Cover Image: Death by Bubble Tea

Death by Bubble Tea

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Member Reviews

Definitely a family focused cozy mystery. I was drawn to this one because of the title and it did not disappoint- it is family oriented, a slow burn and a food-centric mystery.

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This series starter by Jennifer Chow is delightful. It has everything I look for in a cozy, with a community rich with connection and characters, delicious descriptions of food, and an interesting main character that will be fun to follow throughout the series. It's a solid mystery by itself, with authentic suspects and a good plot.

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Wonderfully written and plotted cozy series starter. Loved the dynamic between Yale and Celine as they come to better understand each other and work together to solve the murder. Also, The Literary Narnia is one of the best names for a fictional bookshop I've ever heard.

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Jennifer J. Chow kicks off a new culinary cozy series with Death by Bubble Tea, a delicious mystery that centers on a family-run food stall.

After Yale Yee loses her job at the local bookstore, her father talks her into running a food stall for the family’s dim sum restaurant at the inaugural Eastwood Village Night Market. Yale hasn’t worked for Wing Fat in years, not since her mother’s untimely death. Everything about the restaurant reminds Yale of the loss of her mom, but she still agrees to help out, even though it means working with her cousin Celine, whom she hasn’t seen in 20 years.

The women are polar opposites: Celine likes to flaunt her wealth and is a tech-obsessed foodie Instagrammer, and Yale, who doesn’t even own a cellphone, prefers to learn about the world through books. But Yale’s tasty drinks and Celine’s marketing know-how help their food stall, Canai & Chai, find success. Then one night, Yale literally stumbles over a body on her way home from the market. Police believe the victim, local foodie Jordan Chang, was poisoned, possibly by something from Canai & Chai. Yale and Celine are forced to work together again, this time to clear their names in a murder investigation that could also ruin Ba’s business.

Set in west Los Angeles, Death by Bubble Tea takes readers to real locations like the historic Gladstones restaurant and the Lake Shrine Meditation Gardens. Chow’s choice to set the mystery in a night market is a stroke of genius. Not only are there dozens of vendors, guests, witnesses and potential suspects, but the impermanence of the pop-up market makes it even more difficult for Yale, Celine and the police to solve the crime. Also, be warned: Chow’s descriptions of the food vendors’ offerings may make your mouth water. Luckily for readers, she includes a few recipes at the end of the book.

Death by Bubble Tea is a fun, fast-paced mystery, but the heart of the story lies in Yale and Celine’s deepening relationship. Though they grew up in different circumstances on opposite sides of the world, the women learn to trust and rely on each other, finding out what it’s like to have not just a cousin but also a friend.

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Death by Bubble Tea ticked a lot of boxes for me. I love a good cozy mystery, especially a cozy foodie mystery. Set during a holiday? Characters, settings, and food steeped in culture and tradition? Yes, please and thank you.

Yale Lee is at a bit of a crossroads in her life. Her family runs a successful dim sum restaurant in L.A., but after her mother’s death, Yale lost her taste for cooking. College didn’t pan out for her. She’s just been let go from a bookstore job that she loved. And now her glamourous cousin, Celine, a foodstagrammer who comes from money, arrives from Hong Kong for an impromptu visit.

At least Celine can help her run a food stall at the new local night market being held a couple days before Halloween, where Yale plans to test out her new snack ideas for the family restaurant.

Celine’s idea to put the bubble tea Yale serves in trendy light bulb glasses is a hit. Unfortunately, Celine’s idea to put real gold flakes in the drink is less successful and puts them at the top of the suspect list when one of their customers ends up dead.

Things between Yale and Celine start out strained, 20 years between visits and a huge economic gap will do that, but they work together trying to clear Celine’s name and save the Yee family restaurant’s reputation. The two are so different – Yale loves books, shuns technology, and doesn’t own a cellphone or a car. Celine is a social media butterfly who lives her life in the golden shine of both pretty AND rich privilege – watching the compare and contrast and growing warmth between the cousins as they search for clues and interview suspects is one of the best parts of the book.

