Cover Image: Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope

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Member Reviews

Kaleidoscope is the story of Riley, a biracial young woman coming to terms with a family tragedy. Each of the characters felt flawed and real - the Brighton family, made up of Riley’s parents and sister Morgan, and Morgan’s boyfriend James, Cecily Wong’s writing is wonderfully vivd, particularly the parts about travel. As the characters travel the world for nine months (with mysteriously missing luggage) they get to know themselves and take you on the journey with them, revealing that not everything is what it seems.

One thing that I find weird about the book is how the Brighton’s profit off of Indian culture, it feels like that isn’t fully interrogated. For a book where India plays such a key role I would have wanted to see more characters from that culture, it felt more like a setting than a place where real people live. I found this jarring while reading.

Thanks to Dutton and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Nothing is ever as it seems on the surface.  In Kaleidoscope, Cécile Wong explores the relationships within a family of four, focusing almost exclusively on those of two sisters, Morgan and Riley, and their mother Karen, and the two sisters and high school friend James.  Morgan’s sudden death upends the relationships in unexpected ways.  These types of relationships form the basis of many novels, most of them unsuccessful. But in Cecily Wong’s hands, they are explored with depth and skills rarely found.  Kaleidoscope reflects. Its title, exploring the complicated aspects of individuals and their never static relationships with each other in finely interconnected layers. Peeling back the layers is painful and author Wong conveys that pain with emotions that moved this reader immensely. Kaleidoscope will not be for all readers, but it is a literary gem for those who find it is just right for them.
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Review is posted on my Goodreads. I will also mention the book on my BookTok next time I round up my recent reads!

Thank you Dutton Books & NetGalley for the ARC!

There’s a lot of beautiful components of Kaleidoscope. It’s a moving story about two biracial Chinese America sisters… the story itself has many parts, separated into four parts, but is partially told through a non-linear timeline of different pieces of writing, memories, and vignettes.

The prose is quite beautiful. The relationships at the heart of the story are all really unique, memorable, and touching.

My biggest problem with this book is that I didn’t feel a sense of suspense about what was going to happen… it felt like there was no central conflict that kept me turning the page from scene to scene. The bulk of the action comes about halfway in, and even then, there was still little keeping me glued to the pages. Maybe, if there was a bit more foreshadowing about what happens later, I would have been more curious. I guess I just think there’s no point to doing non-linear timeline if you don’t use it to draw out details and facts about events in the story.

Overall, I can see this book being successful, maybe being a BoTM pick. It’s touching and has some meaningful thoughts on the themes of sisterhood, family, wealth, and grief.
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I requested this book because I loved the cover and I love reading books by Asian authors, but I didn't know much else about it. But I'm glad I requested it.  It’s definitely a character-driven story and there’s a lot of things that go unsaid that you have to read between the lines for. I really enjoyed seeing Riley grow as a person. After the event that I can’t spoil, she really begins to question everything around her and isn’t happy with just doing whatever everyone expects her to do. It’s equal parts devastating, heartwarming, and empowering. And it explores the bond between two sisters who are so different from each other. It’s definitely a story that will keep you thinking long after it’s over.
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Disorienting, moving, surprising. Reading Kaleidoscope was a strange and refreshing experience. I don’t know if I’ve read another story like it and I will be thinking about it for a long time.

Without spoiling the story, it largely focuses on the relationships we have with ourselves, with our families, finding out we can’t possibly know everything about ourselves much less other people, and trying to make sense of it all as we move through the world. 

The novel centers around the Brighton family, famous for their store, Kaleidoscope, which sells clothes from and inspired by different parts of the world (initially India, and now many countries). The story is told in five parts and features lush accounts of travel throughout Asia and compelling descriptions of the rise and expansion of Kaleidoscope. Sometimes, there is a staccato like rhythm to the narrative or a jarring passage, and then later or suddenly, the pieces fit together, much like when looking through a Kaleidoscope. Highly recommended to readers looking for a beautifully told story of love and self-discovery. 

Thank you very much to Penguin Group Dutton for the opportunity to read this ARC via NetGalley.
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Thank you to Dutton-Penguin Group and Netgalley for this ARC.

Based on the book jacket description, Kaleidoscope was not at all what I expected it to be - but in the best way. While I assumed it would be a heavily character driven novel (and it is), I didn’t expect such a quietly beautiful portrayal of family and loss and belonging. 

One of the main reasons I liked this so much is that Wong’s prose is simply breathtaking. She describes people and their actions so realistically, and in such a delicate way. Because you get to know her characters so well, what happens to them feels all the more devastating, and it is impossible not to root for them. 

