Cover Image: Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

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Member Reviews

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer jerjen

Natalie returns home after the death of her mother, whom she has not spoken to in seven years.  They argued about Natalie wanting to be a chef, her mother did not want her to do that.  Now her mom is gone, and Natalie feels a lot of guilt and regret.  And she cannot help but notice how her neighborhood is declining and businesses that were vibrant before she left are left in disarray.  When she learns that her grandmother’s restaurant is still intact, she realizes that she can still make her dreams come true.  She has to cook for three people before she can open the restaurant, and once she figures out who to cook for, she does just that.  At first she thought her cooking had helped the neighbors, but then everything backfires.  She has to learn some lessons about life and people before she can really help her neighbors and herself.

This story has a little bit of magic, a little bit of love, a little bit of friendship and a lot of recipes.  You should not read this book if you are hungry because by the time you are done, you will be starving.  The recipes sound so good.  

The story is really about not giving up and fighting for your dreams.  Even if things do not work out the first time, keep trying because you never know when things will turn out right.  Natalie learns a lot about her family and her friends, and she realizes how important those things are to all of us.  

I would recommend this wonderful magical book to anyone who enjoys a well crafted story.  Pick up a copy and enjoy the ride.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*
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A book mixed with loss, strength, and delicious food. Readers who are looking for a strong character who defies odds, and are willing to live within a world with supernatural elements, will appreciate this story of redemption - and romance - in a community the main character didn't know she had.
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I absolutely adored the cover when I picked this book up, but the inside isn't quite as entrancing. 

- It was difficult for me to get into the story because the writing just wasn't engaging, 
- I enjoyed Natalie's character and her struggle in opening a restaurant and as a way to reconnect with her mother. She's very hard-working and the food descriptions were absolutely tantalizing. They made me so hungry!
- I went into this book also looking for a romance (although I still enjoyed the family dynamics), and ended up really disliking the abrupt romance. It comes later in the book and felt very forced in, almost as though it was an after-thought rather than something the author actively planned to write. I feel like Daniel, the love interest, was unnecessary at the end of the day. 

I still ended up enjoying the cultural references and exploration of grief and family though. I hope Lim's next book has a tighter plot and more engaging writing!

Thank you Berkley and Netgalley for the review copy!
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This book was filled with emotion: sadness, hope, love. I felt so immersed in the story from the get go and at points, I kid you not, I thought I could actually smell the food from the page! 

Truly touching and beautiful.
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I really enjoyed Lim's magical tale of food changing a neighborhood and the lives of those within. With its unique setting and delightful hints of magic, I highly recommend this novel.
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I loved this book! Magic and reality are woven together in such a realistic way that creates a truly fantastic book. I cannot wait to read the sequel!
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Oh, why did I take so long to read this...loved it!!  It was so heart felt, warm and informative all at once.  The recipes were a great fun addition.
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This is such an uplifting book! I absolutely love everything about it. The plot, the writing, and the characters. All of it is perfect.
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Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is an imperfect, but ultimately uplifting, story about love, loss, and new beginnings. It also proves something that I’ve always suspected: food is magical. With a focus on relationships between family, friends, and neighbors, Roselle Lim’s #ownvoice debut novel is full of beautiful metaphors and saliva-inducing recipes that will make both your heart and your stomach happy.

WHAT I LIKED: 

• It's an #ownvoices story that highlights the beauty of Chinese culture. Natalie Tan left her home in San Francisco’s Chinatown seven years ago. She left to pursue her dream of becoming a chief – something that her mother vehemently condemned. But when disaster strikes, Natalie returns home with a broken heart, a broken dream, and a broken set of rose-colored glasses. This sets Natalie on a path that will reconnect her with her neighbors, her ancestors, and her culture.

• IT HAS ALL THE FOOOD! This book is a delectable love-letter to both the art of cooking and to Chinese cuisine. Its mouth-watering descriptions of traditional dishes made my heart sing and my stomach grumble. Natalie’s passion for cooking is evident on every page of this delicious debut novel, and if you can read this book without coming away extremely hungry, then you are a person of stronger resolve than I (or at least a stronger stomach). Now excuse me while I go gorge myself on some fried dumplings.

• It's emotionally raw and heartfelt. If I had to cook up a recipe for Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, I would say that it contains a dash of romance, a sprinkle of magic, and a whole lot of heart. Lim crafts a heart-warming tale about the lasting importance of family relationships, the sustaining strength of true friends, and the healing power of a united community.

• The magical realism was, well… magical. To save her dying neighborhood from the evil clutches of gentrification, Natalie must use her grandmother’s cookbook (which may or may not be magical) to prepare three recipes for three of her neighbors. Seamlessly woven into the narrative, this inclusion of the fantastical blended perfectly with Lim’s lyrical prose and helped create an atmospheric read that was nothing short of enchanting.