I grew really fond of the characters in Eastwood Village and the night market. Even Detective Strauss of the piercing green eyes and gruff personality grew on me. I didn’t realize Death by Bubble Tea was the first book in a series until the very end and I was so excited when I found out. I can’t wait to see what’s next for these characters and what mysteries they’ll solve.

With likeable characters, good pacing, and immersive sluething, I highly recommend both the book and the author, especially if you’re a cozy foodie mystery enthusiast like me. I’m eagerly waiting for the next book in the series, Hot Pot Murder, which comes out June 2023. Since the next book is set around Thanksgiving time, I’m really holding hope for a third book set during Christmas!

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Fun reigns at the newest event of the season, The Night Market. Yale Yee must work with her cousin Celine at the Yee stall. This is going to be a long night for Yale. Sales improve when her cousin adds a special ingredient, but then someone dies and the cousins must clear their family name.

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Oh this book. I really wanted to love it. The characters are well-developed, the story line is cute, the Chinese-American food culture is intriguing and interesting; however, the mystery fell flat. Yale Lee is a loner. She eschews technology for books and she is just floating through life her way until she is laid off from her job at a local bookshop. Not knowing what to do next, she turns to her father who owns a restaurant for income. Her father has a great idea for Yale to lead the food stall branch of the restaurant and gives her free rein to do as she pleases with this new business venture. She is surprised when her cousin Celine flies in from Hong Kong under mysterious circumstances and her father pushes the two of them to work together. Yale is a little concerned as her cousin is a well-known Instagram influencer and has a completely different outlook on life. Just trying to make the best of it, Yale placates her cousin and just goes along with the flow.

All is well until one of the customers at the food stall is found dead by Yale later that evening after the night market has closed. The murder weapon is suspected to be Yale and Celine’s bubble tea that was served to the victim earlier that evening. When the police begin investigating, they hone in on Yale and her cousin as the prime suspects. Yale is determined to clear her name and that of her father’s restaurant and sets out on her own investigation. Celine is eager to help and Yale and Celine begin their investigation much to the police’s chagrin.

I had problems with this mystery. At times the clues were so obvious and the characters were clueless as to what to do with them. I felt like I was screaming at them in my head to get it together. That was frustrating to say the least. However, I loved the premise of the storyline. This is a quirky new cozy series featuring food and the LA food scene that has a lot of potential. The characters are well-developed, engaging and it is easy to like them. I am not ready to throw in the towel on this series, as it has a lot of promise. I will wait to read the next in the series, Hot Pot Murder, which appears to be coming in June 2023. I am hoping that this is a case of the debut blues and that the series will continue to emerge and engage the reader moving forward. Not the best cozy debut, but this series has so much potential to be a delightful cozy series.

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
Author: Jennifer J. Chow

Series: LA Night Market Mystery #1

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: July 5, 2022

Pages: 300

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

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If you grew up reading Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Famous Five and other young sleuth novels, then this one is going to be a treat for you! Death by Bubble Tea is a cozy mystery about two cousins. While the main plotline is about a murder that happens on the openning night of the night market that the cousins had a drinks stall at, the book offers a lot more than that. I got a glimpse of living as a first generation American, having parents who run a family business together, being bound by the deep roots in family from around the world, and most importantly, living in a community where everyone knows everyone.

Yale is in her early thirties and has a love for books. She works at a bookstore and periodically helps out her dad (Ba) at his restaurant. She lives by herself and isn’t quite sure about where she wants life to go. Her cousin, Celine, arrives from Hong Kong and now Yale has a chance to build a relationship she wished she had had as a child. Yale and Celine end up helping Ba at the night market, selling tea. Yale and Celine are opposites – while Yale refuses to buy a cell phone or a car and the library is her go-to place to do any Internet searches, Celine is a confident woman: a foodstagramer, fashion fiesta, she gives her all to everything she does. She is not perfect but she makes the book vibrant and helps Yale come out of her shell. I didn’t feel like making them both in their thirties added anything extra to the novel – early twenties would have worked equally well with the plot and situations.