I did have a few issues with the structure of the story. I didn’t really understand the opening event because it didn’t add much to the story and the plot point seemed to drop off too much. I also did not enjoy the random POV switch in the middle from first to third. It took me out of the action in a way I don’t think was intended. 

Overall this was an introspective, character focused novel, and I appreciated that it was not neatly contained because it really illustrated the complexity of grief in a deep and bittersweet way.
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Tender and sharp story, told in bits like the shards of glass in a kaleidoscope, about the complicated relationships and expectations of a family. Not for everyone, maybe, but this book hit me at exactly the right moment, and I liked how everyone in the book is both alone and connected to each other. It felt real and messy.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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A book about sisters and family. at first I really enjoyed getting to know Morgan and Riley and their eccentric parents. This sort of reminded me of a combo of two recent books I read: the catch and notes on your sudden disappearance. The book is literary and covers loss. Family secrets, mental health. I just didn’t quite fall in love with the writing but I can see others really enjoying this one. 
3.5 stars
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Tragedy in a Dysfunctional Family

The Brighton, developers of Kaleidoscope, a shopping empire specializing in luxury goods from around the world, have two daughters. Morgan, tall and a brilliant designer, is the family pet. Reilly has no real interest in the family business, but she and Morgan are very close. When tragedy strikes the family, Reilly is devastated. She feels adrift mourning her sister and trying to figure out who she is. 

Reilly takes off around the world to try to solve the mystery of her family and her own identity. The book is filled with amusing incidents, but the over arching feeling is grief and coming to terms with a family tragedy. 

The book is beautifully written. It’s not an easy read and will challenge you to understand the complex relationships. The book is told in both first person and third person. At first, I found it confusing, but the further I read, the more I felt the choices were appropriate for the characters at the point in the story.

Reilly was an interesting character. The closeness of the sisters was beautifully portrayed. Reilly growing and coming to terms with not only the family tragedy, but who she is was a rewarding read. I recommend the book if you enjoy character driven stories. 

I received this book from Dutton for this review.
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Kaleidoscope was everything I imagined the “new” American Dream could be. Realistically written, filled with incredibly inspirational highs and devastating lows. I couldn’t put it down!
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There are no words for what this book meant to me. It was meaningful to me in a very personal way.  I found myself sobbing multiple times because it was so intense, and real, and sharp, and beautiful all at the same time. What a perfect name Kaleidoscope is for this novel. Ultimately this book is a deep dive into family relationships for all they are good and bad, but formative. 

Riley Brighton is an outlier in her family. She is not the pretty one, or successful one, or interested in the family business which consumes her sister, mother, and father. She has her own interests, even if no one is interested in her. Riley is close with her sister Morgan, but envies how easy is everything is for her, how everyone loves her immediately and without question. Morgan even gets the nerdy boy who Riley has loved for so long. Then when tragedy strikes the Brighton family, they are all forced to face each other with unflinching openness and discover who they are, what that means, and what the future holds.

It’s the writing that brings this story to life. Its depth and lyrical prose delights the reader with beautiful recreations of far off places, crowd streets, bustle, hustle, and best of all the food that comes with it. This book is delicious to its core. I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley, but I am going to buy it because this book deserves a place on my shelf and I can imagine myself reading this book over and over again.

Content Warning: Contains graphic description of a chemically induced abortion, and child/teen grooming
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Kaleidoscope is a beautifully layered novel about an immigrant family pursuing and achieving the American Dream, and then trying to redefine itself in the wake of unspeakable tragedy.  Sisters Morgan and Riley Brighton are very close, but complete opposites.  Morgan is beautiful, popular, and a star designer at the family’s clothing empire.  Riley is a loner, desperately trying to find who she is outside the family.  When tragedy strikes, Riley and James, Morgan’s ex-fiancée set off on a trip around the world in an effort to bury their grief.  As they travel through Asia on a shoestring, Riley and James help each other to survive in both expected and unexpected ways.

KALEIDOSCOPE is a very compelling story, but what’s even more compelling is how beautifully and lyrically the author is able to articulate Riley’s innermost thoughts and feelings.  This is a “beautiful on a sentence level” story that you’ll be thinking about ( and highlighting) for a long time.
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"Kaleidoscope" by Cecily Wong has some high point but in general is pretty hard going. The premise is the connection between two sisters and the devastation of grief. Wong does a beautiful job describing the unmooring of loss, the way grief and leave people unable to manage the most basic action. The characters are all very complicated people who are so complex it's difficult to sync with them. I finished the novel, but it wasn't easy. Note to Cecily Wong--less is more.
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“𝘍𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘪𝘯, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘉𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰 𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵. 𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘷𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘒𝘢𝘭𝘦𝘪𝘥𝘰𝘴𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘦 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘶𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘦. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘵 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦, 𝘢𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘦𝘤𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺.”

