Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

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The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan

Do you know how to play mahjong? I don’t, but I can tell you that The Joy Luck Club is structured similarly to the game, four parts with four chapters apiece to create sixteen interlocking stories. Granted, I only know that because I looked it up, but it’s a start, wouldn’t you say?

The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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The stories revolve around eight women: four Chinese mothers, and their four American(ised) daughters. These immigrant families all came, from their various points of origin, to San Francisco, where they met at the First Chinese Baptist Church. Suyuan Woo is the founding member of what they call The Joy Luck Club (for which the book gets its name). It’s a regular appointment to play mahjong, feast on good food, share stories and celebrate being alive (and, later, play the stockmarket).

In the first section, we learn that Suyuan Woo has sadly passed away, and her daughter Jing-Mei Woo is taking her place at the mahjong table. She was once the wife of an officer, forced to flee her Kweilin home during WWII and abandon her twin daughters along the way. The three other mothers in The Joy Luck Club have equally sad stories. They’re all around the same theme, too: life is hard, tradition is good (except when it sucks), and kids are ungrateful.

The only narrative propulsion throughout The Joy Luck Club, really, is Jing-Mei Woo’s attempt to find the twin daughters her mother was forced to abandon decades prior. The other ladies of the club had a letter confirming that they were alive and safe, but they don’t yet know that their mother is dead.

So, eight stories, for each of the eight women. It was hard to place the stories as you were reading them. Aside from the respective character’s name at the beginning of “their” chapter, I found myself relying heavily on context clues to work out when and where each story was taking place (and how it connected to the other stories in The Joy Luck Club, though I’ll happily admit that sometimes that thread eluded me).

I won’t pretend to be any kind of expert on China (or Chinese culture, Chinese language, Chinese tradition, the Chinese diaspora, Chinese medicine, or even Chinese food), so all I’m relying on is my gut feeling in saying this… but the stories in The Joy Luck Club felt OFF, in the way Tan depicted them. I struggle to put my finger on exactly why, but something about the characters and their lives on the page just didn’t feel authentic.

I read, after finishing the book, that although The Joy Luck Club sold well and was very popular with many readers, there were a number of critics who reproached Tan for perpetuating racist stereotypes about Chinese Americans. Frank Chin, one of the pioneers of Chinese American literature, attributed The Joy Luck Club‘s popularity to this pandering approach; according to him, depicting Chinese culture as “backwards, cruel, and misogynistic” guaranteed that the book would be received well by mainstream America. He also criticised Tan’s invention of Chinese “folk tales” for the book, calling them “Confucian culture as seen through the interchangeable Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese mix (depending which is the yellow enemy of the moment) of Hollywood”. Zing!

The mother/daughter relationships are well fleshed out, though – complex and multifaceted, an impression enhanced by the alternating generational accounts in the book’s structure. It’s a commendable representation of the search for identity and inherited trauma. Critics praised this aspect of The Joy Luck Club, with Nancy Willard saying: “Amy Tan’s special accomplishment in this novel is not her ability to show us how mothers and daughters hurt each other, but how they ultimately forgive each other.”

And, ultimately, I liked the philosophy of the club itself, the Joy Luck Club – making a space in one’s life to be deliberately, determinedly happy, even when the world is falling to shit. We could all use a bit of that, couldn’t we? Unfortunately, the titular club only really appears in the first couple of chapters of The Joy Luck Club; it’s barely mentioned after that.

All told, The Joy Luck Club wasn’t really what I was expecting. It was fine, I’m sure some find it deep and impactful, but it’s not one I’ll be thrusting into your hands or re-reading myself. In fact, I think reading the opening chapter as a short story by itself would make it much more powerful, so maybe give that a go instead.

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Joy Luck Club:

  • “This isn’t advice on how to raise children.” – Lok An
  • “The kindle version sucks. You can’t even burn it for warmth.” – NYAAH!
  • “This book is the absolutely worst ever. The Dr. Seuss books are better than this. Amy Tan needs to step up her game because this was a joke. Some of these stories makes no sense and you can tell that Amy Tan was high while making this book. Needs to be banned from every bookstore around the world including Antarctica and North Korea. The Bible is miles better than this s***.” – Hans Guzman
  • “If you don’t know any Asian American people, you will love this book.” – nico

This All Come Back Now – Mykaela Saunders

It’s thrilling to have the opportunity to read and review a world first (thank you UQP Books for the review copy!). This All Come Back Now is the very first collection of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander speculative fiction – written, curated, edited, and designed from top to bottom by First Nations people. How cool is that?

