Welcome back to the bookish corner of Daisybutter.

I’ve really missed talking about books on this blog. Somehow they feel therapeutic to write and I like being able to note down the things that stood out to me the most from a story that I spent time with for days, weeks and sometimes months. I’m a huge sentimentalist, and I’ll find myself glancing at my shelves and remembering precisely where I was – and my exact headspace – of when I read a book.

Also, in exciting news, I started a little bookstagram on the first day of the year. It’s a little bit of a passion project at the moment; I’ve always enjoyed taking photos of a beautiful book. But it has certainly reinvigorated my love for connecting with people on Instagram. I can actually see posts from people I follow!! With that in mind, I also wanted to share my bookish thoughts on here again as I know you enjoy bookish posts.

Without further ado, let’s get stuck into January’s mini book reviews…

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Rating: ★★★★/5

My first read of 2022 and, my god, I definitely picked a good one! I started Miracle Creek by Angie Kim on New Year’s Day, and raced through this beautifully told mystery-crime-thriller hybrid. I can safely say Miracle Creek is a book thoroughly worth its hype in the community. The story begins in Miracle Creek; a family have migrated from South Korea, running a business that provides HBOT treatment, a controversial innovation that is said to improve several health problems. Then, the incident happens. A year on, we meet a lively cast of characters, each bound to the fire outbreak at the treatment centre. Poignant, thought-provoking, controversial and complex, this courtroom drama novel is an unbelievably powerful character study that unravels over just a matter of days. I found myself constantly flipping between who was and wasn’t guilty, and absolutely loved the backdrop of an immigrant family’s struggles. A complete page-turner that’ll stay with me for a long time.

Full review on my Goodreads.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: ★★★★★/5

After hearing so much about this book in recent months, I made it a priority to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo this year. And, who would’ve known? I finished it in just three short days at the start of the month. Taylor Jenkins Reid is fast becoming one of my favourite authors for her assured and adept way with words and masterful way of weaving a complex story together.

When reclusive, ageing Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo personally asks for unknown magazine writer Monique Grant to help her share her life story, it paves the way for several great stories to unspool. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo captures Evelyn Hugo’s at-once glamorous and scandalous life from the 1950s through to the ‘80s, baring everything from ‘ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love’.

Jenkins Reid has an uncanny way with world-building that completely spellbinds you. There are no filler passages in her writing, and the clever pacing of this book – divided by husband – keeps you hooked and turning the pages, eager to discover the next of Evelyn’s escapades. And somehow, hopeful love spills from every orifice of the novel. You truly empathise with Evelyn, our chaotic heroine, and every once in a while we’re reminded of Monique in present day, echoing ourself as the reader, placing fragments together for the (hopefully) big reveal.

I absolutely loved reading this book. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work is immersive and impactful. I already wish I could read this book again for the first time.

Full review on my Goodreads.

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Rating: ★★★★★/5

Welcome to the newest object of my obsession. Jade City is the first book of The Green Bone Saga, an East Asian-inspired urban fantasy trilogy. It’s also Fonda Lee’s debut in the fantasy genre.

Set in the bustling city of Janloon where two families control jade, the lifeblood of the city, Lee masterfully conjures an immersive world where rival clans command the lives of citizens. While the book certainly starts slow, Lee’s world-building technique cleverly flows alongside plot, creating a metropolis that’s so well-imagined I often found myself delving into Janloon in my everyday. And the fight scenes!! The fight scenes!

Jade City is ultimately a story about family, power, honour, grief and ambition, wonderfully told through a stylish city backdrop with definite Hong Kong gangster motifs and vivid action.

The author says she took some inspiration from Taiwan and Hong Kong when researching for The Green Bone Saga, and I can certainly see that. Little nuances of everyday East Asian life and culture are intricately woven into the story, only tightening the narrative. I loved the clever monopolisation of jade as a key player in the book too: as a child, I was given ‘lucky’ jade from birth and told all about its power and symbolism. Immediately after reading Jade City, I of course want to wear my baby-sized jade!

