Island Time by Georgia Clark // Book Review

Island Time by Georgia Clark // Book Review

I’m always excited to read what Georgia Clark has to offer. Her books have always been interesting with a blend of fun, engaging story and serious conversations. You get a little bit of both worlds with Georgia Clark’s books and I’m excited to say that Island Time is no exception. Thanks to Atria Books for the gifted read.

Here’s more about Island Time

Love is in the salty sea air in this smart and steamy ensemble romantic comedy set in a tropical paradise, from the author of the “sparkly and entertaining” (Oprah Daily) It Had to Be You. This is one island you won’t want to be rescued from.

The Kellys are messy, loud, loving Australians. The Lees are sophisticated, aloof, buttoned-up Americans. They have nothing in common…except for the fact that their daughters are married. When a nearby volcano erupts during their short vacation to a remote tropical island off the coast of Queensland, the two families find themselves stranded together for six weeks.

With only two island employees making up the rest of their party, everyone is forced to question what—or who—they really want. Island Time is a sumptuous summer read that dives deep into queer romance, family secrets, ambition, parenthood, and a bird-chasing bromance. This sexy, sun-soaked paradise of white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush rainforest will show you it’s never too late to change your destiny.

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My thoughts

I went into this book thinking it would be a departure from Georgia Clark’s normal repartee of stories. It’s supposed to be a rom-com about two families who are literally stranded on an island together. The Lees and the Kellys were two imperfect families come together through their daughters’ marriage and hoping to celebrate the next phase of their life. But it was obvious after the freak tsunami/earthquake/volcano eruption that there was much more going on beneath the surface of both of these families.

The driving force of this novel were its characters and there were a ton of them. Not only did you have Matty and Parker making their final decisions on moving to Sydney from New York, but you also had Matty’s younger sister, Amelia, and her parents, Glen and Jules. Then you had Parker’s mother and father, Ludmila and Randall, who also had their fair share of secrets and character development to run into throughout the story. Plus, the island’s caretaker, Liss, who wanted to escape her life (and her ex, Sofia) in Montreal and Jarrah, a local man who loved to immerse himself in the Aboriginal culture and world that he was born into. Yep, it’s a lot of folks and I think the only person who really didn’t have any change or development was Randall, Parker’s father.

Everyone else, well, they had their own thing going on. From both Matty and Parker’s careers on the brink of a huge change to their decision to have a child to Jules and Glen’s separation they haven’t told their daughters. Then there was Ludmila who’s change I personally didn’t see coming and was pleasantly surprised by. And Glen trying to find himself while Jules trying to get laid by Jarrah. And then Amelia and her recent run-in with Liss. There was a lot of ground to cover, which definitely added to the bulk of this novel.

On top of what’s happening in everyone’s lives, there was also a deep examination on Australian nature and ecosystem. I loved this part because I know little to nothing about Australia and learning more about the culture (both naturally and the history of the Aboriginals) through a digestible package like a contemporary story made me want to visit. I don’t want to encounter any spiders the size of a dinner plate, but the way the author incorporated the pieces of her homeland into the story made it feel like such a love letter.

I think one of the benefits of Georgia Clark’s writing is that she covers everything. She will get into making the decision to have a baby with every single emotion and thought that goes into it. She will tell you the background of how Aboriginals were cast out by the English settlers. She will go through every nuanced emotion a young person may feel when they’re falling in love. She does not quit. But I felt like in this particular book, there was just too much. With each character having a unique experience and development to the island itself, there was a lot of information to juggle and a lot of loose ends that needed to be tied up. I think Georgia does a great job pacing herself to wrangle all of these bits of information together, but I also feel like if she stuck to a few topics rather than each character having some sort of identity crisis then it wouldn’t have felt like an undertaking of a story to complete.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the heck out of this novel. I loved the characters (especially Glen for some random reason), I loved rooting for them and following them through this very strange season of life, and I loved how they all made the best of their time stuck on a stranded island together. If you’re a fan of literary fiction with a slow burn, then I highly recommend this book to you.

Overall, this is the beach read for those who don’t like beach reads. The romance is very light with a couple of open-door scenes, but the main focus was this family, their identities, and who they will become after they get off this silly island.

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan // Book Review

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan // Book Review

Sex and Vanity seemed to have taken the lives of those crazy rich Asians we read about in his first series and brought them to American soil. But with the change in scenery, the story needed to change as well. What would a blue blooded Chinese American look like? How would the world react if there was one of us among them? Kevin Kwan definitely answers those questions in this new novel.

sex and vanityLucie Churchill was just invited to the wedding of the century. She alongside her cousin, Charlotte, jet off to Capri for a few days of bliss and topped with an extravagant wedding. They immerse themselves in the culture, basking in the beautiful coastlines of Italy while eating deliciously described foods. When she’s in Capri, she meets George Zao. For all intents and purposes, George sounds like the kind of guy you would most definitely catch and keep forever. A hottie with a 12-pack who loves surfing and the environment? He’s also got money and ambitions and loves art and appreciates beautiful music? He’s also putting others first? He loves his mother? Did I mention he was hot? I’m sorry, but if Lucie doesn’t want him, can I have him?