Death by Bubble Tea starts off with solid character and world building. The atmosphere of the night market and the food community is set up perfectly. Portraying Celine as a social media influencer is an added bonus and helps emphasizes both the positives and negatives of social media and how it can be used to influence people. The girls are creative. Yale is quirky in her unique way and I loved how she would assign a dim sum to each person she meets. The descriptions were mouth-watering. When books entice me to go eat certain foods, I know it’s a good book! 🙂

As the book progressed, the cousins’ investigation of the murder continued, not just to clear their own names, but also to solve the mystery. The plot was fast-moving and though some characters could have been fleshed out more, I was right back in my teenage days where I was sucked into the story and really didn’t care much about the side characters. 😀

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This review was first posted on my website, Armed with A Book. Check out my interview with the author too!

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If you enjoy a food cozy you can't go wrong with this one! Not only was it an interesting mystery, but the characters are well developed and just the type of people I would love to hang out with. I really liked that even though the main character was on the younger side, she wasn't into technology at all and loved books, but at the same time her cousin was the perfect opposite as an Instagram influencer. I also enjoyed all of the yummy Chinese food and bubble tea! Great start to a new series.

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Death by Bubble Tea, Jennifer J. Chow’s first book in the new L.A. Night Market mystery series, is a compelling contemporary amateur sleuth mystery with a slice of the Chinese culinary subgenre. It is set in Los Angles within the UCLA community. Because I have little knowledge or experience with Asian culture, my questions center on extending my knowledge of the many things I do not know.

The story is shown through main character Yale Yee. But the character development and tensions are illustrated through the contrasting characters of Yale and her cousin, Celine, who are very different people. Yale was raised in L. A., Celine in Hong Kong. But it is their different temperaments and outlook on life that really divides them. It would be easy for Yale to dislike Celine, (and initially, she does) except that Celine proves her skills are useful, shows compassion that Yale finally recognizes, and owes up to her mistakes. They are different and yet two compelling characters who need each other to avoid murder charges.

Please welcome former WWK blogger Jennifer J. Chow back to WWK. E. B. Davis

Why do neither Yale or Celine have Chinese names? Yale’s father is first generation American, and Celine’s parents still live in Hong Kong.
Great question! They both have English names for different reasons. For Yale, it’s because her dad had dreamed of going to school there. Celine has a Chinese name but goes by her English name since her parents love music and singing (e.g. her mom chooses to be called Cher in English).

Yale’s father’s restaurant specializes in dim sum. Why does Yale categorize people as particular dim sum dishes? Are/is dim sum (collective noun?) appetizers?
Since Yale grew up in her family’s restaurant, she has a food-focused perspective on things. She likes making comparisons to dim sum because it helps her understand people better.

Dim sum is a collective noun and encapsulates multiple small dishes (think: Asian tapas).

What is the purpose of ripping off covers of unsold books prior to returning them to publishers? Seems wasteful.
My friend who worked in a bookstore told me about this. It has to do with pulping a book. Bookstore workers will rip off the covers of unsold books so that the pages can be pulped and recycled to (hopefully) create more books. The covers can be sent back to the publisher to let them that the stock has been discarded and to obtain a credit.

I’m not knowledgeable about Chinese food. This book made me aware that there are regional differences among Cantonese (Yale’s father’s restaurant), Taiwanese, Mandarin, and Sichuan. Are there others? What are the differences?
There are many regional differences if you want to narrow down to specific locations. It has to do with what can be grown in those areas (e.g. very hot peppers in Sichuan), geographic differences (places near the coast incorporate more seafood), and also what kind of global influences have affected the area (ports and heavily-traveled places have more international flavors). A huge generalization is that northern China offers more noodle dishes while southern China focuses on rice, and the reason is due to water availability and the ability to grow certain crops.

I was aware that Westwood was a UCLA community, but not of Eastwood. Is it newer? What’s the distinction aside from being in opposite directions?
Ha! Yes, Eastwood Village is quite new…because it exists only in my mind. While Westwood is more sprawled out, I like to think of Eastwood as a closed community. It’s a very planned space, with shops and centers within walking distance of many residents. It’s loosely based on the Playa Vista neighborhood.

Yale doesn’t like her modern apartment. She’s lined the granite countertops with crocheted doilies! She doesn’t possess modern technology even if she knows how to use it. Why is she so out of sync with today?
Yale loves her books and is a huge Austen fan. Sometimes she feels like she’s been born in the wrong period. She’d rather take comfort in the cozier aspects of yesteryears.