WHAT I LIKED...LESS:

• The storytelling felt a bit disjointed at times. Debut novels have a reputation of being less polished, and Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is no exception. With pacing that is often awkward, transitions that are about as smooth as sandpaper, and dialogue that’s unnaturally stilted, the novel didn’t flow as well as it could have.

• The romance was too much, too fast, and too cheesy. Hello instalove, my old friend. I wish I didn’t have to see you here, in a book I was otherwise enjoying. But alas, Natalie’s relationship with Daniel can’t really be described as anything else. While I liked what the author was trying to accomplish here – I’m assuming it was a plot device to further develop the theme of new beginnings and fresh starts – it fell flat for me. There was definitely some serious eye-rolling involved on my part.
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When Natalie's agoraphobic mother dies, Natalie returns to San Francisco's Chinatown after seven years abroad to settle her affairs. Natalie's mother didn't approve of her dream to become a chef like her mother before her, which led to their falling out years before, and their lack of social supports during her childhood left Natalie seemingly her mother's only means of help. When Natalie returns, her neighbors see her as having betrayed her mother by leaving her, but Natalie sees it another way: she feels that her neighbors betrayed her and her mother by not helping them.

In inheriting her grandmother's recipe book and restaurant, Natalie is suddenly faced with the opportunity to achieve her dreams right in the place she ran from 7 years ago. Her fortune seems to be looking up, yet as she cooks from her grandmother's book, things start to go awry... 

As much as I enjoyed some of the different ingredients that made up Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune, I really struggled with others. Reading about Natalie's complicated yet loving relationship with her Ma-Ma was very poignant, but it was hard to grasp that their rift was so bad as to last 7 years -- until her death -- particularly as Natalie goes on to place blame on her neighbors for not taking care of her agoraphobic mother. It's never clear if Natalie really thinks her neighbors aren't caring for her Ma-Ma (they are, in truth), or if she thinks she has left her mother without any supports whatsoever for 7 years. She also blames the father she never met for her mother's agoraphobia because he might have "saved her."

Grief does a lot of things to a person but I didn't feel like any of this blame resolved itself very well. 

Furthermore, Natalie is flighty -- she left her mother, moved around, and then left a fiance in Manila because she was afraid of commitment. Later in the novel she tries to run again when things go south for her and nearly ruins relationships because of this. I've seen this book classified as a romance and it isn't! It's magical realism! There is a romantic interest, but he's just some tech guy who owns a two-bedroom in San Francisco. She isn't even impressed by this. She calls his office "modest" and waxes poetic on how love feels while on their first date. I just wasn't impressed. Natalie shows up and meddles in her neighbors' lives. It's rude. She feels bad about it, but it's so stressful. 

Overall I enjoyed the gorgeous recipes throughout and learning about Natalie's neighbors, but I really struggled to appreciate the narrator's perspective.
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Thanks NetGalley for this arc, in exchange for an honest review. Fantastic!  I enjoyed this peak into San Francisco’s Chinatown!  You could feel the revitalization of it in her pages.  This was clearly a labor of love and reminds me once again the power of words.  As I tasted the recipes and heard the songs, it made me want to explore my own family through our own recipes.  There were times this novel brought me to tears, I felt Natalie’s frustrations, fears, and best of all, her triumphs.  The moments of joy in this novel were overwhelming.  I look forward to more work by Lim, I want more of her lovable, endearing characters, her delicious recipes, her colorful imagery!  Write on, Ms. Lim, write on!
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I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2020 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at 
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Really brings the San Francisco setting to life. Love the combination of food and fortune telling — so charming and suspenseful. Perfect for Strong Sense of Place.
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I love a bit of whimsy and magical realism...and the fact that this was also a book about food? Sign me up!

The story was sweet and the descriptions of food left me so hungry! Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with this story like I thought I would. I wish there had been a deeper dive into family - the book just felt like it lacked a little meat. While the romance was secondary to the story, it did feel a bit unnecessary and out of place.

I am intrigued enough that I would definitely pick up the author’s next book, this one was just middle of the road for me.
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A story set in Chinatown featuring a passionate cook who creates and recreates delicious family recipes? Sign me up!

I thought this was an sweet story overall and enjoyed when Natalie described what cooking did to her senses. Honestly, I wish I could feel that passionately about cooking and inventing dishes for people, and it's clear how this is an intrinsic part of her soul. Through cooking she could connect with her grandmother, a renowned chef in Chinatown, who died before she was born. When she returns home after her mother's death, she learns that there's more to her mother's story that she was unaware of. Looking to make things right with Natalie, her mother's last wish was for her to inherit her grandmother's restaurant and bring it back to life. Her grandmother was a pillar of the community and her restaurant was the star. Being asked to reopen it feels like too much is being asked of her. Her first instinct is to run away which has been her tactic awhile now.But then she's persuaded to stay and as she assimilates to life in the neighbourhood she left, she learns about how much has changed, and not for the better as people are looking to gentrify her once vibrant community. With renewed purpose she hasn't had in a long time, Natalie dreams of helping to unify the community and re-energize the local businesses. 

