Music Monday 1.18: It’s raining outside…

This meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You pick a song you really like and share it on, you guessed it, Monday.

BTS has repeatedly asserted their dominance at an international level and as a long time KPOP fan, I’ve been ecstatic. Lee Sora’s “Song Request” was released in January in 2019 and features Suga, who is also credited for writing and composing.

Here is a link to the lyrics including the romanization, translation, and hangul from ColorCodedLyrics. The song itself makes me nostalgic and exudes feelings of grief and longing, perfect for those gray and cloudy days…like those in fall or winter, right? Lee is listening to the radio to keep her company, requesting songs to help her deal with feelings. Here are books that made me smile and those that made me cry. Anyone else remember waiting for the radio to play your favorite songs?

In case you needed it, here’s a 1-hour loop.

BOOKS THAT MADE ME SMILE

Hey, DJ, play me a song to make me smile
on nights when my heart is sad
there’s a song that will laugh for me

Quirky with lots of Heart
Pippa Grant is hilarious and when I think about books that made me laugh she’s the first author I think of. There’s so much absurdity but they’re so entertaining.
You can also read my mini-review here.

Lots of laughing out loud
I couldn’t stop myself from laughing when I read this. Melody Joo is hilarious. She has a good sense of humor and sticks up for herself but it’s her interactions with her parents that I was continually laughing at. You can also read my review here.

BOOKS THAT MADE ME CRY

“hey, DJ, play me a song to make me cry
on night when my heart is frustrated
there’s a song that will laugh for me”

I can be emotional. The good, the bad, the sad. If it hits me in the chest, I may need tissues. Sleeper is a romance with an HEA but I nearly flatlined when I read this:

“…I could do a million takes and never feel like I got it just right. Because I didn’t get to be her first. Because she wasn’t my first. But if I can be her best and last, I might come close to showing her that it’s the first time that anything I’ve ever done with a woman has ever felt this good and real.

(Mini Review here)

So We Meet Again (2021)

by Suzanne Park
ASIN/ISBN: 9780062990716
Publication: August 3, 2021

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Repeatedly passed over for promotions despite her hard work and now finally terminated due to downsizing, Jessie/Jess Kim returns home to figure out her next steps. It doesn’t help that she bumps into boy wonder Daniel Choi, who she was always compared to while growing up. The only difference now is that he’s no longer the bowl cut wearing PK or pastor’s kid, but successful and very good-looking. Although long-time rivals in life and Daniel remains rather snobby, he ends up being a helpful presence as Jess and umma’s cooking show starts taking off.

The blurb of a book can often affect our expectations. In this case, I was expecting something a bit different from what I read. I was focused on the cooking show Jess eventually develops with her mom and also on her high school rival and frenemy Daniel because the description primed me to focus on these two aspects. When I didn’t get a lot of the cooking show as highlighted, I was disappointed. It takes about a quarter of the book for the cooking show to appear. When it does, there aren’t as many streams with umma and appa as I wish there had been, which would have helped support the fact that Jess’s success starts rolling in pretty quickly. She goes from live streaming to career-defining deals in what feels like a matter of pages.

I was also disappointed by the blurb’s spoilery information about Daniel, which I won’t mention because it’s a spoiler and also because I believe the description has since changed in some outlets but not in others. The setup sounded like it would be a pivotal part of the book, and it sort of is in some aspects, but it makes up only a small portion of the book. The emphasis should have been on Jess trying to find her place after losing a job that finally solidified her as being a success. Her outlook on her career became framed by the perspective of a company that didn’t know how to value someone like her–apparently, being hardworking and committed to the job is frowned upon. She spends much of the time figuring out how to start over. This would have better prepared me for the book. For those who have yet to read the book, the current description on retail sites leaves out this information, so I think you’ll have a slightly better experience than I did.

Although I had a different set of expectations for the book, there’s still a lot to like in So We Meet Again. Park’s signature humor is present. I loved the family dynamics, the emphasis on career aspirations, and the experiences highlighted because I can identify with many of them. A 50-lb or 100-lb bag of rice on sale is a big thing! I rush over when I know it’s on sale. Additionally, it’s a story that is easily relatable if you’ve ever been compared to other kids growing up. Unfortunately, similar to Sunny Song Will Never Be FamousSo We Meet Again is a good story that ends just as it’s only about to get better.

Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous (2021)

by Suzanne Park
ASIN/ISBN: 9781728209424
Publication: June 1, 2021

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Sunny Song spends an inordinate amount of time on social media and her phone. With nearly 100K followers, content creation is high on her list of things to do this summer. However, her plans go astray when a cooking video goes viral. Sunny must either attend a digital detox camp or face expulsion from school so she’s shipped off to a farm camp in Iowa. 

Suzanne Park proves once again why I immediately add her books onto my TBR as soon as they’re announced. She’s able to create relatable characters and provide insight into current problems related to the digital age all while making me laugh along the way.

Sunny Song is the average tech-savvy teenager and generally doesn’t seem to cause her parents much grief except she’s always on her phone, often leading her to tune out those around her. I think many of us can relate to paying too much attention to our phones that we unintentionally shut out those around us. She’s also a social media influencer with a relatively large following. Smart and driven, she’s determined to increase her online influence even though she’s prohibited from having electronics at camp. This leads me to one of my favorite relationships in the book, Sunny and Maya. Although we don’t get to see much of Sunny’s best friend Maya, I absolutely loved their relationship. Maya is such an amazing friend and helps manage Sunny’s accounts and content while she’s away at camp. Only a true friend would be willing to do that and go the extra mile to mail you care packages with your crush’s picture. The other relationship I enjoyed was with Sunny and Theo. It was cute how sweet on each other they were. It wasn’t instant love but a month-long attraction and I liked it. It played out somewhat realistically. She definitely received extra special attention from Theo.

As much as I liked Sunny, I was more invested in the problem addressed in the book. The focus on social media and reliance on digital devices is especially poignant as social media is now an integral part of our lives. Many kids grow up wanting to become the next social media star as opposed to more traditional occupations. Of course, this growing dependency on electronics and social media isn’t just particular to kids and teens. Adults also face similar struggles. Park never comes off preachy even though she uses the characters to question the extent to which our lives revolve around electronics and social media. It even made me question how often I’m on social media and this blog! Gah! While Sunny is initially resistant when she arrives at the detox camp, she eventually begins to recognize how social media has influenced her behavior, both positively and negatively. Rather than completely writing off social media, Sunny’s experience at the camp suggests that a balance must be sought with a focus on understanding or remembering who we are outside of our social media persona. The focus on our identity beyond the one we present on social media was especially thought-provoking.

While the book touches on a complex subject, the novel remains relatively light as Sunny struggles with trying to get online and mainly focuses on the romance. I adored the book. I enjoy Park’s storytelling and her humor is always welcomed. I can always expect to laugh when I have one of her books is in my hands. As much as I liked the book, the ending felt rushed. Things were just getting good and then it has already going to be over. I was looking at the 75% mark wondering if there would be enough time for the story to wrap up. Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous is a solid read, and I greatly enjoyed it; however, I could have used another 50 pages to flesh out the events that happen at the end.

Loathe at First Sight (2020)

by Suzanne Park
ISBN: 9780062990693
Publication: August 18, 2020

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Melody Joo is a newly hired video game producer and finds herself in a toxic work environment, one that is both misogynistic and racist. This is in stark contrast to her prior workplace where her words alone garnered respect. To make matters worse, her new boss is also prone to tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

Under pressure from the company’s board, her boss ends up pitching a new game meant to cater to female gamers, and it gets easily approved. The problem is the game is an idea Melody only meant as a joke–male strippers saving the world with female warriors guiding them. This catapults Melody into an unexpected position, much to the chagrin of her colleagues who do not believe she’s earned the position. As lead, she is in charge of the game’s development, and she also has to prove to those inside and outside of the company that she is capable of completing the task before her. Of course, she has to juggle this with her growing attraction to a member of her team–the new intern who is also the boss’ nephew–and trying to maintain a social life.

Loathe at First Sight is set in an industry I have not typically seen in romance/women’s fiction novels. It gives us a glimpse of the gaming industry from the perspective of a female lead character who goes against classic stereotypes. Melody is an assertive Asian woman who is more soft than bone, likes food more than dieting, and is truly comfortable in her skin. She’s funny. She’s straight forward. She sticks up for herself when necessary. Being assertive can also have its downsides. Having to stick up for herself and having to push back when her abilities are called into question also means she doesn’t typically ask for help nearly as much as she could or should. (Is there room for character growth? Yes, there is.) Melody is a likable main character and easily kept me entertained.

