Blog Tour + Book Review: Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop

7.26.2020


Thank you to Caffeine Book Tours and Penguin Random House for providing me with an advanced reader copy for review. Receiving this galley does not impact my opinion of the book.


"There isn't anything wrong with knowing that something will expire. It focuses you: treasure the time you have together."

Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop follows Chinese-American accountant Vanessa Yu's pursuit of self-discovery in the City of Love. Since she was young, Vanessa has possessed the ability to tell fortunes based on the remnants of their tea (or other drink). Unfortunately, the accountant has no control over her power: she bursts with a prophecy every time she catches sight of the bottom of a cup. To worsen matters, her ability has left her so unable to sustain a long-term relationship that her aunts demand she see a matchmaker. When Vanessa spoils a wedding by accidentally predicting the groom's future infidelity, she becomes determined to control her power. She leaves her job in America behind to study under the tutelage of her Aunt Evelyn, an expert fortune-teller, in Paris. As Vanessa explores the city, she discovers magic and love and learns that her actions can be stronger than fate.

Author Roselle Lim sprinkles three budding romances with a few supernatural elements to make love in our world feel a little more magical. Kaleidoscopes of blue butterflies and swirling winds foreshadow romantic developments. Vanessa and Aunt Evelyn's fortune-telling abilities pose an engaging dilemma: how much of our actions are truly our own, if clairvoyants can see conflict and death months before it happens? Like many satisfying fairy-tales, the characters realize that love bends to no rules. However, Vanessa and her friends' flaws obstruct the developing relationships. These human imperfections root the story in realism and leave readers with space to imagine their own magical happy endings.

The lush descriptions also make the world of Vanessa Yu seem more real. Lim's writing constructs a Paris setting that feels palpable. The illustrations of food are also vivid, if occasionally excessive. For the Yu family, eating and preparing food are ways to communicate love. Throughout the story, delicious delicacies accompany family traditions, declarations of love, and acts of forgiveness.

Vanessa's resolve to be the master of her own destiny drives the plot forward. The growing strength of her magical capabilities mirrors her personal development. Initially, Vanessa not only struggled to  avoid fortune-telling but also to find fulfillment in life. Desiring to please others, she neglected her loves of art and food to pursue stable work as an accountant. When the protagonist recognizes that she, too, is deserving of love, her control of the supernatural and of her own decisions increases. Vanessa takes more risks; once encouraged by her family to consult a matchmaker, Vanessa assumes the role of a matchmaker herself to help her Aunt Evelyn find love after years of solitude. At times, the romantic sub-plots rushed these moments of change. Still, Vanessa's growth as a character is gratifying to read and asserts that we, rather than some magical entity, hold the power to create our own happiness.

Lim also harnesses Vanessa's perspective to explore and condemn racism at different levels. For instance, the fortune-teller faces invalidating comments from her matchmaker, who dismisses her identity as not Chinese enough when she reveals that she does not speak the language. On a larger scale, Parisians boycott Aunt Evelyn's tea business when xenophobic flyers isolate her as a foreigner.  The instances of discrimination in this book range from quiet microaggressions to overt acts of racism. For the Asian characters, all are tiring. These tense moments serve as reminders of how ingrained casual racism remains in society and that prejudice in any form hurts its victims.

In two words, Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop is cute and compelling. A joy to read.

- ★★★★ -
About the author

Roselle Lim was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighborhood.

She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother's) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.

An artist by nature, she considers writing as "painting with words."


Favorite quotes from "Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop"


"Yearning for the stars won't bring them to your fingertips."

"Aunt Evelyn was from the previous generation: they bore the societal injustices of misogyny and racism. But they raised their daughters not to accept the world's limitations. They fought for us and taught us to fight. These were the women I wanted to be. As a pack, my aunties could conquer a small country."

"There could be no greater comfort or reward than reciprocated love."

"Happiness is a state of mind; however just declaring yourself happy did not, in itself, persuade others, nor did it fool you. No one but you would know the lie, if you told it."

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6 comments :

  1. I aspire to have Evelyn's elegance so much. just like Evely Hugo from SHOEH by TJR ❤️

    What is it with the name Evelyn that makes themexude elegance and confidence and uhhhhh i wanna be evelyn

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  2. I actually just finished Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune from Roselle Lim, because I saw you marked this book on your goodreads and the cover caught my eye! I think the concepts in her stories are so beautiful. I really enjoyed that book and I hope to get to this one.

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  3. I've seen this book around and the cover is super cute! I've never know what the story is about, but reading your review makes me want to pick this book up. Lovely review, Claire!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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  4. Hi, co-tour host! Ah, lovely review. Glad that you've liked the book, too. 😊 I also love your photo of it. So cute! Btw, what do you think of Marc? Are you satisfied with his character or do you think there's more?

    ReplyDelete