Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai – An Unexpected, Emotional, and Charming Middle Grade About Family, Immigrating, Grief, and CAKE!

Text: pie in the sky by remy lai. image: a shorter asian boy with a short buzzcut holds a pie to his mouth, about to eat it. a taller boy with longer hair, looks at him at the corner of his eye.

This time when you visit the Pond, the air smells… sweet? You follow your nose, and find Xiaolong by an… an oven? (You’re sure it wasn’t there before!)

XL pieinsky 1.pngWhen you call out to her, she turns around holding a bowl in one hand and whisking vigorously with her other.

“Hello friend!” she greets. “I just read this amazing book, which included a recipe! Isn’t that amazing? So I decided to bake this cake for you so we had afternoon tea while we talked about it, but it’s taking a big longer than I thought.”

When you offer to help her, she magics you an apron – just so you won’t get your clothes all dirty! You follow her instructions – you sift the flour, you add the water, you crack the eggs over, and she even lets you add the colouring too!

An illustration of a rainbow cake on a plate.After the cake is done, you wait next to the oven, both you and Xiaolong giddy and excited for the cake to be finished. When the cake is finally done, Xiaolong magics it out of the oven – so none of you will get burnt! – and she gives you a slice.

“Well, now that we all have some food to eat,” says Xiaolong, helping herself to a slice as well, “let me tell you about an amazing book that I read, friend. It’s called Pie in the Sky…”

Blurb:

When eleven-year-old Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao.

To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.

CW’s review:

I received a review copy from the author. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

When I discovered Pie in the Sky by chance and listed it as one of the books I was most excited to read in 2019, I had no idea – no idea – that I was about to read one of my favourite books ever. I say this with absolute honesty and with my whole heart: I thank all the stars in the sky, the fabric of the universe, and the chaos of life for aligning and allowing me to cross paths with Remy, the author of Pie in the Sky, who gave me an advanced reader’s copy of her incredible quiet book.

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Ruse by Cindy Pon – The Gang Returns For One More Heist; A Solid Sequel About The Prices We Pay and Resistance

Text: Ruse by Cindy Pon. Background image: Lingyi, an Asian girl with purple hair and glasses, under purple coloured light.
Blurb:

Jason Zhou, his friends, and Daiyu are still recovering from the aftermath of bombing Jin Corp headquarters. But Jin, the ruthless billionaire and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood. When Lingyi goes to Shanghai to help Jany Tsai, a childhood acquaintance in trouble, she doesn’t expect Jin to be involved. And when Jin has Jany murdered and steals the tech she had refused to sell him, Lingyi is the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life in jeopardy.

Zhou doesn’t hesitate to fly to China to help Iris find Lingyi, even though he’s been estranged from his friends for months. But when Iris tells him he can’t tell Daiyu or trust her, he balks. The reunited group play a treacherous cat and mouse game in the labyrinthine streets of Shanghai, determined on taking back what Jin had stolen.

When Daiyu appears in Shanghai, Zhou is uncertain if it’s to confront him or in support of her father. Jin has proudly announced Daiyu will be by his side for the opening ceremony of Jin Tower, his first “vertical city.” And as hard as Zhou and his friends fight, Jin always gains the upper hand. Is this a game they can survive, much less win?

CW’s review:

Note: The following review contains minor spoilers to the first book of the duology, Want.

I can’t believe it’s been two years since Want, one of my favourite books of 2017, and it was absolutely worth the wait. Ruse by Cindy Pon is the sequel to Want, a YA science-fiction set in futuristic Taipei about taking down corruption corporations and tackling environmental issues before they are too late. Now in Shanghai, China, Ruse follows Jason Zhou and the gang as they work together once more to pull off another heist. 

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A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua – On Reading the Right Book at the Right Time

Text: A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua.
Blurb:

Holed up with other mothers-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory and fell in love with the married owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. To ensure that his child—his first son—has every advantage, Boss Yeung has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. As Scarlett awaits the baby’s arrival, she spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited, pregnant teenager who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend.

Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she goes on the run by hijacking a van—only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. The two flee to San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn’t know is that her baby’s father is not far behind her.

Joce’s review:

As a new mother and a first-generation Chinese immigrant living in the United States, I knew A River of Stars would strike a chord, but I could not have prepared myself for how deeply. I met Scarlett and Daisy, our two main characters, when they were pregnant. They suddenly go on the lam, desperately trying to piece together a full life for themselves and their babies. As they both have very little to no family in the USA, they create a found family, and I am honored to have witnessed it as a reader.

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Want by Cindy Pon – A Cornerstone of YA Sci-Fi: Great Discourse, Thrilling Action, and Characters You Will Love

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing a big glass helmet over her head as a cosplay of Jason Zhou from WANT by Cindy Pon.Xiaolong looks extremely excited today, though the big helmet she has over her head may have something to do with it.

“Hi friend!” she exclaims when she sees you, her voice slightly muffled. “Varian made this for me, especially since I read this book recently and loved it so much that I couldn’t stop talking about it.”

She pulls off the helmet, and shakes her head a little. “It was a little cramped inside there. My gills weren’t out and free. But that’s why I want you to read this book, friend! It’s important that we look after our environment, the thing that gives our magic life and power.”

She plops down, and holds a book out to you. “So, this book is called Want…

Text: Want by Cindy Pon. Image: An illustration of Jason Zhou, an Asian male, wearing a translucent helmet, with multi-coloured square lights reflecting on the helmet.
Blurb:

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

CW’s review:

Note: the following review is an edit and report of a review I wrote in my old book blog, Read Think Ponder.

It’s been two years since I read this book, and it’s still a book I think about often. Want has everything that you want in a science-fiction: powerful socio-political discourse about environmentalism and inequality, incredible characters, and is critical yet accessible. Set in the distant future, Want follows Jason Zhou and his friends who work together to bring down a corrupt organisation that perpetuates the inequality and poverty within Taipei. There are very few books that ever satisfy my sociologically-inclined and discoursing heart, but Want was such a book – and more.

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