Family and cultural heritage are central to this story as was the food that made my mouth water. Natalie's love for cooking and the joy she gets from it come through the pages. Throw in the fact that her grandmother's recipes seem to have some sort of magical properties, and the dishes take on a life of their own. (Think the movie, Chocolat where Vienne's creations have such a profound impact on the villagers. It's the same idea here where Natalie's dishes seem to stir emotions and instigate action by the folks who eat them.) Interestingly, while Natalie's love of food and her grandmother's treasured recipes came through, I thought her budding romance with Daniel fell flat. As her potential love interest I didn't pick up on any chemistry between them. One drawback for me was that at times it felt as if the author was grasping too hard with the metaphors. She describes Natalie's process in relation to food so beautifully, creating such impressive pictures that I think sections outside of those could have flowed better with simpler descriptions. 

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune is a sweet coming-of-age story about laying down roots and rebuilding community. If you're a foodie, you'll enjoy the addition of the recipes and like me, wish you could reach through and taste some of the deliciousness inside. I look forward to reading more from Roselle Lim in the future!
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Okay, okay, okay! The main reason this book was somewhat of a let down for me is that it was marketed as a romance, so I went in for a romance, with all the romance check boxes ready to be ticked off in my brain. Ready to not only have my heart stomped on because of the synopsis that makes this book sound heart hitting, but also to swoon because...contemporary romance, that's what the genre usually goes to you. 

But although, the first happened (my heart being stomped on), the latter was nowhere to be seen. I'll say it again and again, Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune is NOT a romance. In fact, the romance component of it is so small and so little explored that I wouldn't even call it a fiction book with a side plot of romance. Sure, there is a man Natalie falls for, but he doesn't show up until well into the novel and when he does, he's barely there. So no, not a romance. If I had gone in expecting the right genre, I think I would have liked this book better because of the things it had going for it.

I loved the cultural aspect of this and the importance that was given to food as a way to show people love, mend hearts and bring communities together. I also liked the little magical aspects that I did not expect to find there going in but that were a pleasant surprise to find down the road. The exploration of grief was also so very well done and showed all the ways in which it could be complex and messy and not always how we expect it to be. Natalie also goes through a transformation in this book in the way she perceives her old neighborhood and her relationship with it, and realizes that her perception of it was warped by her own struggles. 


Do I recommend ? 

Yes, if you're looking for a diverse adult fiction book with hints of magic. No, if you're looking to read a romance book.
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I absolutely adored Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune. When Natalie finds out her mother has passed away, the estrangement between them unresolved, she returns to Chinatown and the house she grew up in. She left so that she could pursue her dreams of becoming a chef, but failed out of culinary school. Now, she must return home to give her mother the funeral she deserves,  full of tradition, and surrounded by the neighbors she thought had forgotten about her and her mother. When she finds a book her mother left her, full of her grandmother's recipes, she sets out to help rejuvenate the neighborhood and the neighbors, while trying to figure out just who she should become. This book tugged at my heart so much, and I LOVED learning about the different kinds of foods.
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I can't say much for the story and the main character, Natalie, was downright annoying. However, the writing was so descriptive! You could smell, taste, hear, see everything Natalie described in such a way that you felt as if you too were smelling, tasting...
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Delightful, joyful, adorable, and with a touch of magic, this book just fills your heart!
Natalie has been estranged from her mother for years and returns to Chinatown in San Francisco when she dies. The neighborhood is deteriorating and Natalie feels she has to do her part to build it up again. Her grandmother was a phenomenal cook, started her own restaurant, but Natalie’s mother closed it and refused to have anything to do with it. Natalie discovers her grandmother’s recipes and decides to use those recipes to create healing in her neighborhood and to re-open the restaurant. I just loved the characters and I fell in love with Meimei, the kitten.
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This is a lovely book but I had somehow thought going in that it was going to be a romance along the lines of The Kiss Quotient, which it is very definitely not. It’s full-on magical realism, which I wasn’t expecting! Very different and very cool. The descriptions of the food, as I’m sure all the reviews have already said, are incredibly vivid and appealing, as are the descriptions of the setting (San Francisco’s Chinatown). The romance subplot is a bit meh (there’s a guy who likes Natalie’s food, he shows up a couple times and they decide they’re in love but there’s not enough time invested in him to make it feel real) and Natalie’s conviction that she can fix things with magic instead of, idk, talking to people gets frustrating, but the writing is lovely and carries you through.
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