy, two young boys heading towards the Californian gold rush.

But when they cross paths with three young cowboys

Book review

I was kinda prepared for tackling the issues of stereotypes and racism, casual and otherwise, peppered throughout this historical fiction seeing that the characters were Chinese and African American.

But I was pleasantly surprised when Stacey Lee so effortlessly weaved the character’s beliefs, culture and ethnic backgrounds into the narrative. A huge win for the diversity factor!

While they met rather accidentally, the friendship between Sammy and Andy keeping growing stronger. Their relationship is matured and supportive of each other, and they are also hilarious! Even when we get some romance angle, their relationship stays the main focus of Under a Painted Sky.

It was easy to get lost in the genuine comradeship among the boys and emotional quotient never dipped either. I loved Stacey Lee’s writing especially the parts where she describes the rich and adventurous journey.

What worked for me

  • I loved the strong friendship between Sammy and Andy. They are easily one of the best female friendships I have read recently.
  • The funny repartees between the characters made me love them and wondered about a sequel already.
  • Under a Painted Sky is a great example of why we need more diversity in the books, especially Young Adults. Kudos to the author for pulling it off so brilliantly.

What may have been better

  • I wish we could see Sammy’s goal being reached. I mean Under a Painted Sky ended too soon for me!

Bottom line

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is all about strong female leads and their friendship. With well written characters, Under a Painted Sky is a great win for diversity! Read it as soon as you can.

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Under a Painted Sky – A book review

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – A book review

I picked The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary more than six months ago from the airport bookstore and carried it with me during my travels last year. But when I finally started reading it earlier this month, I knew it was a mistake.

It was a mistake to have waited so long to read it. Yes, I loved it. Let’s get on to the book review of The Flatshare, shall we?

About the book

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary cover

Book Name: The Flatshare

Author: Beth O’Leary

Genre: Fiction – Romance

Characters: Tiffy Moore, Leon and Richie Twomey, Gerty, Mo, Justine, Kay

Setting:  LondonEnglandThe UK

The plot

Tiffy Moore has just been dumped (again) and wants to move out of Justin’s house ASAP. Despite what her friends say, she has hope that Justin will ask her to take him back. But at the same time, she knows this has happened far too many times, now. 

Leon Twomey is a nurse who works night shifts. His brother has been wrongly accused of a robbery and is in jail. Leon needs urgent cash flow to get him acquitted.

And a flatshare made sense for both of them. Leon will use the flat during the day, when Tiffy is at work and vice versa. It sounds perfect in paper,right? What could go wrong? 

For starters, emotionally abusive boyfriends, trips in search of a long lost lover, and the work schedule. But how long can they go without meeting forms the rest of The Flatshare. 

My initial thoughts

The Flatshare is a well written romance with great characters and witty humor. But what I loved about this book was how it talked about emotional abuse – keeping it real and without being preachy. 

I loved Tiffy’s arc especially. Initially she would not even stand a criticizing comment about Justin from her friends. But she slowly understood how he was gaslighting her and had been emotionally abusive and manipulating her. ALL BY HERSELF, with a bit of help from her ever supporting friends. And for once, the male protagonist was not her savior.  

Leon was just a perfect sweetheart. He is an introvert who loves helping everyone, even going out of his way to do so. In fact, he spends his free time to help an aged patient to find his family. He is on first name basis with his younger patients who seem to know more about him than himself. 

I loved Gerty, Mo and Rachel. And Richie. They were colorful and well developed, making it a treat to read about them. 

Things that worked for me

  • The Flatshare is just more than a romance, even when it has a cute love story in it.
  • The characters. From Tiffy to Holly, were well written and adorable. 
  • I loved how the emotional abuse was portrayed, without making it all about the guy.

Things that didn’t work for me

I know this is a weak point but the flatshare arrangement without even meeting each other sounds too unrealistic right? Or is it just me? (It was not a deal breaker, though)

Bottom-line

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary is a fun romance with British humor that deals with heavy subjects like emotional abuse, gaslighting and friendships. Pick it up if you are a newbie reader or someone trying to get off a slump.

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Under a Painted Sky – A book review

How to Build a Heart – A book review

Remember a few weeks ago, I was on a reading spree? Yup, the rare occasion. So I picked up How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian on Netgalley and even I was surprised that I finished it so fast. But was it good enough? Read ahead to know more. 

About the book

Book Name: How to Build a Heart

Author: Maria Padian

Genre: Fiction – Romance

Characters: Isabella (Izzy) and Jack Crawford, Mami, Roz Jenkins, Sam and Aubrey Shackelton,

Setting: VirginiaThe United States of America

The plot

All her life Izzy Crawford has been moving between cities and she can’t wait to settle down at a house that she can call hers, with her hard working mother and younger brother. She has not still learned to process the grief over her father’s death in the Marines and moving away from his side of the family doesn’t help.

But her life is finally coming together. Izzy has made some new friends in her Catholic school, finds herself a spot in a cappella group and a hot and popular boy friend, Sam. Just one minor problem, none of them knows that she lives in a trailer park. 

Her best friend Roz, who also happens to be her neighbour in the trailer park, is the only one who understands her but Izzy’s mom doesn’t approve of her. And she has had a long time crush on Sam, which Izzy had known right from the beginning. 

So when the Habitat for Humanity offers to help them to build a house, she has a chance to make everything better. But that comes up with strings. You will have to read How to Build a Heart to know more about Izzy and her house building project. 

