3.5 star

Review: False Witness by Karin Slaughter


Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.


But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.


Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.


If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Callie, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…

Ahhh, so many mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’d say that overall the book was quite well-written. There were many themes that recurred and were used in different ways to continue the theme of suspense. On the other hand, the material is just so graphic and horrifying, I did have a hard time getting through it, emotionally.

I’ve actually read one of the author’s other books, which left me feeling the same way. I had read it a while back, and if I had realized this book was the same author, I think I would have just put it down. Not because it’s a bad book, but sometimes the content is just too much for me to handle. So a warning to all those who are sensitive to such topics.

False Witness revolves around two sisters who share a dark past. One has risen through the ranks while the other has sunken into the shadows. When one day, Leigh gets suddenly put onto an all-too-familiar case, things start to unravel. Just how much of the past stays hidden in the past, and how will these ghosts affect both Leigh and her sister’s futures?

Continue reading “Review: False Witness by Karin Slaughter”
3.5 star

Review: The Cookbook Club by Beth Harbison

New York Times bestselling author Beth Harbison whips together a witty and charming–and delicious–story about the secrets we keep, the friends we make, and the food we cook.

MUST LOVE BUTTER: The Cookbook Club is now open to members. Foodies come join us! No diets! No skipping dessert!

Margo Everson sees the call out for the cookbook club and knows she’s found her people. Recently dumped by her self-absorbed husband, who frankly isn’t much of a loss, she has little to show for her marriage but his ‘parting gift’—a dilapidated old farm house—and a collection of well-loved cookbooks

Aja Alexander just hopes her new-found friends won’t notice that that every time she looks at food, she gets queasy. It’s hard hiding a pregnancy, especially one she can’t bring herself to share with her wealthy boyfriend and his snooty mother. 

Trista Walker left the cutthroat world of the law behind and decided her fate was to open a restaurant…not the most secure choice ever. But there she could she indulge her passion for creating delectable meals and make money at the same time.

The women bond immediately, but it’s not all popovers with melted brie and blackberry jam.  Margo’s farm house is about to fall down around her ears; Trista’s restaurant needs a makeover and rat-removal fast; and as for Aja, just how long can you hide a baby bump anyway?

In this delightful novel, these women form bonds that go beyond a love grilled garlic and soy sauce shrimp. Because what is more important in life than friendship…and food?

This was another book I just randomly took off the shelf while I was at the library the other day. It is essentially a chick flick in a book format, which is not to say that it’s bad though. As a story revolving around food and three women facing their struggles and finding their way, this book really did live up to its cozy title, pretty much perfect for this autumn (borderline winter) weather.

The Cookbook Club is a story that revolves around three different women, each with their own newfound struggle in their life, be it love or life. This book follows their individual struggles and is told from their POVs, but each chapter or “month” there is a quick cookbook party summary of what has transpired, and what the latest gossip from the party was. It’s a cozy and fast-paced story, and I finished the book very quickly. It’s a simple feel-good type of story, but still manages to have some interesting themes.

Overall the characters were believable, and their struggles were certainly relatable as well. The pacing at which everything happens the coincidences that appear weren’t the most believable, but in this kind of book, I can forgive it for not having the deepest most intricate plot. It also wasn’t ridiculous in its plot devices, so overall it was an easy and quick read that I really enjoyed this time of year.

I definitely enjoyed the food content, and there was even some content in the book that included the character live-streaming to an audience. I found this part particularly relatable, as I tend to watch a lot of cooking videos on my own time, and I felt that the author did a good job replicating the way these videos would actually be filmed in real life.

Some of the struggles that were portrayed and handled were definitely interesting. Many subtle hints and themes were present in terms of tackling some of these problems, and I felt that it was a palatable and relatable way of presenting the information. Overall, this made it an engaging and interesting read, without being overly preachy or unrealistic.

Overall Recommendations

The Cookbook Club is a multiple-POV story that follows three women in their adult lives as they struggle through new roadblocks in life. In what can only be described as a chick flick book, it is an entertaining story that moves at a rapid pace. And lots of mentions of food, which is always appreciated. Overall it is a happy feel-good type of novel, and is perfect for the winter if you’re ever looking for an easy cozy read by the fire!

3.5 star, YA

Review: Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach

Emergency Contact meets Moxie in this cheeky and searing novel that unpacks just how complicated new love can get…when you fall for your enemy.

Eliza Quan is the perfect candidate for editor in chief of her school paper. That is, until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides on a whim to run against her. Suddenly her vast qualifications mean squat because inexperienced Len—who is tall, handsome, and male—just seems more like a leader.

When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself inspiring a feminist movement she never meant to start, caught between those who believe she’s a gender equality champion and others who think she’s simply crying misogyny.

Amid this growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility. But as they get to know one another, Eliza feels increasingly trapped by a horrifying realization—she just might be falling for the face of the patriarchy himself.