I wanted to get into this one, and I really tried to give it a chance, but even at 80% I just could not. I didn’t connect with any of the characters and at times was annoyed by their behaviors. Is this a story about family, loss, grief, and culture? Yes. Is it also a story about a wealthy family and their daughters who at times are very entitled, feeling and believing they can do whatever the heck they want? Yes. It was the latter along with the slow pace, the flat plot execution, and its content that honestly just made me bored.

I wanted to like it. The synopsis sounded promising. It just didn’t unfold in a way that allowed me to connect and dive into the story. I wish I had better things to say but I just don’t, which sincerely disappoints me. Content and trigger warnings include abortion (a bit detailed), profanity, an unexpected death and detailed autopsy, and sexual content (including masturbation). Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced readers e-copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Kaleidoscope.

The author's name was familiar, but I couldn't put a finger on it until I read her brief bio and realized she co-authors the Gastro Obscura series of books, which I'm a huge fan of.

Sadly, I wasn't a fan of Kaleidoscope.

The writing was good, but the narrative and the characters left something to be desired.

The story is nothing new; the story of two sisters, one the shining star, the other less so, who are fiercely close, until a tragic accident almost rips the family apart.

As a result, the less adored sister, Riley, struggles to learn how to live without her charming older sister, Morgan, and how to forge a path ahead on her own.

I love stories about sibling relationships, especially because my relationship with my sister is a close one, but Morgan and Riley's attachment borders between unhealthy and inappropriate.

I can't quite understand why they're so unusually close; the fact they're both emotionally dependent on each other is clear, but why? Why are their characters so flawed and fragile in this way?

The abrupt shifts in character POV and timelines was distracting. which only added to the fact that I didn't really like the story.

I didn't care about the Brightons' rise to fame, how much time they spent traveling to source their unique goods, the sudden appearance of a dude Riley has crushed on since high school, even the revelation about Morgan wasn't shocking.

Personally, the whole family needs therapy, and not just because the loss of a loved one is devastating.
 
This wasn't for me but some readers may enjoy it.
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Kaleidoscope is a whirlwind of a, novel dashing the reader to exciting foreign lands and cultural experiences that make me envious of the cast and travelers. Much of the action is foreshadowed by the unexpected death of a loved family member leaving unfortunate grieving behind. I enjoyed the detailed adventure that Riley and James ensued and the resolutions that are finally made.
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An exploration of love and humanity and sisterhood, this was a really powerful story with characters I won’t be forgetting for a long time to come. I can’t wait to share this one with everyone closer to release date!
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The setting: "... two sisters {Morgan, older, and Riley] caught in their parents’ ambition, the accident that brings it all crashing down, and the journey that follows." 

Another dysfunctional family saga. Kaleidoscope, the shopping empire built by the family with Morgan as the design genius. The tight bond between the sisters. The different relationships with their parents.

Profound grief and feeling lost dominate the story.

I did not sympathize/empathize/like any of the characters. I plodded along as I was never engaged. It only became interesting [to me] more than halfway through--Part Four, when the story moved out of New York City and to the travels of Riley and James. [The interesting parts were the different cultures, countries, and people they encountered.]

The writing was ok [not great, not bad], no grimaces. 

The only two descriptions that I enjoyed were on the same page!
"she's caught by a sound like a hundred books being blown wide open"
"people bathing, bright saris blooming like jellyfish in the water" [noting the Holi festival in India]

Maybe if I were Gen Z this book would have resonated [but I'm decades from that].

Thankfully short and an easy read. Just not for me.

In the distinct minority of readers who enjoyed this book.
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This was an overall complicated and compelling read for me. The exploration of the relationship between the two sisters, Riley and Morgan, was done with excellent prose. Overall, I felt sad reading this book, but I also enjoyed it.
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Thank you to Dutton Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I am having a hard time rating this book as I honestly don’t know if I liked this book. Here are the facts:
1. I read the whole book. 
2. It’s about a bond between sisters and their love for each other. (Healthy? Unhealthy? I never really understood how that bond was created, other than it may have been born of the strong bond between the parents).
3. In my opinion, Riley was sullen and not likable.
4. Morgan was the golden child.
5. I was quite surprised about a third of the way through as the unexpected happened.
Based on all the above, I would rate the book at 3 since I still am unable to decide if I liked it or not.
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