ARC Review: The Manicurist's Daughter by Susan Lieu

Title: The Manicurist's Daughter
Author: Susan Lieu
Source: Celadon
Format: Paperback ARC
Publisher: Celadon
Release date: March 12 2024

Goodreads    Celadon (Book Page)

Synopsis From Celadon
An emotionally raw memoir about the crumbling of the American Dream and a daughter of refugees who searches for answers after her mother dies during plastic surgery.

Susan Lieu has long been searching for answers. About her family’s past and about her own future. Refugees from the Vietnam War, Susan’s family escaped to California in the 1980s after five failed attempts. Upon arrival, Susan’s mother was their savvy, charismatic North Star, setting up two successful nail salons and orchestrating every success—until Susan was eleven. That year, her mother died from a botched tummy tuck. After the funeral, no one was ever allowed to talk about her or what had happened.

For the next twenty years, Susan navigated a series of cascading questions alone—why did the most perfect person in her life want to change her body? Why would no one tell her about her mother’s life in Vietnam? And how did this surgeon, who preyed on Vietnamese immigrants, go on operating after her mother’s death? Sifting through depositions, tracking down the surgeon’s family, and enlisting the help of spirit channelers, Susan uncovers the painful truth of her mother, herself, and the impossible ideal of beauty.

The Manicurist’s Daughter is much more than a memoir about grief, trauma, and body image. It is a story of fierce determination, strength in shared culture, and finding your place in the world.

What I thought:
I tend to like memoirs anyway, but I really liked The Manicurists Daughter by Susan Lieu. From the prologue (which I later realized was an excellent summary), to the writing that drew me in, I found this memoir to be an enjoyable read.

It's essentially Lieu's journey to get answers about her mother. And I want emphasize journey. For every vague lead, there seemed to be even more questions that needed to be addressed. Intertwined with this was also her process of eventually creating performances inspired by her quest. When she finally did get some answers, and things began falling in place, I could see how and where each chapter's contents connected. This not only led up to her performance of 140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother, but also the memoir's end. Which I might add, ends on a confident, understanding, and hopeful note.  There's probably a lot more I could mention but I think the synopsis does a well enough job showing what The Manicurist's Daughter is all about.

As for the writing, I found myself on the typical rollercoaster of emotions. There were times that were heart wrenching and sad, to happy and joyful. Along with the inclusion of Vietnamese, the descriptions were lively and vivid. Overall, it was a rather nice pace. 

Like I said, I found my read enjoyable and I really liked it. I don't have much to say unfortunately. But that's only because, for me, The Manicurist's Daughter is of those memoirs that you just have to start reading, get into it, and see for yourself.

I received an ARC copy of this book from Celadon for this review.

Thanks for reading!

2023 Candy Corn Finds

Happy Halloween! It’s actually been a few years since I tried to find some of Brach’s candy corn flavors. So I did just that! This year’s flavors include the ones I typically see like Original, Mellowcreme Pumpkins, Autumn Mix, etc. But I wanted (what I assume to be) the special ones: Fall Festival and Mellowcreme Caramel Apples.

The first one I had was Fall Festival. I was excited to try it, but I was side-eying Kettle Corn. Overall, the bag was just okay.

As figured, my least favorite was Kettle Corn. On one hand, it tasted like oil/butter with a hint of salt. On the other hand, it was like soggy popcorn. I tried so many times to like it, but I couldn’t. The first taste brought back memories of a butter jelly bean I disliked. I did wonder if I would have liked this now if liked that jelly bean then.

Anyway, next are the flavors that I found just okay. Strawberry Funnel Cake tasted just like the name. I’d even say, oddly, fried. Caramel Apple was nice, but I liked the caramel and apple separate. 

Then there’s Cotton Candy, which was another memory jogger. At first, I didn’t like them as much as my co-blogger did. Initially I thought it was more like mild cough syrup, but I gave it a few more tries. Then I thought it tasted like mild dum-dums lollipops (of the same flavor) than actual cotton candy. After that it wasn’t so bad. 

Last are my favorites from this mix: Lemonade Shake-Up and Lemon-Lime Snowcone. Lemonade Shake-Up was lemony, mellow, and enjoyable. But honestly, I don’t have much to say about it. Lemon-Lime Snowcone had a really nice flavor, and was another one that kind of tasted like its name. I thought this was the best flavor in the entire bag.


Since I was a little disappointed, I went searching for Mellowcreme Caramel Apples. When I found it, I also picked up a bag of original while I was at it.

If you’ve seen my first Candy Corn post, you probably know that Green apple alone is a favorite of mine. With the addition of caramel it was pretty good too. In comparison with Green Apple, I’d say Red Apple has a more natural (an artificial one, of course) flavor. I found it pleasant. And I liked it more than the one in Fall Festival.