The collection’s curator and editor, Mykaela Saunders, offers an illuminating Overture at the outset. She makes clear that it’s important we correctly hierarchise the labels we apply to this collection of work: they are First Nations stories first, stories that center and celebrate First Nations culture, community, and country, using spec-fic literary techniques and tropes.

I was thrilled to see that This All Come Back Now included work from some of my favourite local writers – including Evelyn Araluen and Alison Whittaker – as well as a bunch of new-to-me names. I was truly captivated by Ellen Van Neerven’s Water, and I found Adam Thompson’s Your Own Aboriginie brilliantly unsettling in the lead-up to the federal election. As with so many of the stories in this collection, it wasn’t far enough beyond the pale for comfort.

I’m sure other reviewers will provide an excellent run-down of the trigger warnings (racism, obviously, and violence, mental illness, etc), but I selfishly wanted to add my own traditional heads-up regarding the death of a dog in John Morrisey’s Five Minutes (it’s an excellent story, a highlight of the collection, but it helps to know what’s coming).

Ultimately, though, I think it’s important that you don’t rely on my (white) reading of This All Come Back Now. Listen to First Nations readers when they share their thoughts, and read it for yourself to learn and understand. This carefully curated collection is, of course, by and for First Nations people, but it’s required reading for all who live in the colony.

Timely reminder: Keeping Up With The Penguins is a project undertaken on the lands of the Gadigal people, of the Eora nation.

23 Fun Romantic Comedy Books

I don’t know if it’s the state of the world, or a side-effect of binge watching Bridgerton, maybe an over-correction after reading American Psycho, but lately I’ve been really into reading FUN romantic comedy books. I’m here for the tropey classics – enemies-to-lovers, fake-dating, love triangles – and the more subversive recent releases that throw the rule-book out the window. Just in case you’re in the same mood, looking for some JOY in your reading or something DELIGHTFUL to take to the beach this summer, here’s a list of fun romantic comedy books guaranteed to make you believe in a happily ever after.

23 Fun Romantic Comedy Books - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Here’s something fun: if you buy any of these books through an affiliate link on this page, I’ll earn a small commission.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

As the title suggests, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine… if your definition of “completely fine” includes a lot of vodka and frozen pizza. Her social skills lack polish (to put it mildly), so she finds it easiest to stick to a regimented life of work and alone-time. Everything changes when Eleanor winds up in the path of Raymond, the bumbling-but-big-hearted IT guy who shows her that maybe she can aim for more in life than just “fine”. This is one of those oddball-meets-oddball romantic comedy books that will stay with you.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Anita Loos - Books Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

It’s a travesty that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – one of the most wonderful, hilarious, and insightful romantic comedy books of the 20th century – lives under the inconceivably large shadow cast by The Great Gatsby, simply for being published in the Jazz Age. It’s premised on beautiful blonde Lorelei Lee deciding to try her hand at writing a diary, because a gentleman friend suggests that her thoughts would make for an interesting book. She flits from man to man and from party to party, picking up jewellery and dropping amazing one-liners everywhere she goes. Forget about Fitzgerald’s whining bummer of a book, and pick up this charming, glitzy romp instead. Read my full review of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes here.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less - Andrew Sean Greer - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Arthur Less worries that he is “the first homosexual to ever grow old”. At the beginning of Less, he finds himself suddenly single, and the recipient of a cordial invitation to his ex’s wedding (to a more age-appropriate partner). Arthur can’t RSVP “no” to the nuptials and admit defeat, but he couldn’t possibly attend either, especially with his own 50th birthday looming… so, he proceeds to accept every half-baked invitation he’s received to literary events around the world, forcing him to RSVP his regrets. This is one of those rare romantic comedy books that has achieved critical acclaim, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. Read my full review of Less here.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All The Boys I've Loved Before - Jenny Han - Keeping Up With The Penguins

For the first in a series of young adult romantic comedy books, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before has a spine-chilling premise. Lara Jean has written a letter to every boy she’s ever loved (five total), letters that were supposed to be for her eyes only… until one day, under mysterious circumstances, the letters are mailed to the boys in question. It’s every teen girl’s worst nightmare; even now, slightly (ahem!) past my teenage years, I shudder at the thought. But don’t let that put you off! It sets the stage for a thoroughly delightful read. Read my full review of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before here.

