4 star, YA

Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

I’ve been trying to support some more Chinese authors, or at least getting to know some of their works a bit better. I came across this one in the library and decided to pick it up. With my recent interest in historical fiction, I figured this one would be right up in my alley. I think I wasn’t 100% correct on this, but overall I’m still glad I picked it up!

Outrun the Moon is an emotional tale that takes place in 1906 San Francisco. Our protagonist, Mercy, makes a series of seemingly crazy deals to get herself into a prestigious school, deceiving all her classmates. Things seem to be fairly under control until an earthquake hits, devastating the city. How will Mercy be able to use her wits and bravery to overcome this mess? Or will it prove too much for her to handle? This is the story of her journey.

The historical elements of this book were great. I really enjoyed the old Chinatown setting and the attitudes of the people at the time were really well represented here in this book. I really felt like I was transported back to that time, watching from the outside in. As such, the characters that were in this book were also well-crafted, and I enjoyed having all their different perspectives, even if it was definitely aggravating to endure the “ancient” discriminating mindsets.

I also enjoyed the Chinese elements that were sprinkled into this story. It was well incorporated, without overtaking the story. Through the eyes of Mercy, a young Chinese girl in the early twentieth century, we are able to experience with her the discrimination and social status of a person in her position, as well as the effects of such status on her family and neighbours. This was definitely a huge element that hit home, and I felt that it was well done.

Throughout the story we really got to watch Mercy grow and face adversities. She may be a strong-willed character who loves to fight and not back down, but in her moments of weakness her humanity and stumbles also make her so relatable. With her morals and her upbringing, she truly made an interesting main character, and I couldn’t help but root for her from the side through the ups and downs. I may have disagreed with some of her decisions in the book, but her strength to follow through and her own emotional journey was something that I could still respect.

Overall, this was a really touching story in a well-researched backdrop and is definitely worth a read if you are into historical fictions.

Overall Recommendations

Outrun the Moon follows a young female protagonist, Mercy, in her hometown of San Francisco Chinatown in 1906. Not wanting to be stuck in the slums, she devices a clever plan to get into a prestigious girls school. Though she makes it in, the plan isn’t as easy to execute as she thought. When an earthquake literally turns her world upside down, will she be able to find the strength to continue? Find out in this exciting historical journey!

3 star, adult

Review: The Language of the Flowers by K. Pigeon

After plunging into a lake, Lan wakes up in the body of a girl thousands of years in the future. Yet, she never forgot her promise to him.

Across space-time, “he” has the same appearance as “him”, but “he” is no longer human, and “he”… is no longer “him”.

They say love in this lifetime is a repaying of debt from the previous one.

When the rain falls and the meadows burgeon with blossoms blue as the sky, who still remembers the language of the flower, and who cannot let go?

Thanks to Asian bookish creators, I received a copy (with some special additional epilogues!) from the author in exchange for a honest review.

My overall impression is that I liked it. It was nothing mind-blowing, and there were a couple of things that I think I personally would have changed or made different. But overall it was a pretty good story, and I think I would commend the author on the world building, as I felt that was its greatest strength.

The romance itself was also acceptable. Perhaps the male lead was a tad too controlling and possessive for my liking, but nothing too egregious. As the story went on, I definitely cheered more and more for their relationship. That being said though, the timing and progression of their relationship felt weird. One moment they were at odds, and the next they couldn’t resist each other. It just felt a little bit sudden for my tastes.

The beginning was also a relatively slow start for me. Yes, building fantasy worlds take time, but the introduction of characters in this novel happens in a weird(?) way. The main character, Elizabeth (Lan), will meet a character, and then half-way as they talk, instead of using pronouns, the character will suddenly be replaced by a name (even though they never introduced themselves). This happens several times, so I imagine it is intentional, but it is a little bit strange, and I always wonder if suddenly a new character popped in or if I missed their introduction. Or maybe this is normal in some novels? It was strange for me.

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2.5 star, adult

Review: Chemistry by Weike Wang

At first glance, the quirky, overworked narrator [of this] novel seems to be on the cusp of a perfect life: she is studying for a prestigious PhD in chemistry that will make her Chinese parents proud (or at least satisfied), and her successful, supportive boyfriend has just proposed to her. But instead of feeling hopeful, she is wracked with ambivalence: the long demanding hours at the lab have created an exquisite pressure cooker, and she doesn’t know how to answer the marriage question. When is all becomes too much and her life plan veers off course, she finds herself on a new path of discoveries about everything she thought she knew.

I wish I could have given this a better rating – I really wish I liked it more. Overall, I didn’t have the best time reading it, but there were definitely redeemable elements that make me appreciate it. This short novel is also written in a very interesting way, which I found to be unique, but not altogether my preferred style.

Chemistry revolves around a nameless narrator, and we follow her trains of thought as she navigates her PhD in chemistry and possible upcoming nuptials. She has a Chinese background and the ever so prevalent Asian Parents. As she continues to endure more of the pressure from all angles, how will she survive, and what will happen to her?

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