Here are the books I read in May 2022 that I didn’t get to give a full review for whatever reason. I read a lot of authors of AAPI descent; their books were all wonderful in their own respective ways…
Sea of Tranquility ****
Unquestionably a metacommentary on the author’s Station Eleven success in the shadow of Covid-19, it’s a beautifully written reflection on finding peace and contentment in the uncertainties of life. I don’t know that I enjoyed it as much as others did given the rapturous reception it’s received. But I enjoyed it well enough. Emily St. John Mandel is a transcendent talent.
Hollywood Godfather: My Life in the Movies and the Mob****
I don’t doubt that 70–80% of the stories in this book are bull but it’s still an entertaining read and well-written compared to most mafia memoirs. Worth visiting if you are feeling nostalgic for The Godfather as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier****
Started out as a “Where are they now?” Tale and dovetailed into something…else. By the end, the vibes were appropriately weird and now I’m ready for the new season. (Update: It was fine but I may have actually enjoyed the prequel books more.)
Clark and Division****
The internment and resettlement of Japanese-Americans and folks of Japanese descent is one in a litany of America’s racist crimes. Naomi Hirahara does a great job bringing that shame to life through the eyes of a Japanese-American woman exploring wartime Chicago and trying to figure out who murdered her sister (or if she was murdered in the first place). The mystery is interesting in the sense that Hirahara weaves it into the larger story she is trying to tell about culture, assimilation, and xenophobia. There are times when the book can’t decide if it wants to be more of a historical fiction work or a mystery but it works well on the whole and sticks the landing just fine.
Decided to reread this so I could come full circle with Ellroy and yeah, it’s better than I remember, though I still think the plot is unwieldy. It’s a great book but I think Ellroy’s better suited for the LA Quartet than these novels; though it is an incredible accomplishment, one few writers could hope to pull off. His ability to demystify American lore is second-to-none.
Beach read for Dads. The typically Manichean Fantasy tale of Good Guys beating the Bad Guys while also being totally respectful to women and also not racist. But Hunter is a good writer and he moves the story along well. Don’t know if I need to continue the series but this wasn’t a total waste of time, scratching my mob-in-fiction itch.
The Pizza Girl****
A confident, well-told little tale about an 18-year old already enduring the life-changing experience of pregnancy when she becomes obsessed with a customer. Not something I’d normally read but Jean Kyoung Frazier does such a great job with her lead character and building a world around her. One of the best things I’ve read in 2022…and a sad one at that.
I don’t usually indulge page-ripping thrillers designed to shock with twists. I’m not trying to condescend anyone; I’m very much a “you do you” kinda reader. They just don’t work for me.
However, I’ve been getting so many suggestions to try Jennifer Hillier’s work that I set aside my issues and dove into this one. And yes, it’s excellent.
If you think about the plot for more than 5 minutes, it falls apart but Hillier is an excellent writer with a great sense of where to seed twists and move the momentum of the story without losing sight of its main characters. I couldn’t put it down and it’s not because I wanted to find out what would happen, though that’s part of it. But because I kept wanting to read this author telling the story. Will definitely check out more of her work.
Dead Soon Enough****
With each book, Steph Cha became a progressively better writer. This is leaps and bounds better than her first Juniper Song tale; a layered story of immigration, love, and genocide, as well as a true examination of working class Los Angeles. Kept me riveted through its excellent end and gave the strongest look at an author who would be ready in a few years to write the excellent “Your House Will Pay.”
The Japanese do such a great job with crime novels. Even “thrillers” like this are dialogue-heavy and laden with context, enough so that even an American goober like me can pick up on them. This is billed as a thriller and there are thrilling moments but it’s mostly a series of comedies and conversations, far more Coen than Tarantino. Don’t know what the director of John Wick is gonna do with it as this isn’t his wheelhouse but I’d be excited for a Japanese interpretation.