This year, obviously, I preferred the Caramel Apples and Original flavors. Although I found Fall Festival to be average, there were some interesting and nice flavors. On the plus side, I loved the packaging art.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Series Review: The Books of Elsewhere #2, #3, #4, and #5

Spellbound: Goodreads     Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: The house isn't the only one keeping secrets anymore. You'll never guess what happens next in this thrilling, chilling fantasy series, perfect for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch, Coraline, and Septimus Heap.
Publisher/ Release date: Puffin Books; May 24, 2012

The Second Spy: Goodreads     Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: In Olive's third adventure, what lurks below the house could be as dangerous as what's hidden inside . . .
Publisher/ Release date: Puffin Books; Jul 11, 2013

The Strangers: Goodreads     Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: The stakes grow higher, the secrets more dangerous, and mystery and magic abound as Olive, the boys, and the cats uncover the true nature of the house on Linden Street.
Publisher/ Release date: Puffin Books; May 15, 2014

Still Life Goodreads     Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: In this fifth and final book, Olive must seek the full, complex story of Elsewhere, its magical origins, and its creator, and in so doing, face her own fears and limitations--and possibly the destruction of Elsewhere itself. How far will Olive go to save the people and home she loves? And what will be the final cost?
Publisher/ Release date: Puffin Books; Jun 2, 2015

Series: The Books of Elsewhere (#2-#5)
Author: Jacqueline West
Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
Source/Format: Bought; Paperback

You can read each full synopsis by clicking on the respective Goodreads link.

What I Thought:

This is a series review for the last four books in the Books of Elsewhere series (Spellbound, The Second Spy, The Strangers, and Still Life). You can find my thoughts for The Shadows HERE. Each book deals with Olive discovering yet another mystery about her stone mansion, its paintings, and sometimes the cats. Between Spellbound and The Strangers, she meets some new and exciting characters that usually, inadvertently, join her on her quest.

In general, and something I realize after I finished Still Life, I enjoyed Olive’s relationships. Especially concerning her mathematician parents. On many occasions it was made known she didn’t excel at the subject for her age, yet in the few spaced out scenes that we see the whole family, they were never hard or harsh on her for it. I enjoyed this aspect since the situations and each antagonist Olive would have to deal with became more and more dire as the series went along. And many times she had to face them without her parents. However, outside of her parents and the cats, she had a support system and wasn’t alone. Pretty much throughout the series, it was always a question of how is she going to get out of this? And just when it seemed hopeless, along with her friends, she found a way through the dark, murky paint. Plus, for the last two books, it was a relief when some of her character development finally showed itself. Some of it could have come a book earlier, but it didn’t make much of a difference anyway.

Overall I loved reading the rest of The Books of Elsewhere Series. Still Life wrapped up everything in a nice blanket revealing the truth of Elsewhere and a perfect ending for the characters. Sometimes it got dark, but this depends on the reader. If it sounds interesting to you or a young reader, you may want to check it out.

For the series.

Thanks for reading!

2022 September/October Art Dump

This year my co-blogger Breana got me to do Sha'an d'Anthes' (Furry Little Peach) Peachtober. I only took a few progress photos before finishing them. Some of them I almost forgot to take any at all.

I did have a digital Halloween painting that I started a little late. I'll post it when I'm happy with it. I'm really enjoying the process. Anyway, here are the photos. And you can find Breana's art here



Book Review: Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega and Rose Bousamra

Title: Frizzy
Written by: Claribel A. Ortega; Art/Illustrations by: Rose Bousamra
Source/Format: Bookish First, First Second; Paperback
Publisher/ Release date: First Second; Oct 18, 2022

Goodreads        Barnes & Noble

Synopsis From 
A middle grade graphic novel about Marlene, a young girl who stops straightening her hair and embraces her natural curls.

Marlene loves three things: books, her cool Tía Ruby and hanging out with her best friend Camila. But according to her mother, Paola, the only thing she needs to focus on is school and "growing up." That means straightening her hair every weekend so she could have "presentable", "good hair".

But Marlene hates being in the salon and doesn't understand why her curls are not considered pretty by those around her. With a few hiccups, a dash of embarrassment, and the much-needed help of Camila and Tia Ruby—she slowly starts a journey to learn to appreciate and proudly wear her curly hair.

What I Thought:
Frizzy, written by Claribel A. Ortega and art by Rose Bousamra, revolves around Marlene as she takes the steps to figuring out her curly hair and ultimately being herself.

The story was quite an emotional one as Marlene encountered various terms being thrown around by her family. Terms like “good hair” or “You should be more like your cousin.”(page 31), pushing the idea of a best type of hair. And I’m sure many who have curly hair may relate to this. I enjoyed Marlene’s supportive relationships with her best friend Camila, and her  curly haired aunt Ruby (who helped a lot). Most of all, Marlene was more concerned about her mother. Marlene wanted both her mother’s approval and to not hurt her feelings, especially given some rather sad memories. In the end, the story came together with a very heartwarming and emotional conclusion. 

Also, Bousamra’s art is beautiful and I love the style. It’s simplistic but not in a way that’s overly simplified. It’s just right. The colors are like muted pastels that mesh really well with the overall feel, giving off a refreshing modern retro vibe. I think Ortega's writing and Bousamra's art are a perfect combination.

Overall, I enjoyed reading frizzy. It sort of brought me back to the trials and fun of going natural, I loved it. If it sounds interesting to you or your young reader, I recommend checking it out.

I received this book from Bookish First and First Second for this review.

Thanks for reading!