Month: February 2017

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Posted February 28, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 2 Comments


I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo BuchananHarmless Like You: A Novel by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on February 28th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Coming of Age, Asian American
Pages: 256
Format: Electronic ARC
Source: NetGalley
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four-stars

If she didn’t burn, she’d rot.

When Jay was only two years old, his mother walked out on him and his father. Thirty-three years later, he’s feeling the strong urge to flee after the birth of his own child. The death of his father forces him to confront the mother who has always been a mystery to him. Why would a mother abandon her child? Is Jay destined to abandon his own family?

Life would’ve been easier if she’d had a sister. If there’d been someone with whom living wasn’t an act of translation

1968-1983: Yuki is adrift. At sixteen-years-old, after years of being “Yucky Yuki,” she finally has a friend.  Unfortunately, her family is planning to return to Japan soon. She asks her parents to let her stay in New York with her new friend Odile and they agree, with very little pushback. Yuki was already lonely and depressed, but she loses her only anchor when her parents leave her behind. She can’t find a place where she belongs.  Living in New York for most of her life has made her too American for Japan, yet she is still too Japanese for the Americans. She desperately wants to be an artist but isn’t very talented. She floats through life, latching onto whoever shows her interest. She is highly susceptible to toxic relationships. Her friendship with Odile sparks fast, but burns out just as quickly. Yuki’s first boyfriend is abusive, but she can’t bring herself to leave; he’s the only person who’s exclusively hers and she can’t imagine anything better for herself. Even her one chance at a healthy relationship is a giant misstep, destined to fail from the beginning. The only time she feels alive is when she’s hurting.

When I was a kid, I used to ask Dad, was it my fault Mommy left? He always said she’d just been an unhappy person. My old psychiatrist said it was ridiculous to blame my two-year-old self. I believed her, until I had a baby of my own.

2016: As the son Yuki left behind, Jay has many unresolved issues. He’s unable to find his footing as a father. The pregnancy and birth of his child has altered his relationship with his wife and he feels a strong impulse to run. In addition to the stresses of becoming a father, his own father’s death has left him without a parent to turn to for support. However, his mother is still living. Jay’s father willed his home to Yuki, so Jay has to locate her to sign the paperwork. Jay is apprehensive about meeting the mother he doesn’t remember, but whose abandonment influenced his life. His biggest comfort is an ugly cat that he refuses to abandon despite his wife’s wishes. Will meeting his mother give him closure or confirm a genetic compulsion to run? 

Yuki suspected all men of having some measure of violence. Some clubbed you with silence, and some relied on their fists. Feeling [his] fury, she was relieved, no longer becalmed in false gentleness.

The chapters alternate between Yuki’s coming-of-age tale and Jay’s struggle to come to terms with his mother’s abandonment, until they finally meet in Yuki’s Berlin apartment. Harmless Like You is about home, belonging, identity, and the importance of family bonds. There are no explosive revelations, but the characters’ inner turmoil is fascinating. Yuki is so passive, but I was riveted by her story. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will see a sliver of themselves in Yuki. During my reading I was anxious to find out why Yuki ran away and if Jay would follow the same course, but most of all I was curious to see if Yuki ever found what she was looking for.

Someday, she might be able to hold these photographs up as a lasting record of herself. People would look at them and recognise not her flat face or limp hair, but her true self, the Yuki behind the pupils. The Yuki who was the see-er not the seen.

four-stars

Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Posted February 25, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 4 Comments
Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz

This book wasn’t what I expected at all! I really enjoyed the first third, but I was disinterested in the college drama and romantic escapades after that point. It became a story that I wouldn’t be interested in, regardless of the setting. If you’re looking for a story about college students navigating relationships during a […]

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez

Posted February 22, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 4 Comments
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez

3.5 Stars. Twelve macabre short stories set in Argentina. It’s very dark and disturbing. We all walk over bones in this city, it’s just a question of making holes deep enough to reach the buried dead. (No Flesh Over Our Bones) Tens of thousands of people were disappeared or killed from 1976 to 1983, when […]

Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa

Posted February 20, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa

A succinct guide to owning your creativity and overcoming negative thoughts. The ten chapters focus on a variety of common creative hurdles: finding inspiration, conquering self-doubt, ending the excuses, handling jealousy, dealing with critics, beginning again after failure, building a support system, and beating creative block. It’s filled with tips, anecdotes from professionals, exercises to spark […]

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Posted February 16, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Routine is comforting to you. It’s familiar, reassuring. Routine makes you feel safe. Routine will kill you. A new thriller from the author of the bestseller I Let You Go. What would you do if you discovered a photo of yourself being used to advertise a business that you’d never heard of? Zoe is flipping […]

Disaster Falls by Stéphane Gerson

Posted February 13, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
Disaster Falls by Stéphane Gerson

True horror can prove so quiet that one almost believes nothing is happening. A harrowing memoir about a father’s grief. During a white water rafting trip with his parents and brother, eight-year-old Owen drowned in an area of Green River known as Disaster Falls. There was no way to transport the family back to town, […]

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Posted February 10, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 2 Comments
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I had a complicated relationship with this book. The writing was exquisite and I was amazed at the brilliance of the author, but there were also long sections where I felt completely lost. The tide runs out but never runs in. The stones roll downhill but do not roll back up. What I’m about to […]

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Posted February 9, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

3.5 Stars. I read this at a very appropriate time because I’ve recently been getting the strange sensation that I’m living in the wrong timeline! 😉  I’m going to avoid specific details about the story’s path, but here’s a review summary for those who don’t want to know as little as possible: The tone is […]

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

Posted February 8, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments
Desperation Road  by Michael Farris Smith

Maben’s life has been plagued with bad relationships and addiction. She and her young daughter are making the long journey back to her hometown of McComb, Mississippi, in hopes of a second chance. Low on cash, Maben nearly slips back into old habits to make a few bucks. She stops herself at the last second, […]

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Posted February 3, 2017 by Taryn in Reviews / 2 Comments
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

How silly it is to assume that what we’re dealing with is not something that will, in turn, deal with us. Sharon and Mel met while attending the same art program in college and have worked together ever since. Ten years later, their careers have taken off with Nashville Combat, an animated feature based on […]