All of Yale’s clothing has many pockets because she doesn’t like carrying a purse. While keeping your hands free is convenient, doesn’t she have a lumpy appearance? Keys, makeup, credit cards, etc.
Convenience over fashion is Yale’s motto. She only really needs her keys and a slim wallet when necessary.

Why are older women called “aunties?”
It’s a general term of respect for older women. In the same way, older men are called “uncles.” (It is confusing, though, when you’re growing up and thinking you have a gigantic family and trying to figure out the “familial” connections!)

Why does the youngest person pour the tea?
This is also a sign of respect. The youngest at the table should be the one to pour the tea to everybody.

Passing tea to a person with both hands is a sign of respect. What does passing tea with only one hand indicate?
Passing tea with one hand makes it a more informal act. You would definitely serve elders with both hands but maybe not peers.

Is eating ducks’ feet like eating ribs?
Do you mean the chicken feet at dim sum places? The delicate way would be to nibble at it. But I’ve seen others pop the whole thing into their mouth, somehow take all the meat off, and then end up with the claw intact at the end.

Why did taking her mother’s place at the restaurant sicken Yale? Is it it the same reason she can no longer inhabit her childhood home?
Yes, Yale has such a hard time dealing with her mother’s death. She is saddled by guilt, and it physically sickened Yale to “take over” her mom’s role in the restaurant. And being in the childhood home evoked too many memories…

I can’t think of any drinks that are chewy. But that is the desired aspect of bubble or boba tea made with tapioca clusters in it. It seems like Eastern and Western tastes are very different, or am I mistaken?
I guess the only other chewy drink I can think of is maybe a chunky fruit smoothie. I’m not sure if it’s so much that Eastern and Western tastes are different; I know plenty of non-Asians who enjoy bubble tea, and some Asian folks who don’t drink boba. (I myself had a hard time figuring out when to chew and when to drink in the beginning!)

Yale equates having a degree with smartness. She’s embarrassed that she doesn’t have her degree. Why didn’t she ever go back and finish?
Life got in the way. She returned to the family restaurant to help, and with those long hours, she couldn’t study as well. Then, as time moved on, she was content in her bookstore world.

Celine serves the drinks they offer at the Night Market in actual lightbulbs. Isn’t that dangerous? The glass is so thin it could break or cut someone drinking from one, especially drinking something chewy.
Interestingly, lightbulb glasses are real. I’ve drunk from one before. You can also order them online; some are plastic, I believe, but others are actually made from glass. They’re a lot bigger than household light bulbs (mug-size), and the manufacturers must reinforce the glass somehow.

Is there prejudice within the Asian community against some groups over others?
There can be. The example I’ve come across happens a lot when people talk about dating. There can be a sort of pecking order by ethnicity for who would make the most desirable mate.

Is Lake Shrine real? Gladstone’s?
These are both real places in the Los Angeles area! The fun part about writing the Night Market series is that I can explore some lesser-known offerings in the region.

Why is not finishing a meal a tradition?
It’s not quite a tradition. However, there is something about leaving a few bites on a communal platter out of politeness’ sake and to let other people have the chance to eat. Although sometimes not finishing an individual meal may be because a family member wants you to eat more and keeps piling things on your plate!

Both Yale and Celine are in their 30s, but they are both still subsidized by their families. Is this normal in the Asian culture?
It’s hard to define anything as “normal.” However, I do know parents who still financially help out their older adult children.

23K gold is edible?
I actually had to research this. Yes, 23K gold is edible. It doesn’t have any nutritional value, but it’s safe to consume.

What are deckle edges of a book?
Deckle edges are pages that have that a feathered feel to them. They’re not cut precisely straight and have more of a ragged look. Some people find the effect to be artistic and reminiscent of times when paper was made by hand.

How do Asian women eat so much but manage to stay tiny?
Hmm, I think Asian women have all sorts of body types. It really depends on metabolism, genetics, and activity.

What language is spoken in Hong Kong? For only visiting the family once, years ago, Celine’s English is excellent.
Chinese and English are the official languages of Hong Kong. It’s a fascinating place since many people there are fluent in multiple languages, possibly because of Hong Kong’s historical and current status as a major port.

