May 24, 2019

Abbreviations #89: Birthday, Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune + Waiting for Tom Hanks

It felt inevitable that Morgan and Eric were going to be best friends; after all, they were born on the same day in the same hospital. Birthday is told through the snapshot of what goes down on the actual birthdays from the ages of thirteen to eighteen, as both Morgan and Eric are grappling with identity, emotions and relationships and all the highs and lows that entails when you’re from a small town and you don’t fit the mold that life thrusts upon you.

Content warnings: homophobia, transphobia, parental abuse, parental death, alcoholism, suicide ideation and attempt

I said this when I shared my initial thoughts on Goodreads, but I wanted to mention it here as well: I was a little concerned that the narrative format that Russo chose for Birthday (snapshots of a single day for six years in the lives of two characters) wouldn’t provide me with the opportunity to really get to know these characters to the point where I would be wholly invested in their stories. I am happy to be able to say that I was so incredibly wrong about that, and Birthday’s format did not diminish at all the emotional roller coaster this book took me on. This is not at all an easy read, as both Eric and Morgan are going through such difficult things (all mentioned in the content warnings) in an environment that makes the situations feel even more harrowing. While this story isn’t an experience I could say was enjoyable, I will affirm that this story will be important in that it will be relatable for some readers, and eye-opening for others. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this, I’m glad I buddy read it with Jane and Madalyn (because I had moral support) and I truly think this is an excellently written book.

Birthday by Meredith Russo | Publisher: Flatiron Books | Publication Date: May 21, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune begins with Natalie Tan returning home to the apartment she and mother shared in San Francisco’s Chinatown after her mother dies. Natalie has always wanted to run her own restaurant, but her mother’s opposition to her pursuit of this dream resulted in their estrangement and Natalie leaving home to travel the world. But her mother has left the apartment and the abandoned restaurant below it (formerly run by her grandmother) to Natalie, and it seems like a sign. To guarantee that she can open and run a successful restaurant, however, the neighborhood fortune teller informs Natalie she must cook three dishes to help three of her neighbors. Natalie might be up to the challenge, but she just might find that there’s more to this goal than meets the eye…

I really enjoyed Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, friends. It was a fun story that ultimately centers around a young woman who must overcome obstacles in pursuit of a dream that’s near and dear to her heart, and I can totally get behind that plot. Throw in a colorful neighborhood filled with a variety of eccentric personalities, plenty of descriptions of food and cooking (with recipes folded into the tale too), cultural detail and just a touch of magic and superstition, and you get delightful story that combines whimsy and nostalgia in spade. I will say that I think it’s the type of tale that might translate best as a film; there’s a certain joy in experiencing food and music in a way where you can see and hear them, and I would likely have loved this even more if that had been how I experienced this tale. My other reservations lie in the fact that 1) I would have truly liked to connect a little more with Natalie, and in turn, be more invested in the relationships she had and 2) the writing style didn’t always suit me. But all in all, I’m happy to report that I liked this book, and would recommend checking it out!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim | Publisher: Berkley Books | Publication Date: June 11, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Waiting for Tom Hanks centers around Annie, who is obsessed with romantic comedies (and is working on a screenplay for one) and is still waiting for her “Tom Hanks” (aka the perfect romantic comedy lead she’ll have the happily ever after of her life with) to arrive. When the cast and crew of an upcoming rom-com descend on her small town to film, Annie snags an assistant job on set to immerse herself in a world she’s only dreamed of being a part of. But as the days go by, she might just find herself challenged to see things with fresh eyes… including her idea of her perfect romance.

If you’ve ever loved romantic comedies (no matter how outrageous they can get), and if you have a soft spot for a happily ever after, Waiting for Tom Hanks is bound to be enjoyable. I spent a lot of my formative years heavily entrenched in the genre of romantic comedies (which honestly explains a lot about me as a person), so a lot of this novel really worked for me. There are nods to classic romcom films all over this story, both with the titles specifically mentioned on page and with the details (for character, plot and setting) of the actual story. And it starts off real strong, setting the stage for Annie’s romcom journey well (particularly when it comes to introducing Annie herself, the places she inhabits and the people she regularly interacts with). I did find Annie to be frustrating at times, with her hasty judgments (that recalled Elizabeth Bennet to me, for some reason), but the real downfall of this story was in the latter third of the story when the drama got wild for the romance and the character growth. (Add to that the fact that, though there are mentions of wanting more diversity in romcoms on page, there’s a lack of it in the main story, a fact that truly became clear while I was discussing with my friends Amy, Madalyn and Melanie.) Even with my reservations, Waiting for Tom Hanks was still fun (and definitely had its moments).

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey | Publisher: Berkley | Publication Date: June 11, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)


  1. Great reviews! I have copies of these two that I'm hoping to read soon!

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