Welcome to another edition of Style and Savings Reads!
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim, 2020, Penguin Random House
Short Synopsis: Vanessa Yu is a reluctant clairvoyant – throughout her life she has struggled to control her unique ability. Blurting out her visions of the future has quickly ended any chance she’s had at romantic relationship. Vanessa moves in with her aunt, also a clairvoyant, to receive lessons in mastering her ability while helping to open her aunt’s Parisian tea shop.
Not being able to travel, this year, books and shows set it desirable locations are more than welcome! When Vanessa meets a handsome stranger who guides her through the city’s sites, it felt like I was on a tour too. I googled at least a few of the sites that I wasn’t familiar with. I loved the detailed descriptions of pastries and the scents of vanilla, sugar, and coffee.
The magical elements were enjoyable and reminded me of how much I enjoyed Roselle Lim’s previous book Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune. I was glad to see Vanessa take charge of her life by shedding the obligation of working in her family’s accounting firm and taking a chance to help her aunt in Paris where her true talent reveals itself in a magical way.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, 2020, Quirk Books
Short Synopsis: Set in the 1990’s housewives start a true-crime book club. Their friendships and beliefs are tested when a mysterious man moves to their peaceful neighborhood.
On the surface level, this is a horror story about a vampire inserting himself into the community and preying on children. There is also social commentary about the dynamics between women and their husbands and the disparities between the wealthy suburban neighborhood and the poor area of town. Sometimes it was hard to believe the book was set in the 1990’s instead of the 1950’s. Unfortunately, the story shed a light on how money can blind people and allow them to overlook any red flags in someone’s character. It also addressed the uncomfortable truth that there are people who are willing to ignore people who are in danger as long as their own families and properties are safe.
Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan, 2020, Knopf Publishing Group
Short Synopsis: Elizabeth reluctantly moves from Brooklyn to a small college town so her husband can pursue a new venture. As a new mother, Elizabeth relies heavily on Sam, the college senior she hires to care for her son.
Friends and Strangers has similarities to Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which I also gave a 5-star rating. Both stories explore the dynamic between in-home childcare providers and their employers and how lines become blurred when either party loses sight of the transactional nature of the relationship. Elizabeth leans on Sam far too much for friendship and emotional support.
Instead of racial tension, the social commentary in Friends and Strangers focuses on economic status. Sam comes from a middle-class family and is well-aware of the differences between herself, her well-off classmates, and the women she befriends while working in the dining hall kitchen. Elizabeth despises the way her father uses money to manipulate everyone in his life. She also witnesses her in-laws’ financial collapse when her father-in-law’s car service business becomes obsolete with the rise of ride-sharing apps and as a result he becomes obsessed with the demise of small businesses.
I really loved that the book was set in a college town and generally enjoy the way it captured certain aspects of the college experience: the fun of being surrounded by people of the same age, but also occasionally missing being in the comfort of a home with your parents or other “real adults”.
Sam’s character embodied the anxious feelings of a college student who doesn’t have her future plans set and who jumps to the false conclusion that adults who are settled into careers and families have it all figured out. She learns that Elizabeth’s life is not as perfect as it appears.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, 2014, Harper Collins
Short Synopsis: A collection of essays critiquing society and pop-culture
This book was on my To-Read list for a while (probably since 2014) and I finally decided to read it. I was interested because I knew it would have references to pop-culture and the conflict the author felt in enjoying content that she knew was problematic (i.e. pop and rap hits, reality TV). I appreciated some of the chapters more than others based on whether or not I was familiar with the movie, book, or event she was discussing. Also, reading the book six years after it was published gave me a different perspective due to the many cultural movements that have happened since then including the #metoo and the downfall of Bill Cosby, the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, #oscarssowhite, and the year 2020 in general. Basically I wish that instead of reading the entire book in 2020 that I had read some of the essays in the form of magazine or online articles back in 2014 when they were more timely.
Have you read any good books lately? If you’ve read any of these books – tell me what you think!