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Rating: ★★★/5

Books about books is one of my favourite genres, and I’d had Writers & Lovers on my TBR list for absolutely ages. It’s incredibly hyped by readers of all varieties, so I made it a priority to read it this month. However something didn’t quite ever click for me with this. I didn’t like the protagonist, Casey, and found the story to move a touch too slowly for my liking. That could be because the other books I was reading were faster-paced, but it’s a worthy observation nonetheless. A writer and endless, hopeless romantic myself, I found myself wanting a crescendo that I never got. What I did enjoy were King’s careful approaches to grief, illness, loss and relationships, the quiet romance, and the children.

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Rating: ★★★★★/5

My first reread of 2022! After seeing the play adaptation of The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage at the start of January, I was eager to revisit the book, having not read it since it was released.

The Book of Dust trilogy is a companion series for Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. It follows Lyra’s earliest days, and La Belle Sauvage is a prequel, detailing how Malcolm Polstead and his friend-nemesis Alice rescue a baby Lyra from The Great Flood. Pullman skilfully retains all of the original magic of His Dark Materials – one of my favourite series, growing up – and easily pulls you back into Lyra’s Oxford. I really love the descriptor, meandering manner of the first part of the novel which paints a scene within Lyra’s universe that you might’ve forgotten from the first time, and the animated adventure of the second half where The Great Flood occurs. My reread took only a handful of days and has certainly set me up ready for the third instalment… whenever that arrives!

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Rating: ★★★★.5/5

After completely falling in love with The Overstory, I knew I wanted to pick up more of Richard Powers’ books in the imminent future. Bewilderment is a beautifully moving nature-y science fiction novel, with astrobiologist Theo and his son Robin at the heart of its story.

The pair are simultaneously grieving their wife and mother, whilst taking stock of an ever-moving world that at once has everything and nothing. Given the science surroundings of Theo’s work, we see nine-year-old Robin go through a series of experimental brain ‘training’ and studies. It’s not clear whether this is to ‘fix’ Robin, and we’re never explicitly told how he is wonderfully neurodivergent, simply that he has a magnificent way of seeing the world. This becomes, really, the backbone of the story.

Throughout Bewilderment we’re offered a open-ended study on human nature, the environment, science, politics and familial relationships. In fact, it becomes more political from the halfway point and I somehow wish that had been the more explicit case from the start. It’s heartrending from start to finish, and incredibly moving. Beautiful dreamscapes painted of stars, planets, and every inch of nature will certainly stay with me forever.

There’s an immensely transportive nature to Bewilderment; Theo has created a program that allows people to virtually visit faraway planets. Powers’ precise yet visionary way with words makes you believe that you too are there, or could visit such captivating planets. A book I already can’t wait to recommend to friends, and read again soon.

You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes

Rating: ★★/5

I don’t often talk about the TV shows I watch on this blog, so you might not know that I’m a huge You fangirl. My boyfriend gifted me the trilogy a little while ago after we binged the series on Netflix (his first time, the third for me).

You Love Me is the third in the series, and sadly it isn’t great. What was once sparkling wit and hilarity imagined through Joe Goldberg’s internal monologue becomes slow, clunky and laborious in this tome. I can’t work out why, but I feel it could be because the style has been done to death (hoho) in this series. More dialogue might help to break it up, because the monologue fails to properly build suspense. I thought, too, that Kepnes is trying to give Joe more development here, but we’re three books in – we kiiiind of just want the chaos.

East Side Voices edited by Helena Lee

Rating: ★★.5/5

The final book I squeezed into January was East Side Voices, a compilation of essays celebrating East and South East Asian identity in the UK. (Fun fact: I pitched an almost-identical book in 2020, and it was passed up on because of a similar title in the works!)

I raced through this non-fiction in a handful of days. As a British-Chinese woman, I found it thoroughly relatable – endearingly so. It’s a beautiful contribution to Asian lit and the ESEA diaspora, and a book I’ll certainly cherish forever. For fellow ESEA friends, you need to read this. You’ll 100% feel seen in a way that’s not really been published before. And for our wonderful allies, you’ll discover a plethora of stories about how we’ve experience modern Britain thus far. Standouts for me include the essays by Amy Poon, Tuyen Do, Andrew Wong, Naomi Shimada, and Zing Tsjeng.

February 2022 To-Be-Read

  • The Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Olive by Emma Gannon
  • Jade War by Fonda Lee
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk

Which book stole your heart in January 2022? And, what are you reading next?

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