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day - David Nicholls - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The best romantic comedy books can make you laugh AND cry. One Day is a lifelong love story, with a twist. Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley meet on 15 July 1988 and after just one day together, they can’t stop thinking about one another. The story then offers us a snapshot of their relationship and their lives on that day, 15 July, each year for the following two decades. They fight, they laugh, they cry, they drift apart, they come back together. Nicholls waits until the very end to reveal the true significance of this one day in their lives, and it will hit you like a punch.

Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride And Prejudice - Jane Austen - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Pride And Prejudice is the granddaddy of fun romantic comedy books. When you’re picking books to take to the beach, or light reads to cheer you up, you probably won’t reach for this classic of English literature – but that’s a mistake. Austen’s most beloved novel has it all! Enemies-to-lovers, witty repartee, interfering families, salacious scandal… in fact, P&P is the reason that a lot of these tropes for romantic comedy books exist today. If you’re not convinced, try the audiobook rather than the paper-and-ink version. A lot of the comedy seems to resonate better when read aloud. Read my full review of Pride And Prejudice here.

Losing The Plot by Elizabeth Coleman

Losing The Plot - Elizabeth Coleman - Keeping Up With The Penguins

In a delightfully meta twist, Losing The Plot is a fun romantic comedy book about writing fun romantic comedy books. Who’d-a-thunk-it? As a child, Vanessa dreamed of writing romance novels, but somehow she wound up a 30-something dental hygienist lamenting the end of her marriage. When she finally picks up a pen to make her childhood dream come true, it quickly turns into a nightmare – a celebrity author steals her story, and she finds herself caught between two leading men in the legal battle to protect herself.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient - Helen Hoang - Keeping Up With The Penguins

It’s particularly awesome when fun romantic comedy books can weave in representation of groups that normally don’t appear front-and-centre in romance stories. In The Kiss Quotient, the main character is an Asian-American autistic woman. Stella loves maths and numbers, but she struggles with people and relationships. As a last-ditch effort to secure a husband (to make her mother happy), she hires a gorgeous escort as an intimacy coach of sorts, hoping that she can brush up on the skills she fears she lacks. When sparks fly between them, however, she’s forced to concede that something just doesn’t add up. Read my full review of The Kiss Quotient here.

The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Appelhans

The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you’re looking for romantic comedy books that word nerds of all ages can enjoy, look no further than The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project. The whole premise is a literary critique: Riley is a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, a sub-type of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. He lives in TropeTown where he hangs out with all the other trope characters until they’re summoned by an author for a role in a book. Riley has been breaking the rules, though, and going off script, so he’s forced into therapy with the other defective manic pixies. The parody, of course, could not be complete without a love story, a mystery, and lots and lots of wacky adventures. Read my full review of The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project here.

Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam

Happy Endings - Thien-Kim Lam - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Romantic comedy books don’t come sexier or zanier than Thien-Kim Lam’s debut, Happy Endings. In this story about second chances, Trixie Nguyen has chosen the – shall we say – non-traditional career of establishing a sex toy business, much to the chagrin of her Vietnamese parents. Her first Washington DC pop-up store is going well, until she spots her restaurateur ex. Who dumped her. On a POST-IT. Despite that rocky end, their chemistry still sizzles, and they realise that both of their businesses could benefit from teaming up. Will they be able to satisfy their hungry and horny clientele, or will the drama between them get in the way?

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

The Charm Offensive - Alison Cochrun - Keeping Up With The Penguins

TV dating shows are natural settings for romantic comedy books. There’s all the drama, the high stakes, the foibles, the gossip… In The Charm Offensive, tech wunderkind Charlie is desperate to rehabilitate his image after a humiliating stuff-up, so he reluctantly agrees to star in Ever After. Dev Deshpande is the most successful producer in the reality show’s history, but even he struggles to make the awkward new star work in front of the cameras. Behind the scenes, though, sparks are flying between Dev and Charlie, which spells bad news for the twenty women who have lined up to win Charlie’s heart on screen.

