Books and Fun #2: “Recommendation Station”

Hello!!! In the 2nd installment of the ‘Books and Fun’ series, I am going to be sharing an idea that sprung into my head a while back. This idea is obviously not original; It is inspired by BooksandLala’s video and DrinkingByMyShelf’s comment on her video. I highly recommend Booksand Lala’s video- her ideas are so creative! The booktuber, DrinkingByMyShelf mentioned that they visited, Mrs B’s Emporium, a shop in Bath. This shop offers a “Book Spa”. Through this “Book Spa”, an employee would recommend 20 books based on customer’s favourite books and the customer is allowed to take 4 home (prices included in the spa service)! Isn’t that cool?! Since I am not in the UK right now, I was wondering if they offered any online book recommendation services. Guess what! They do have one (I have linked it above!)

This is how the section appears (I have included my answers):

Yes, I was in a thriller mood XD

Based on my answers, these were the books recommended to me! I was ecstatic as 3 of the books were already on my “to-read” list and I discovered a new title as well.

I decided to do an “experiment” to see if these recommendations would be up to my liking. It is safe to say, I did end up enjoying all these books!! You could try out this service too 😀

The 1st book

Ever since I have heard of this book, I have been meaning to read it. Sadly, I kept forgetting to read it, so, when it was recommended, I was delighted!

In this book, we follow the perspective of a Chinese American family living in America in the 1970s, with the mother being white and father being chinese. The book starts off with the famous line that gripped my attention: Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

I was already wondering what could have possibly happened prior to her death and when the family would find out. The way that the mystery was handled was incredibly engaging. I was on edge, trying to guess what had happened to Lydia. The story is mired in grief, racism (both internalised and externalised), cheating, parents imposing their unfulfilled dreams and unrealistic expectations on their children and the feeling of loneliness. It was indeed a difficult read as some of the actions of the parents, Marilyn and James infuriated me. The familial relationships are very complicated, with them wanting the best for their children but failing to see how much they are hurting their children. The other children, Nathaniel and Hannah also had a estranged relationship with Lydia. After her death, they begin to question their relationship and what Lydia was facing.

As we delve deeper into the story, we discover that everything does not seem as happy as it is at first glance. This is very reminiscent of many family dynamics- it felt so visceral and raw. Racism also plays a huge part in the story as the Chinese were seen in a negative light in that period (even now). Being biracial, the children face discrimination from the rest- they are seen as the other, invisible. It made my blood boil. The exploration of privilege also comes into play.

This story is more than just a mystery. It is about wanting to be loved. It is about wanting to explore one’s dreams without the burden of familial expectations. I really enjoyed reading this book and I would highly recommend it especially if you like family thrillers. The only problem I have is one of the reveals- I just did not understand why it needed to happen.

The 2nd book

The Grace Year is unlike anything I have read before.

A great way to describe this book would be- Feminist Horror about girls fighting to the death to survive. I don’t think I would do the book justice by describing it so here’s the summary:

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

From this description alone, I was already hooked and I must say that the execution is well-done! I was constantly worried about the main characters and the other characters. We are mainly following the perspective, Tierney while she is in her Grace Year. Unlike the rest, she does not want to be married off to someone but instead, sent to the labour camps to help out. However, as the story progresses, everything goes south. While she is banished in a secluded area with the other girls, she discovers that everything is not as it seems. The state might be hiding something from the girls. She has to fight for her life to survive while figuring out the magic inside of her.

It is a disturbing and harrowing tale of survival so warning for gory content.

The only issue I had was the romance. I did not quite get behind it. It felt so rushed. Unfortunately, romance is not doing it for me lately 🙁

The 3rd book

We follow Pippa who decides to do an A level project on a cold case that had shaken up her town five years’ prior. I have never read anything like this before! She decides to do to find out what really happened to Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

Of course, as all mysteries go, there is an implication that Sal might be innocent. To get to the bottom of it, Pippa tries all sorts of tactics such as asking Sal’s friends, Andie’s friends, the police and Sal’s brother, Ravi. Along the way, she encounters a lot of obstacles which seemed realistic. However, I did not understand why some people gave up information so willingly. Certain things she discovered was also not tied up neatly into a bow like some mysteries tent to do. More often than not, many things seem to not connect together. As she delved deeper into the mystery, I found it more difficult to guess what really went down. This made my reading experience all the more thrilling.

I really liked Pippa and Ravi as characters. Pippa was really hardworking and smart. She used the resources available as much as she could. She did face difficulties along the way but her motive of finding justice for Sal and his family kept her going. I liked the dynamic between Pippa and Ravi too!

Apart from the cheesy and juvenile dialogue, I think it was an enjoyable mystery! I think I will check out the rest of the series but it’s not on my priority list.

The 4th book

I am not joking when I say that book is bizarre. Like real bizzare.

Imagine a social media app that can detect your emotions as soon as you attach something to your scalp. Yikes! I would not want that. Through this app called, “Heartstream”, people get famous off of streaming their emotions.

We follow two alternating perspectives, Amy and Cat. Amy had recently lost her mother to cancer. The story starts off with her streaming the grief she feels at her mother’s funeral. During the funeral, her “fans” show up to tell her how raw her emotions are, almost as if that is a compliment. From there, I was already feeling disturbed.

Then, it switches to Cat’s perspective. She and her friend, Evie attends a popular band’s concert. We figure out pretty early on that the band’s “fans” are obsessive fans (more like stans), alluding to cult-like behaviour. They have this strange obsession where they imagine two of the band members, Nick and Ryan are together. This reminds me of Fujoshis tbh lol. They are so obsessed to the point that they even write fanfiction about them. Now, this becomes a problem when Cat begins a secret relationship with the lead singer, Ryan.

It gets real twisty from there whereby Cat has to hide her relationship with Ryan or else, the fans might do something to her. Hell, she could not even trust Evie, her best friend. This puts a huge toll on her.

The thriller element was done pretty well in this as we are trying to find out what is going to happen to the two characters next.

I felt that this book had a very discussion on obsession, jealousy, human emotions and advancement of technology. It made me really think about what lengths humans can go to do certain things. I did find myself slugging through at some points but overall, it was really enjoyable. Unfortunately, the ending felt really abrupt and I did want the story to go in another direction.

If you are looking for a bizarre, disturbing thriller, this one is definitely for you!

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Thank you for reading this fun little post. I hope you enjoyed reading it and perhaps, added one of these books to your “to-read” list 😛 I highly recommend using the service if you are unsure of what to read next!

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