My initial thoughts

I was glad that romance was not the main focus of How to Build a Heart, even though it was a romance book. It is a family drama/reunion story, and I loved it as much. I liked the older females in the book and Izzy’s relationship with her newfound cousin. 

I didn’t like the main friendship in How to Build a Heart so much that I ended up not liking both Izzy and Roz. Izzy doesnt tell Roz anything and made it a point to keep Roz away from her life. And Roz in other hand was always mean to Izzy and literally threw a stone at her over a boy. Whoa! 

And they got over their fight so easily? Well, I didn’t buy that one at all.  Despite not loving the characters, I loved the writing style which was compelling and fast flowing. 

Things that worked for me

  • The writing was perfect and I didn’t put the book down even once. 
  • How to Build a Heart deals with difficult topics like poverty, racism, and grief and did a great job at it. 
  • I love a book with a good family reunion and How to Build a Heart has one!

Things that didn’t work for me

  • Izzy and Roz were both difficult to like right from the beginning. And it got only tougher.
  • I found it was difficult to adore Izzy and same, as Izzy had nothing in common with Sam.

Bottom-line

How to Build a Heart is a coming of age tale of a Latin American girl that discusses economic inequity, racism, friendship and of course love. I will definitely look out for more from the author.

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Under a Painted Sky – A book review

Convenience Store Woman – A book review

I recently read The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa and loved it, and I picked Convenience Store Woman on a whim hoping it will continue that streak. Let us get on with the review to know if it did, shall we?

About the book

Convenience Store Woman Review cover

Book Name: Convenience Store Woman

Author: Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Keiko Furukura, Shiraha

Setting: Tokyo, Japan

The plot

Keiko Furukura, a 36 year old convenience store worker, doesn’t fit into the social constructs. She doesn’t have a husband or a boyfriend, kids nor a well paying job – in short an outcast. 

Keiko has been working at the same convenience store for eighteen years and has a routine that works for her. She has no interest in trying to fit in to the society but conveniently masks her oddities. She goes even to the extent of faking an illness which makes her too weak to work anywhere else. 

Her peaceful life goes into a toss when she meets another part time worker, Shiraha who is an outcast as well. They share a lot of commonalities, and they even get into a relationship charade to shut the voices of the society.

How did that turn out? You will have to read Convenience Store Woman to know more. 

My initial thoughts

I love reading character driven books and Convenience Store Woman does a great work at that. Keiko is a strong character who accepts and has no problem being the odd duck. She survives the pressure on woman to marry and birth a child at the right age without openly rebelling against the system. She is on the brink of a break down and yet manages to get through the motions of life. I adore the odd duck she was. 

Convenience Store Woman is a melancholic, relatable and yet so surreal.  It is quintessentially Japanese and is a great choice to read if you want to know more about the country’s culture and society. 

I liked reading about the operations of a convenience store and the role it plays in helping Keiko to mimic other humans. Maybe she is on the spectrum but the author never explicitly discusses that. I am glad I found Convenience Store Woman among the hundreds of recommendations on bookstagram.

Things that worked for me

  • Convenience Store Woman gives a great commentary on the culture and society of Japan.
  • The characters are etched to perfection. I could relate to them so deeply that it scares me.
  • I loved the poignant undertone all through the book.

Things that didn’t work for me

Even though the book is comical in bits, but I saw many reviews saying this book was hysterical or funny. It wasn’t. Amusing maybe. Funny – no!

Bottom-line

If you love character driven books and translated works, Convenience Store Woman is a great choice. If you liked books like Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time, this is for you!

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Under a Painted Sky – A book review

Travelling Cat Chronicles, The – A book review

Cats scare me terribly! I have nightmares about them. I might have even walked around an entire block to avoid getting anywhere near them (more than once).

Naturally, I was skeptical about picking The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, thanks to a friend’s persistent recommendation. Read on to find how that turned out for me.

About the book

Travelling Cat Chronicles

Book Name: The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Author: Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel (Translator)

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Satoru, Nana, Kozuke, Yoshimine, Sugi and Chikako, Noriko

Setting: Tokyo, Japan

The plot

Satoru finds a feral cat with a crooked tail resting on his silver van and begins feeding it, regularly. They settle into an understanding that he would get to pet the cat for food. But then, the cat meets with an accident and it is Satoru that nurses him back. One thing leads to another, he adopts the cat and names him Nana, much to the indignation of the cat! 

Nana and Satoru settle into a comfortable companionship. After a few years, Satoru decides to give away Nana and they embark on a journey to find a suitable home among his friends. Read The Travelling Cat Chronicles to join the duo on their travel through Japan and Satoru’s childhood memories!

My initial thoughts

I LOVED THIS BOOK – there I said it! It might made me laugh. Had me heartbroken. Once I even got frowned upon for letting out a chuckle while on the treadmill at the gym. Despite having guessed the climax, I was not prepared for it. I didn’t want the book to end but I am glad it ended the way it did. 

Our cat Nana, is feisty, snarky and funny as a cat can be (sorry, Garfield). There are multiple POVs but I obviously, loved Nana’s version the best. His overconfident attitude and voice was how I imagined how pets to be like. Great work with the translation. I was able to feel how South East Asian the story was, yet could relate to it, cat lover or not.

Things that worked for me

  • The easy writing style hooked me right from the beginning.
  • It has a perfect balance between funny and heart breaking. 
  • The book didn’t feel like a translated work at all, and kudos to the translator! 

Things that didn’t work for me

  • The plot is pretty predictable and don’t look for anything “intense”.

Bottom-line

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a feel good book, with a bittersweet ending. Be prepared to cry, laugh and snicker throughout!

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