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget-Joness-Diary-Helen-Fielding-Book-Laid-on-Wooden-Table-Keeping-Up-With-The-Penguins

If you’re after classic romantic comedy books but don’t want to be thrown ALL the way back in time, you need to pick up Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’ll give you all the warm and fuzzy late ’80s/early ’90s nostalgia, with an adorkable protagonist and two intriguing leading men to boot. It’s Helen Fielding’s take on the classic love story of Pride And Prejudice, but she gives it a contemporary flavour with some extra zing. If you’ve ever been single, and a bit of a mess, you’ll find Bridget Jones’s diary entries all too relatable.

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Well Met - Jen DeLuca - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Emily knew that life would be different in the small town of Willow Creek, but even she couldn’t foresee being roped into volunteering at the local Renaissance Faire. Still, she’s happy enough to go with the flow. The irritating and persnickety Faire co-ordinator, Simon, is a pain in her arse… until they’re in costume on the grounds, and then it’s all flirtation and fun. Well Met is one of those fun romantic comedy books that goes strong on quirk, and the result is fabulous. Plus, it’ll help you answer the age-old question: is all really fair in love and war?

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flat Share - Beth O'Leary - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Tiffy and Leon have never met – despite the fact that they share an apartment. It sounds weird, but it’s not really (or so they’ll have you believe). On a tight budget, they use the apartment at opposite times of day. Leon is only ever there while Tiffy’s at the office, she’s only ever there while he’s on the night shift. They start leaving one another notes – whose turn it is to put the garbage out, whether the toilet seat should be left up or down – and slowly they get to know each other better. You can see where this is going, right? The Flatshare is a romantic comedy book about an unlikely, unconventional living arrangement that turns into a love story.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop - Casey McQuiston - Keeping Up With The Penguins

One Last Stop is, quite frankly, one of the most delightful romantic comedy books I’ve read in years – and it has a time travel element, and it’s queer! The central character, August, is new to New York City, but she’s already got the cynicism down. That is, until she meets Jane – a beautiful stranger on a train, with a bewitching smile and a leather jacket. How was August to know that Jane had come unstuck in time, from her home in the 1970s, and falling in love with her would cause all kinds of trouble? It’s a snort-laugh funny adventure that will warm even the steeliest heart. Read my full review of One Last Stop here.

Star Crossed by Minnie Darke

Star Crossed - Minnie Drake - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Are our fates written in the stars? Nick certainly thinks so, he reads his horoscope religiously. A horoscope in a magazine that Justine just happens to write for. Can she re-write the fate he’ll find in the movements of constellations? Will a few strokes of her pen change what’s written in the stars for them? Star Crossed is a “bright, brilliant, joyful love story” that charts the ripple effects of a little astrological meddling. Even the most hardened cynic looking for romantic comedy books will find themselves charmed by this story about Aquarian optimism and Sagittarian conviction.

Loving Lizzie March by Susannah Hardy

Loving Lizzie March - Susannah Hardy - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Life is not exactly going to plan for Lizzie March. She thought she’d be a fashion designer, but she’s working in a call centre. She thought her boss was Mr Right, but “dropping by” his house (which her best friend called “stalking”) landed her in hospital… where Lizzie finds out she’s pregnant. Loving Lizzie March is one of those clever and subversive romantic comedy books that shows there might be more to figuring your shit out and getting your happily ever after than just finding Prince Charming. Read my full review of Loving Lizzie March here.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie - Candice Carty-Williams - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you found yourself wishing that Bridget Jones’s Diary was a little more diverse and a little more relatable, Queenie should be your first pick of the romantic comedy books to read next. Queenie Jenkins is caught between two cultures, her Jamaican heritage and her middle-class British life, and a messy break-up with her long-term (white) boyfriend doesn’t help things. She goes looking for comfort and affirmation in all the wrong places, and finds herself asking “all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her”.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion - Book Laid On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Don Tillman doesn’t have a lot of luck with women – but that’s not surprising. He’s distributing a questionnaire, a list of questions designed to help him find his “perfect mate”. Yikes! Rosie ticks none of the boxes – she’s constantly late, she’s a smoker, and she has a devil-may-care attitude that Don finds baffling – but he finds himself drawn to her nonetheless. The Rosie Project is one of the best-selling romantic comedy books that inverts the much-maligned Grease storyline. In this version, it’s the man who has to loosen up and get with the program to get the girl. Read my full review of The Rosie Project here.