What is yeung energy?
Yeung in Cantonese is the same as yang in Mandarin (as in yin yang). As such, there’s the tied concept of opposite and yet complementary forces or energies.

Who is Maria Kondo?
Marie Kondo is a Japanese woman who’s known for her expertise on organization. She wrote a popular book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and also appeared on a Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Do Celine’s parents own Hong Kong casinos?
Nope. But they have friends who are highly involved with the renowned casinos in nearby Macao.

What’s next for Yale and Celine?
Yale and Celine are reappearing next spring in Hot Pot Murder. A group of Asian American restaurant owners are having a friendly hot pot dinner, but the heat really dials up when someone dies…

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This new series by Chow is a pure delight. Her characters are great! I can't wait to see where this goes,

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Yale Yee lives an unusual life for a modern thirty year-old. Eschewing cell phone, personal computer or car, she works in a bookstore near where she lives and pines for the simpler days of old… at least until her bosses can no longer afford to keep employing her. With ample free time now, she reluctantly agrees to go to the airport to greet the cousin she has mixed feelings about, after her father finds himself slammed with work at the dim sum restaurant he owns and is unable to go himself.

Hong Kong-native Celine Yee is just as glamorous as Yale remembers from their last meeting two decades earlier. After learning that Yale came to the airport by bus, Celine cheerily books a rideshare to her hotel, leaving Yale feeling wrong-footed, as usual, by her more outgoing cousin. But Yale’s dad has an idea that will force the two to spend a lot more time together than either had originally planned.

The apartment complex where Yale lives is close to a shopping development that will be hosting an upcoming night market. Yale’s dad has already rented a stall, but with work being so busy, he doesn’t have the time to run it himself, so thinks Yale and Celine would be the perfect team to manage it. Yale can make and serve the food and beverages while Celine can use her professional skills as a foodstagrammer to market and sell their products.

Celine is more enthusiastic than Yale, coming up with several great ideas that even her pessimistic cousin has to agree are pretty good. The first night is a modest success, and after cleaning up, Celine takes off for her hotel, leaving Yale to wheel the rest of her supplies back to her apartment. Thus Yale is completely alone and phoneless when she stumbles over the corpse of one of their customers from earlier in the night.

The cops, including Detective Greyson Strauss, are skeptical as to Yale’s lack of phone explaining the delay in why she called them. Yale finds herself in the deeply uncomfortable position of being suspected of murder, especially since the victim was found near one of her stall’s distinctive cups and was most likely poisoned, though by what remains a mystery. Yale knows that there was no way that anything she served could have killed the woman. But when she finds out that Celine made a few unauthorized changes to their menu – changes that have Detective Strauss scrutinizing them both for guilt – her family instinct kicks in to prove that no one in the Yee family was responsible for the woman’s death. Will her efforts to clear their name backfire though, and put her in the sights of a murderer who won’t hesitate to kill again?

This was a cute culinary cozy mystery that had me craving dim sum, even as I cheered on Celine and Yale. I loved how they grew closer over the course of the book, as Yale stopped automatically assuming the worst of her cousin and gradually started to embrace the 21st century under Celine’s warm-hearted influence. I’m also obsessed with Jane Liu’s gorgeous cover art, and wish there was somewhere to purchase prints I could put up in my home!

There were two recipes included, and since I’m a boba tea originalist, I decided to skip the Grapefruit Green Tea with Boba recipe in favor of this cold snack Yale and Celine serve at their night market stall:

Spicy Cucumber Salad

6 Persian cucumbers
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon black vinegar
½ tablespoon sesame oil
¼ teaspoon chili (I like to use Laoganma’s Spicy Chili Crisp)
Salt to taste

Slice or use mandoline to cut cucumbers to approximately ¼ inch thickness.

Peel and mince cloves of garlic.

Place cucumbers and garlic in a bowl.

Add soy sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil, chili, and salt.

Mix together and refrigerate for at least ten minutes before serving.