Not Here to Be Liked has left behind an impression on me that is both hard to eloquently write down and make coherent sense. I will try to organize it in some way, but please bear with me.

Firstly, I knew I was in love when I first turned on the audiobook and heard the first few chapters. Eliza Quan is a Vietnamese Chinese girl with parents who immigrated to North America as refugees from the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Her family has kept Chinese roots regardless of living in Vietnam for at least a generation so their household speaks a combination of Vietnamese and Cantonese. I’m just going to say that seeing (or rather, hearing) the Cantonese and every day references mentioned sent a delighted thrill of surprise through me. Like the following quote:

“Make sure you have enough rice to eat.”

Quan family motto

You have no idea how many times I grew up hearing this from my grandparents. It’s why I’m more of a noodle person as an adult because I had way too much rice as a child.

This made me feel like Eliza (and her family) was someone I intimately knew right away. Like she could’ve been a part of my family. Or my boyfriend’s family. It was so surreal to feel represented in fiction because I’m quite used to never seeing that. Even amidst the surge of Asian representation in YA, there was never any protagonist that quite hit the nail like Eliza did for me. (I won’t nitpick that the Cantonese spoken on the audiobook wasn’t quite without an accent, but it was still amazing!).

But aside from my personal connection to Eliza and her family, this book is about feminism. Or rather, the unwitting face of feminism Eliza becomes when someone released her rant – aka manifesto – about losing the school paper’s editor in chief vote. To a boy.

Maybe like most of us, we wouldn’t know what to do when we become the face of feminism among our peers. I sure wouldn’t. So all of a sudden, she’s launched into infamy, targeted by certain classmates with awful comments on social media and scrawled across her locker. Which in and of itself is sexist as the manifesto equally targets Len as the “face of patriarchy”. Why wouldn’t he get equal treatment against him, the target of the paper?

This exploration of “what makes one a feminist” and “how should a feminist act” was one I had to sit with for a while in writing this review. What does one immediately think of when we say “feminism”?

I’m a feminist, not a narcissist.

Eliza Quan

I do applaud Michelle Quach’s thoughts in the form of Eliza’s own internal questions and the different women she wrote about. Eliza definitely sat more in the middle, wanting to do her part, but not knowing if interacting with the enemy Len, made her a hypocrite and a terrible feminist. Her best friend Winona leaned more into the stereotype, for better or worse, that feminism sometimes bring to mind, wherein it’s more synonymous with anti-male. Meanwhile, the popular girl Serena that came into their lives in the aftermath of the manifesto embodied more of social action for something she stood for while not particularly looking or acting a certain way towards men. There was definitely growth in all three girls as they spearheaded the growing feminist movement in their school, but it was interesting noting the different directions each came at this same movement.

Quach also explored a little the impact of Asian cultures in wiring how women think through the experiences and stories Eliza’s mom told her, and the way she wanted her own daughter to behave. I appreciated that too because I can acknowledge it’s definitely there and prevalent in our societies even now. We do need more stories like this among POC communities, although I will also acknowledge it is a clash of Western and Eastern ways of thinking.

The romance, it seemed, fell somewhere behind all of this. It’s probably the only reason why I lowered my rating. I didn’t particularly feel the chemistry between Len and Eliza in their interactions. It could be because she wanted to hold onto her animosity towards him the whole time, but in getting to know Len, I came to realize he’s a pretty good guy and didn’t deserve the “face of the patriarchy” label. Of course, he still got off easy in the eyes of his peers (sexism, am I right?), but he wasn’t the villain the manifesto painted him out to be – or what I thought he’d be coming into this book.

Did I think it was a fun romance still? Sure, it was fine, but if a solid “enemies to lovers” trope is what’s bringing you here, you may need to rethink it a little. It’s definitely not the focus of this story.

All this to say, I reflected a lot as a result of reading this book about feminism and how I see myself, even, as a young woman in my society and among my peers. It’s made me think about how I can fight for equality, not superiority in any one sex, in my own life. And I think that is the point of this book, so it has done the job it’s set out to do.

Because feminism, contrary to popular belief, isn’t about hating on guys…It’s about all of us working toward equality, together.

Overall Recommendation:

Not Here to Be Liked was a wonderful reflection on feminism, especially in a young Asian girl where the culture largely dictated patriarchal values. I really enjoyed seeing the Asian influences and representation in this story, namely because Eliza spoke my language and has a very similar background with my own family. That being said, the book explores what it means to be a feminist in a way that is not condescending and looks at different angles through its various characters. While a romance is also present between Eliza and the “face of the patriarchy” Len, it is by far not the focus so the enemies to lovers storyline wasn’t fully fleshed out to satisfaction for romance lovers. Regardless of that one minor thing, I do think this is a worthwhile novel to pick up for its niche exploration of feminism in an Asian protagonist that sets it apart from other books currently out there. My thoughts may be a little all over the place, but this I know to be true at least.