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl - Rachel Lynn Solomon - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Weather Girl is the latest from the new queen of romantic comedy books, Rachel Lynn Solomon. Hot off the success of The Ex Talk, she’s released this beguiling story about a TV weather reporter who will resort to desperate measures to ensure harmony in her workplace. The plot is just the right level of ridiculous for a rom-com, the characters are well-developed and well-intentioned, and it has plenty of snort-laughs to offer. And, best of all, the sex scenes are both steamy and realistic!

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Heartburn - Nora Ephron - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Nora Ephron is probably best known for her classic romantic comedy films – think When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle, You’ve Got Mail – but her romantic comedy books are just as good! In Heartburn, cookbook writer Rachel Samstat is seven months pregnant when she finds out that her husband is in love with someone else. How’s that for timing? She loudly wishes him dead to anyone who’ll listen, but secretly she’s working on plans to win him back. When the conflict gets too much, there’s always food. This is a sinfully delicious story about misadventures in love, from the pen of a master.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Imagine thinking you’re dating a regular-old middle-class NYU professor, who invites you to a wedding to Singapore… where you find out his family is rich. Not just flies-first-class rich, but crazy rich. Flying first class is a step down when you’re used to chartering your own private plane! That’s the premise of Crazy Rich Asians, one of the most successful and beloved romantic comedy books of the past decade. Kevin Kwan offers a rare insight into the opulent, extravagant world of the ultra-rich Chinese and Singaporean set.

If The Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

If The Shoe Fits - Julie Murphy - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you’ve always had a soft spot for fairytales, but the problematic elements bother you, then you need to check out the Meant To Be romantic comedy books. The first in the series is If The Shoe Fits, a delightfully fresh take on the classic tale of Cinderella. Proudly plus-size design graduate Cindy needs a chance to launch her dream career designing shoes – and the very first opportunity that comes her way is a spot on the dating show, Before Midnight. In the blink of the eye, she’s a viral sensation and a body positivity role-model – and she can actually see herself falling for the show’s Prince Charming. Could this career launchpad make even her non-professional dreams come true?

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

14th century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta wrote: “Nowhere in the world are there to be found people richer than the Chinese”. It’s a fitting epigraph for Kevin Kwan’s debut novel Crazy Rich Asians, an outrageous over-the-top satirical novel about the very richest Chinese families, first published back in 2013.

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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Kwan has said that, in writing Crazy Rich Asians, he wanted to “introduce a contemporary Asia to a North American audience” – and try to bite back your jealousy when you hear that he loosely based the novel on his own upbringing in Singapore. While caring for his father (who sadly passed in 2010), Kwan began writing stories to preserve the memories they shared. Beginning with the chapter he called “Singapore Bible Study” (“an excuse [for attendees] to gossip and show off new jewellery”), he eventually developed the stories into a novel.

Crazy Rich Asians revolves around five central characters, though the full cast is huge. There’s a helpful family tree in the front to help you keep things straight, with hilarious footnotes (the footnotes continue throughout the novel, but sadly devolve into oddly patronising for-dummies translations of slang terms and descriptions of Asian cuisine).

Things kick off when Nicholas (Nick) Young, heir to the fortune of one of the wealthiest families in Asia, asks his ABC (American Born Chinese) girlfriend Rachel Chu to come to Singapore with him, to attend the wedding of the year. Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, Colin Khoo, is marrying fashion icon, Araminta Lee, and everyone’s going to be there.

Rachel has basically no idea about Nick’s family or wealth. As far as she knows, he’s a regular old middle-class NYU professor, like her. She crashes into this grand-wedding-cum-family-reunion completely unprepared.

Eleanor Young, Nick’s controlling mother, is one of the titular Crazy Rich Asians. She’s as obsessed with prestige and propriety as you’d expect a ridiculously wealthy matriarch to be. She’s terrified at the prospect that Nick might be serious about – might even marry – a girl no one knows, an American, from outside her close-knit circle of wealthy friends and families.

Eleanor hires a private investigator to learn more about Rachel’s past, hoping to use whatever she uncovers to prove to Nick that she’s not a suitable marriage prospect. Things backfire, in more ways than one.