While the book is entertaining, where it might trip up readers is in the romance department. The title suggests this is an enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy but the romance actually takes a back seat. This might explain why I felt the initial attraction to be a bit abrupt. She hated him one minute–their first interaction was not very good–and then from across the room she suddenly felt jealous. I didn’t expect that to occur but I guess that’s how feelings can be sometimes, and it might make sense for the enemies-to-lovers trope. I did eventually ease into the attraction, but it also never became a full-blown romance. Those expecting romance might be turned off by this aspect of the book.

One aspect of the attraction that I did appreciate was Melody being conscious of the positions they inhabited in the workplace. With Noah being an intern and part of her team, he is a subordinate and any kind of romantic relationship could be misconstrued as an abuse of power. While the book doesn’t dig deep into this, Melody often ponders this when she’s thinking about Noah. It wasn’t written off as unimportant, and caution isn’t necessarily thrown to the wind because Melody believes love conquers all. (I know…I am being a bit dramatic.) Just because she keeps thinking about the power differential doesn’t mean that the message is that you cannot have both a career and love. It’s that the decisions you make have repercussions so you have to be mindful of what you’re doing, especially as it relates to a potential workplace romance where power dynamics can play a role.

Even though the romance is not central to the story, the book and Melody are compelling enough to read it to the end. To be honest, I forgot about the romance until I was more than half-way through the book. I was immersed in Melody’s story, the story of a woman trying to navigate her way in an industry that doesn’t expect her to succeed. There might be a push for diversity and inclusion but the existing culture–at least at the company she works in–doesn’t take it seriously, refusing to embrace the need for change. (See? Still completely interesting even without the romance in play.) It could even be viewed as an underdog story about how Melody is going to do such a great job that she changes the minds of those she works with that women kick ass, even in the gaming industry. She might be able to do that. It certainly is possible. You’ll have to read to find out.

Initially, I didn’t think the title was fitting because the romance was not central to the story, but I think it’s possible to reframe the title differently. Sure, it was likely meant as a play on the romance but with the romance relegated to the background, the title presents itself as a reflection of what Melody is experiencing in the workplace. She is a new hire and the initial disrespect she receives is not because of a lack of experience or talent, but her colleagues appear to loathe her on first sight for simply being female. But, first impressions aren’t always what they’re cracked out to be so things can get better in the six months she has to develop the game. Loathing at first sight might grow into respect in the workplace.

FURTHER REFLECTIONS

Melody’s parents and her interactions with them are the highlights of the novel. Her parents are utilized as comedic relief, and they hit the mark every time. It’s certainly possible to see her parents as unpleasant and rude, but I was able to enjoy this largely because I saw Melody’s mom as nearly a reflection of my mom. I love my mom to death but some of the things she says make me want to slam my head against the wall. WHY???? Comments about double chins, the insistence on eating but not too much, and then Melody’s mom constantly hanging up the phone because she is done talking while Melody is left in the middle of a sentence are all things that have made multiple appearances in my conversations with my mom. Like Melody, it’s the understanding that moms/parents generally mean well so you try not to let it get to you–key word is TRY. I have to admit that it is a bit pleasing to see others share my frustration. Misery does love company…even if it’s the company of a fictional character.

There are memes floating around out there that say Asian parents do not typically say, “I love you.” Instead, they ask, “Did you eat today?” It’s a generalization that might not accurately depict all Asian parents, but for me, this rings true. And, sometimes it can get confusing too! My mom would ask if I’d eaten but also remind me to not eat too much. Does this mean she loves me?? Or, does it mean she doesn’t love me?? Which is it??? Harharhar. Melody’s relationship with her parents very much reflects this. I loved it.

Overall, Loathe at First Sight is an enjoyable read. I was so busy enjoying myself I didn’t do much highlighting and reviewing like I usually do. There was something every few pages that would just set me off, and I would laugh despite myself. Although it is categorized as a romantic comedy, the romance is not central to the story. If readers are looking for a way to satisfy their enemies-to-lovers bias, they will be disappointed that Melody’s interactions with enemy Noah are scattered in bits throughout the book as opposed to being the main attraction. And, it never really develops into a romance. While that may be the initial draw, Melody’s story should be more than enough to push readers to finish the book. She’s assertive; she’s hard-working; she’s funny; she has the most entertaining parents. I enjoyed it so much, I purchased a physical copy.