And at this point in the novel, Lucie most definitely doesn’t want him. After seeing how Charlotte reacts to George and his mother, Rosemary’s, behavior and then the fatal kiss between Lucie and George at the wedding, it’s no wonder that Lucie doesn’t want anything to do with George. Being with George would mean ridicule and torment for not only marrying into an eccentric family, but also marrying into a Chinese family.

Five years later, nothing’s changed. Lucie is engaged and ready to marry into one of the wealthiest families in America. Now that she’s engaged to a socialite, her priorities are changing as well. It’s planning her opulent wedding, renovating her multi-million dollar townhouse in New York with her fiance, and spending time with her mother and brother as these two families start to get to know each other.

But there’s no way to pull herself out of the attraction with George especially when George shows up everywhere she goes and their families start to get closer.

My thoughts

For the most part, this is most definitely a story about love, friendship, and family. The coastal scenes of Capri and even their vacation in East Hampton will definitely wish you were on vacation right now.

However, Kevin Kwan is super clever and he added a little something extra to make this story just as authentic as he could make it. He talks about racism. Lucie’s experiences with racism are so obvious that you can’t read this book without noticing them. Within 20 pages, you already have Charlotte introducing Lucie to some friends emphasizing how she’s half-Chinese and she’s related through her “American” father (despite her mother being born in Seattle). From that moment on, it was a series of microaggressions throughout the rest of the novel. As Kevin Kwan describe it, they’re like little paper cuts that sting every time you hear them. I think that’s the perfect metaphor for it and what you see over the course of this book.

I really loved Lucie. She was a brilliant artist who didn’t like to make a splash the way her fiance did. She was understated and that just made her shine. I loved the way she would light up when she spoke about art and when she heard her favorite piano concerto. I felt deeply for her when she recalls the day her dad died. However, Lucie kept a lot to herself and kept up appearances frequently. She most definitely hid away her feelings especially when faced with her family. She even suppressed with her fiance. There was a lot of hiding for Lucie especially when it came to outward appearances and how you look in front of others. I felt for her in those moments and know that life a little too well.

And Lucie gets it from everyone. From the wealthy family friend who asks if she sides with her Chinese side or her American side more to the Filipino sisters who asks her specific ethnicity (if you didn’t know, there’s a lot of racism within the Asian countries) to see if she’s one of them. She gets it from her fiance who is always trying to “fix” her the same way her grandmother used to try and “fix” her as well. There’s even some internalized racism from her own mother that’s most definitely had an impact on her life. I found myself asking how do you navigate when the people you’re supposed to trust and love you unconditionally find fault because of your Asian heritage?

I did like the conversation Lucie and Charlotte have about her racism towards the end of the novel, but I also felt like Charlotte was gaslighting her a little bit. I don’t want to say that Charlotte didn’t learn anything or felt the embarrassment of being racist toward her own cousin, but I would have really liked to see Charlotte own up for her mistakes in the past. I also truly appreciated the conversation she has with her mother. It was good to finally hear her perspective in Lucie’s life, but honestly, I felt like these conversations should have unpacked more. Half of Lucie’s existence was hidden to avoid ridicule and distaste. I wonder why Kevin Kwan didn’t put more discussion around this.

I would have loved to see more of George and the discussion regarding racism with him. I know being born and raised in Hong Kong is a different experience than being born and raised in New York City, but I can imagine George struggling through some daily conversations with Westerners and Americans who don’t understand or appreciate the culture he came from. I wanted George and Lucie to have a much deeper conversations regarding it or any conversation outside of how they’re going to hide their feelings.

To be honest, this was the part that kind of annoyed me the most about this book; the relationship between George and Lucie. I feel like George would have brought insight or at least opened Lucie’s eyes a bit if their relationship was allowed to grow on the page. Much of their encounters are met with either sexual tension or just tension, which made their relationship questionable at the end. It didn’t necessarily need to be the main part of the story like a true romance, but I would have liked there to be more conversations between the two even if it was in the friendly sense.

The only other issue I had was the pacing. The entire book seemed to read quite laid back. It wasn’t necessarily slow, but there wasn’t a lot of events that would keep you turning the page (at least for me). But within the last 50 pages, everything picked up. Characters started acting out of character and my hopes for a bigger discussion on the racism components were truncated to a few simple paragraphs. It felt rushed and tidy, which made the ending less fun for me.

Overall, a great book that would start some interesting convos in book clubs. I might actually suggest this one for my own book club. I would love to chat with folks about this one!

I received a copy of this book from Doubleday for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.