And, as if that’s not enough, there are side plots galore. There’s Nick’s younger brother and his trampy soap-opera star girlfriend, who shows up to meet the family in a completely sheer outfit. There’s Nick’s cousin, who is baffled to discover that her seemingly-happy husband is receiving filthy text messages from a Hong Kong mistress. Colin’s wondering what the hell he’s got himself into with all these wedding shenanigans, and whether he can stomach the hoopla long enough to get Araminta down the aisle. And more!

Crazy Rich Asians is just as gossipy as Austen, with the same emphasis on class, lineage, and scandal. Of course, the volume is turned up to eleven, with jaw-dropping opulence in every aspect – designers, decor, and domestic help. In fact, Kwan has said that his editor asked that some off the more lavish details be cut from the story, as they weren’t “believable”; Kwan sent through links to news articles to prove that the families he’s writing about really do live this way. Truth is less believable than fiction, at least in this case.

It was fun to plunge into the glitzy world of the Youngs and the Leongs, but a couple of things held me back from enjoying Crazy Rich Asians as thoroughly as I would have liked. Firstly, the dialogue was quite stilted throughout, and tended to over-explain (I recall a similar issue when reading Kevin Kwan’s 2020 novel Sex And Vanity). Secondly, there was a shocking and unexpected scene about dog-fighting, which made my breath catch in my throat. Thankfully, it was called out by characters in-text, but it still felt really jarring. I skipped my eyes over a page or two, and went back to the glitzy fun I came for. (Oh, and another trigger warning, there’s a fairly detailed description of a pretty awful domestic abuse situation towards the end.)

Still, despite those issues, I can see why Crazy Rich Asians went gangbusters and became an international best-seller. Kwan capitalised on the momentum and released two sequels: China Rich Girlfriend in 2015, and Rich People Problems in 2017. There was a film adaptation too, which was widely praised for its carefully curated aesthetic and Asian cast.

All told, if you’re looking for a book to take to the beach, Crazy Rich Asians is a very safe bet. Be prepared to weep the next time you check your own bank balance, though!

My favourite Amazon reviews of Crazy Rich Asians:

  • “I would recommend this book to people who like flat characters, unrealistic dialogue, a love story with no spark, and a predictable ending.” – doodlenoodle
  • “if I could get the time back I spent reading this book I’d use it to watch paint dry, I’d enjoy that more.” – IL
  • “I get it. They’re crazy rich. Not enough character development.” – ST
  • “if you actually loved this book and found it funny and entertaining, then you must be as dumb as a bag of rocks. I’m no member of Mensa, but I can see that this book was written for the un-intellectual masses instead of people who actually enjoy fiction.” – RWK88205
  • “Regardless of the word “rich” in the title, this novel is poor, poor, poor.” – Margaret Grant

Weather Girl – Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl - Rachel Lynn Solomon - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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For most of us, a rainy day is an inconvenience. No chance of dry laundry or a decent hairstyle. But weather girl Ari Abrams loves rain, storms, snow – any and all weather systems are fascinating to her. Unfortunately, her job as a TV meteorologist isn’t quite working out as she’d hoped.

She just can’t seem to get her boss’s attention, let alone any productive mentoring. Terrance is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the news director Seth. Ari is still licking the wounds of her own broken engagement, and ready to write off any hopes of progressing in her career… until a disastrous workplace party introduces her to Russell, the cute but reticent sports reporter.

Russell is frustrated by the workplace sniping between Seth and Torrance, too. And he has a plan. He and Ari are going to get their bosses back together.

Weather Girl is the brilliant new romantic comedy from Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of the blockbuster best-seller The Ex Talk. The wonderful folks at Penguin Random House Australia were kind enough to send me a copy for review.

I inhaled Weather Girl in one sitting. The plot is just the right level of ridiculous for a rom-com, the characters are well-developed and well-intentioned, and it has plenty of snort-laughs to offer.

Best of all, though, were the steamy and – this is key – realistic sex scenes! Honestly, I wanted to high-five Solomon through the page. For once, rom-com characters experience the actual awkwardness and anxiety of intimacy with someone new, without it ruining the vibe. Weather Girl gets five stars for that alone.

And one other lovely touch: a letter from the author in the front pages, gently explaining the novel’s trigger warnings (clinical depression and mental health struggles are a major plot point), and offering resources for those who need them.

Solomon really nailed this one, she’s a must-buy-must-read-immediately author for me now!

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