Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Book Review: Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q Sutanto

Meddy Chan has been to countless weddings, but she never imagined how her own would turn out. Now the day has arrived, and she can't wait to marry her college sweetheart, Nathan. Instead of having Ma and the aunts cater to her wedding, Meddy wants them to enjoy the day as guests. As a compromise, they find the perfect wedding vendors: a Chinese-Indonesian family-run company just like theirs. Meddy is hesitant at first, but she hits it off right away with the wedding photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself, down to the unfortunately misspelled name.

Meddy realizes that is where their similarities end, however, when she overhears Staphanie talking about taking out a target. Horrified, Meddy can't believe Staphanie and her family aren't just like her own, they are The Family--actual mafia, and they're using Meddy's wedding as a chance to conduct shady business. Her aunties and mother won't let Meddy's wedding ceremony become a murder scene--over their dead bodies--and will do whatever it takes to save her special day, even if it means taking on the mafia


Y'all...I was so excited when Net Galley approved me to read Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q Sutanto. I loved Dial A For Aunties, the first book in this series and I hoped that Four Auntie's would continue the fun. I often struggle with the second book in a series, in fact, I am not even much of a series reader for this very fact. Maybe it is me. Maybe I put too much pressure on that second book and it lets me down. But nope. Four Aunties gave me everything and more!

I laughed. I laughed out loud. I laughed out loud in public places. I saw the looks people gave me. I suspect they were just wishing they had such a great read like I did. I think I laughed more at Four Aunties than I did at Dial A. 

I love Meddy Chen, and have so much love for her crazy family, who honestly are the real stars of these books. Let's face it, when I say crazy, that is probably putting it lightly, this family is bat shit crazy, there just isn't another description that fits them than that.

I don't want to go into the story much, because I don't want to spoil the fun for you, but imagine Meddy and her family taking on the Mafia. Can you even imagine the pure chaos that will take place??

If you have not read Dial A For Aunties- pick it up so you will be ready for Four Aunties on March 29th when it publishes. I promise you, it will give you a laugh, and you will not want to put either of them down.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Book Review: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle


When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.


Katy and her mother had a mother-daughter trip planned to Italy, but instead of them both going, Katy ends up on the trip alone. Before the trip happened, Katy had to upend her life and take care of her mother who was dying. While on the trip, Katy learns a lot about her mother, getting a whole new look at the woman she thought she knew.

The first thing I can tell you is to have a tissue ready…yes…early on, you will need it, One Italian Summer starts right off ripping your heart out and continues taking you on an emotional rollercoaster. Katy grieves, and you will grieve right along with her, especially, if like me, you know the feeling of losing a parent.

While One Italian Summer is sad, it is also magical, in a way you’d never expect it to be.  Did you read In Five Years by Serle? Do you know how it had that tiny bit of magical twist to it? The author has also us the same twist in this book, taking you to an alternative universe that will surprise you. I will be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like it when it happened, but Serle’s writing is beautiful and it fits the story perfectly, making it unique and one of my favorite parts of the book.

I liked In Five Years, but there were a few things in there that I didn’t care for, but reading One Italian Summer has definitely put her on my auto-buy list. Everything about this book was beautiful. In fact, I finished this book in two days, not an easy feat for me being what I often feel like is the slowest reader on Instagram, cause I know y’all and y’all are some speedy readers, but this book will keep you reading from the moment you pick it up until you reach the last page.

Also, I would be doing you wrong if I didn't mention Positano Italy. Serle will have you looking up travel agents wanting to book a trip, her descriptions of the area are exquisite, and will pull you into the sun-soaked Amalfi coast.

One Italian Summer is magical, and it is beautiful, and it is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Book Review: Freckled by T.W. Neal / Toby Neal


Goodreads Overview:

Born in 1965 to hippie surfer parents who just want to ride waves, use substances, and hide from society, red-headed Toby grows up as one of only a few hundred Caucasian “haole” people on the rugged, beautiful North Shore of Kauai, Hawaii.

“I wish I could slow down time, turn every moment to honey and watch it drip by.” Told from the immersive, first-person view of a child experiencing turbulent times as they occur, Freckled will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget as Toby catches an octopus with her bare hands to feed the family, careens on her first bike down a rugged dirt trail deep in the jungle, and makes money by selling magic mushrooms to a drug dealer. Living in tents and off the land without electricity or communication with the outside world, Toby escapes into reading and imagination to deal with racial harassment and indifferent parenting.

Toby’s idealistic parents, breaking away from high achieving families, struggle with mental health and addiction issues as they try to live according to their own rules. Despite the hardship and deprivations of life on Kauai, they return again and again to an island whose hold on them is more powerful than any drug, as sensitive and resilient Toby clings to a dream of academic achievement and a “normal” life.

Jacque's Review:

This was Preston's book club selection in his high school English class. Author Toby Neal is known for her mysteries and thrillers. This is her first attempt at nonfiction and she hit it out of the park. I haven't read any of her other novels, but I will definitely give them a try after reading Freckled.

Freckled is Toby's memoir about growing up in Hawaii in the 60's and 70's. Her parents were hippie surfers who were content living well below the poverty level in order to enjoy the sun and surf in Kauai. Discrimination against non-native white people, referred to as "haoles",  was worse than anything I have ever witnessed on the mainland. 

Toby shares her experiences of what it was like living in a homeless tent community or out of their van at various times during her childhood. The few times her father got a decent paying job that provided an actual house to live in, he found the work to be more than he could handle. He wasn't used to working 40 hours a week and simple manual labor was too much for him. He split the work up between himself, his wife, and children so he only had to work a fraction of the time and could relax, drink beer, and surf. Her parents often neglected the children and left Toby to take care of the younger ones.

What is inspiring about this story is how Toby was able to overcome her upbringing. She was always an avid reader and did well in school. The library was one of the few safe places she could go and the books provided an escape that she desperately needed. She refused to follow in her parents footsteps and always wanted more for herself. She was not afraid to work hard and knew that getting off the island, and obtaining a college degree, was her only chance of breaking the cycle and achieving her goals in life.

This book not only tells Toby's story, but shares a first had account of the discrimination on the islands. Everyone thinks of Hawaii as paradise, but that was far from the case for non-natives that wanted to live there. We are all too familiar with the stories of discrimination against people of color and initiatives like the Black Lives Matter campaign, but I had never heard of the reverse discrimination in Hawaii. This book is a great resource for schools and communities to educate students and residents about the effects of discrimination and to hopefully prevent the past from repeating itself in the future.