I love a refreshing cucumber salad in the summer, and this is one of the best versions I’ve ever tasted! It was so good that I’m making another batch soon, since the first one was enjoyed by not only my immediate family but also by my in-laws, who had very nice things to say about this vegan dish. It’s a ridiculously easy salad to make but really packs a lot of flavor into each bite, with the coolness of the cucumbers contrasting really nicely with the heat of the chili crisp. I actually recommend putting in a little more of the chili than just a quarter teaspoon if you enjoy spiciness, as just a quarter teaspoon is pretty mild.

The black vinegar was a revelation to me personally, as I’d never known the English name of this condiment I had fond memories of using while growing up in Malaysia: I’d always assumed it was just a particular type of soy sauce. I’m glad this recipe could fix that error in my thinking, and ensure that I have a supply readily available for my future cooking!

Next week, we head northeast to grill up a tasty sandwich while solving the stabbing of a vengeful shop owner. Do join me!

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Death by Bubble Tea: An LA Night Market Mystery
By Jennifer J. Chow
July 2022

Review by Cynthia Chow

For introverted bibliophile Yale Lee, the day is not starting off well. Not only has she learned that she is being laid off from her dream job at Eastwood Village’s Literary Narnia bookshop, her cousin Celine has just arrived at LAX for an unexpected visit and needs a pick-up. Well, more of a meet-up since Yale doesn’t own a car. It’s been twenty years since Yale last saw her glamorous wealthy cousin from Hong Kong, when Celine dashed whatever expectations Yale had of being “sisters” after the princess-like beauty whisked off to VIP Disneyland. Yale’s father emphasizes family above everything else though, which is why he encourages the two young women to run a food stall at the LA Night Market. Ba will be busy overseeing their family’s Wing Fat restaurant, so he’s leaving it to Yale and Lee to sell his inspired cold dishes and Yale’s even more original cold drinks. Announcing herself as a “foodstagrammer” with a huge following, Celine takes on the assignment of being a social media marketer promoting their food. That entails constantly photographing their foods and naming their Night Market booth “Canai & Chai,” with the clever rhyming outweighing the fact that they sell neither roti canai flatbreads nor chai tea. Yale’s special boba tea that is the special of the day, which becomes a problem only when Celine decides to spice it up by serving it out of unique lightbulb containers and topped with gold flakes. Both of which are found next to the body of Jordan Chang, whose corpse was found by Yale not long after serving her a boba tea drink.

Investigating Detective Greyson Strauss is immediately suspicious of both Yale and Celine, especially when it’s discovered that Jordan had a nickel allergy and that gold flakes were found in her stomach. After a distrustful Yale is assured by Celine that her additions were in fact non-toxic and edible, the two very different young women begin tracking down clues to prove Canai & Chai’s innocence. A rival food stall operated by Yale’s lifelong nemesis and an accusatory blog threaten her father’s restaurant, which further propels her need to quickly solve the murder and save their businesses.

This first in a new series by the author of the Sassy Cat Mimi Lee mysteries introduces two unique, very engaging characters as its leads. Yale is not your typical twenty-something in that she is a true Luddite without a smartphone, much less a social media presence. Her phobia over high-tech conveniences began with the death of her mother, which Yale blames on both herself and the failure of a car’s electronic system. As a result Yale relies on library research (adore), landline phones, and her love of Jane Austen (if only for comfort). Celine is a character who could easily have become a shallow, over-the-top Instagramming-addicted stereotype, but instead she proves to be far more multi-dimensional and sympathetic to Yale and her family’s lifestyles. The other outstanding highlights of this novel are the unique aspects of Yale’s Cantonese traditions and foods. Recipes are included at the end for the adventurous, but it’s really the tour through the Night Market and the Lee restaurant that makes this such a mouth-watering delight. The slow burn buildup towards an unexpected reveal allows for a longer examination of Yale, Celine, and their contrasting upbringing. Yale’s love of her father, the restaurant, and the Eastwood Village make her a character whom readers will enjoy following as she lowers her guard and allows Celine to push her towards taking more risks in a high-tech world.

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oh this was SO FUN. as a lover of cozy mysteries and bubble tea, this book was right up my alley. the mystery was fun, a little over the top but not unbelievable. i really liked yale (and her love for jane austen!) and enjoyed her personal journey as the story went on. i had a great time reading this and am already looking forward to the next book in the series!

