By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
By Sarah Kuhn
The last few years have been nothing short of chaotic for Bea Tanaka, who’s made some questionable decisions and even almost went down the supervillain path. But with a new job hunting demons in Maui, she’s finally thriving.
But it’s all a lie. Bea is feeling lost and adrift. She and her boyfriend, Sam Fujikawa, are struggling to make the long-distance thing work, and it looks like she’s got some new powers she has to learn to control.
So when Christmas rolls around—Bea’s favorite time of year—and her family in San Francisco plans to visit her, Bea is more than a little excited. But they’re interrupted by otherworldly monsters and amidst the battle, Bea somehow gets transported back to San Francisco. So on top of trying to figure out her life, she’s got to find a way to get back to her reality, fight the demons, save the world, and have a Merry Christmas.
In this final installment of Kuhn’s Asian American superheroine series, we see how far Team Tanaka/Jupiter has come—and it’s beautiful. After starting out as the definition of dysfunctional, it’s been great as a longtime lover of the series to see how Bea, Evie, and Aveda Jupiter have grown.
Despite having super powers, they were all works in progress and we got to see that realistic progress with each book, as they worked to heal themselves and their relationships with each other.
I related to Bea quite a bit. While I don’t have the ability to control others with my mind, as a younger sister myself, I completely understood her woes of having a more “successful” older sibling. Kuhn does a great job of illustrating all of Bea’s insecurities and her “faking it” to prove to Evie and others that she’s doing great (I’ve definitely been there). This has been one of my favorite things about this entire series. When you take away the superheroine elements, these are all strong Asian American women just trying to get through life, like the rest of us.
A Holly Jolly Diwali
By Sonya Lalli
At 29, Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. She became an analyst, despite her love for music and art. She stuck close to home for her family. And she went for guys who looked good on paper, but didn’t do much else for her.
Then Niki gets laid off and realizes practicality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So on a whim, she books a last-minute flight to India for her friend Diya’s wedding. When she arrives, it’s just in time to celebrate Diwali. Niki also meets Sameer Mukherji, a musician from London who’s also in town for the wedding. She’s immediately drawn to Sam—and the attraction is mutual. And when Niki and Sam join Diya and her new husband and their friends for a group honeymoon, the pair’s connection only grows.
Spending time with Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, as well as with her Indian roots. But then she gets a new job offer back home, and Niki needs to decide what she really wants out of her life.
“Diwali” is a fun romance with a strong protagonist. Niki is someone many readers can relate to: Being caught between doing what we want to do and what we think we should do. She’s spent almost her whole life choosing the latter and her life has been, well, not terrible, but not great either. It’s just been fine. So when she starts doing the things she wants, she sees how life can be—and it’s better than just “fine.”
In addition to the romance, it was fun to read a holiday romance that wasn’t about Christmas. As a romance lover, I appreciate seeing the subgenre branch out and introduce readers to a culture and holiday they maybe didn’t know much about before. I hadn’t known much about Diwali before this, and really enjoyed reading about the traditions here and seeing how people celebrate this holiday.
Holidays with the Wongs: The Complete Series
By Jackie Lau
Jackie Lau Books, 2020
Meet the Wong siblings: Nick, Greg, Zach, and Amber. Things might be going well for them in their careers, but much to their parents’ and grandparents’ chagrin, they’re all single. So when the holiday season comes around, the family elders take it upon themselves to remedy this.
What follows is a series of holiday hijinks as each of the four siblings have to deal with their meddling relatives (or try to avoid them) while falling in love in the process (said relatives’ plans all along).
Nick falls for a former one-night stand who was actually set up with Greg during Thanksgiving. Greg gets caught in a snowstorm with his high school sweetheart at Christmas. Zach tries to beat his parents to the punch and ropes his best friend into being his fake girlfriend during Chinese New Year. And finally, when Amber starts spending time with a new guy around Valentine’s Day, she keeps it from her family, for fear of their interfering.
“The Wongs” is an anthology of short romance stories filled with many tried-and-true romantic tropes (thankfully, not including a love triangle, my least favorite). From second chance romances and one bed, to fake relationships and friends with benefits, Lau does a great job of showing the characters’ journeys to happily ever after.
As with all romances, we as readers know the characters are going to wind up together. The fun is seeing how they get there—and with the Wongs, the “how” will have you laughing out loud. Lau has always been great at writing nosy, interfering (but loving!) Asian parents and grandparents, who are often a big part of the laughs in her stories and this is no exception. It was fun to see how the Wong siblings dealt with what their relatives get them into and overcome everything in the name of love.
Samantha can be reached at email@example.com.