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Death by Bubble Tea is the first book in a new shopfront foodie cozy series by Jennifer J. Chow. Released 5th July 2022 by Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 304 pages and is available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats. Library binding available in third quarter 2022. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is an interesting "buddy" investigation where the two main protagonists couldn't be more different. They're cousins, shy bookish Yale and her flashy outgoing influencer cousin Celine, who haven't seen one another since they were children. Yale gets roped into playing tour guide when Celine flies in from Hong Kong for a visit. It's not long until murder intrudes in the reunion, and the cousins decide to play amateur sleuth. The story is engaging and told well, but the pacing is occasionally a little off and I found my interest wandering in places. That being said, the story is fun, and the story arc leads to a satisfying climax, denouement, and resolution. Celine's character starts out as entirely unsympathetic and I had so much antipathy toward her I considered dropping the book but wound up glad that I hadn't done so over the course of the book.

Being a cozy, it's blissfully free of graphic violence, bad language, or sexual content. There were a couple bits of clunky dialogue, but they're few and far between. The author has included a few recipes in the back of the book as well as a chapter sneak-peak for the upcoming second book in the series which is due out in spring 2023.

Three and a half stars, rounded up for the better than just competent characterization and story. A good choice for public library acquisition, as well as for fans of shopfront food cozies.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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Yale Yee is not thrilled that her cousin, Celine, is coming for a visit and even less thrilled when her father suggests the two of them work together to represent his restaurant at the new night market in her neighborhood of L.A. However, she is will to admit by the end of the first night that things went well. That’s before she finds a dead body on her way back to her apartment. The young woman is lying next to one of the distinctive glasses that Yale and Celine served their drinks in, so the police zero in on them as their prime suspects. Can Yale figure out what really happened?

Like many firsts in series, this one has to do a juggling act of introducing characters and setting while also getting the story going. It does a good job, especially since some of the things introduced early on do come into play later. The pacing did lag a little in the middle before we reached the logical solution. The characters did a few things that felt like they were more plot driven than coming from real characterizations. On the other hand, I really did like the characters and their relationships kept me reading. I found Yale’s aversion to technology interesting and fitting her character. Naturally, we get a couple recipes at the end of the book. I’m looking forward to visiting these characters again when the second book comes out.

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Death by Bubble Tea Earns 5/5 Gold Flakes…Engaging Cozy!

Yeah, Jennifer J. Chow, for a page-turner first book in her L.A. Night Market Mystery series! With a clever mystery, rich in cultural references, she has two cousins, Yale and Celine, reuniting after not having seen each for decades. Yale’s memories of the last time they were together greatly differ from Celine’s which adds to the reticence she feels about the reunion. Yale’s father, however oblivious to past conflicts, suggests a bonding moment for the two women: manage the Eastwood Village Night Market food stall celebrating the family’s restaurant Wing Fat. The event starts out with an immediate disagreement over Celine changing the name of the stall that could mislead the guests and providing bedazzled chef jackets to wear. However, Celine’s social media marketing savvy and light bulb glasses in which to serve “bubble tea” turns it all around…to murder! From distant relatives, opposite in personality and temperament, to amateur detectives working in tandem to solve the murder, it’s what the pair learns about family that adds to their success.

This first book is a new favorite with insights into Asian culture woven through a murder mystery with too many suspects to land on one too soon. Her writing slowed a bit to provide time to introduce key characters, explain connections, and set up the journey the two cousins would be taking, but it evened out with a satisfying ending. Her writing style is descriptive in the narrative to make real the environment and a diverse set of personalities (some endearing, some annoying), and using a unique technique to comparing some personalities to Asian foods making me ponder what food am I… Don’t overlook the recipes included as a final treat: Grapefruit Green Tea with Boba (sans the light bulb glass) and Spicy Cucumber Salad.

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Death by Bubble Tea is written by a new to me author, Jennifer J. Chow. It is the first book in the L.A. Night Market cozy mystery series.
I enjoy reading cozies with animals and food in them. Now while this one doesn't have animals in it it has plenty of authentic and delicious sounding Asian foods and drinks that we are introduced to including Bubble Tea. Bubble tea most commonly is a tea accompanied with chewy tapioca balls. It has many flavors and varieties but the two most popular varieties are black pearl milk tea and green pearl milk tea, fruity flavors are very popular as well.
Yale Yee and her cousin Celine, visiting from Hong Kong at the suggestion of Yale's father run a food stand at the Eastwood Night Market. Now these cousins haven't seen each other in over twenty years and have very different personalities
Celine has the brilliant idea to add a gold garnish to the bubble tea to make it more photogenic because she is a food influencer. It works and brings in lots of customers after this. But then one of their customers turns up dead after hours at the Night Market.
While every chapter is not nonstop action we are introduced to many characters. Are the cousins the guilty party or is it one of the many characters we meet who seem to have a motive for the killing? This kept me reading and guessing right to the end.
I will be looking for more in this series as they release.

Pub Date 05 Jul 2022
I was given a complimentary copy of this book.
All opinions expressed are my own.

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DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA is the first book in the brand new LA Night Market series by Jennifer J. Chow. There is so much that captivated me from the very start, from the surprising setting of Los Angeles, which Ms. Chow manages to make feel like a small community, to the food—oh my, the food!—to the protagonist’s family and culture, to the intriguing murder. With fascinating characters and action packed into the story, I couldn’t help but turn pages to find out what happens next. The protagonist, Yale Yee, is one of those characters who seem shy, withdrawn, and full of self-doubts in the beginning (what twenty-something-year-old eschews cell phones and social media and instead immerses herself in a failing bookstore and Jane Austen?). But, as the stakes mount, she finds the inner strength to overcome the obstacles that face her. I appreciated the character growth over the course of the book, especially when Yale is faced with her super successful, famous cousin, Celine. Charged with entertaining and then working with her cousin at a night market food stall representing her father’s restaurant, the theme of ‘family is everything’ is woven throughout, despite Yale’s misgivings.

The attention to cultural details in the book and to the well-plotted mystery makes the story flow. The reader is taken on a culinary journey as Yale tries to make sense of a murder after someone consumes her cousin’s bubble tea concoction. I greatly enjoyed how Yale uses food to entice (or perhaps coerce) potential suspects to reveal their secrets as she tries to prove her cousin’s innocence. Despite their polar opposite personalities, the two cousins work to find common ground and understanding in their quest to find the murderer. This adds a depth of emotion to the story and you can’t but hope that the tragedy will help the two cousins find lasting friendship and that future books in the series will continue to feature them both. The unique murder weapon was well thought out and added intrigue to the plot, making it difficult to guess the culprit from the myriad of suspects. With a hair-raising conclusion, the clues fell into place, along with a desire to find out what happens next to Yale and her family!

Did I mention the food? Not only does Ms. Chow showcase her Chinese cultural dishes but also touches on dishes from other ethnicities throughout the storyline. You’ll be drooling over all the descriptions and will leave you with the desire to take out your passport and book a culinary tour. There are a couple of recipes at the back of the book for the home cook to try.

I was provided with an advance copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I really enjoyed reading Death By Bubble Tea by Jennifer Chow. It was a great cozy mystery. I got interested in the writings of Jennifer Chow when I started reading her Sassy Cat Mystery Series. When I look her up, I see she has been writing for a while and I have some catching up to do. I don’t think they are all cozy mysteries. I have to admit cozy mysteries are a new genre for me.

Yale Lee is the main character and along with her self absorbed cousin Celine from Hong Kong run a food stall at the local night market. Yale discovers a body on her way home and is immediately considered a suspect. She and Celine start investigating to clear Yale’s name.

Death By Bubble Tea is the first book in a new series called LA Night Market. It proved to be very interesting. I learned more about the asian culture and the foods. It made me hungry! I love her character development. These characters are not just there to play a part. You really get to know and care for them. Especially the the main handful. The story is told from the point of view of Yale so you care about the ones that she loves and comes to love. The plot development was good. I didn’t know exactly what was going on until it was revealed.

If you love Cozy Mysteries, I suggest picking up Death By Bubble Tea the first book in a brand new series. This book even has a couple of interesting recipes in the back for us to try. Gotta go! My kitchen is calling me to try those recipes…gee I’m hungry.

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