Category Archives: Books

Review: Crazy Rich Asians

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I. Hated. This. Book.

Wow, it was the worst book I’ve read in a really long time and I made myself finally finish it last night. It’s hard to make yourself spend a few hours reading about a story you don’t care for and people you hate.

What the book lacked in plot and character development, it made up for in buttloads of descriptions of excess. I don’t know why someone thought that these unbelievable (but apparently fairly accurate) descriptions of the houses, cars, clothes, hotels, etc could make up for a weak storyline and even weaker characters.

Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians follows the story of Rachel, a young woman who goes on a summer vacation with her boyfriend Nicholas back to his native Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding. Turns out that Nicholas’s family is, you guess it, crazy rich. And by crazy rich, I mean like they’re so rich they don’t even talk about how rich they are. And they don’t like Rachel because she’s not rich and her family is of questionable background.

We’re meant to see this crazy rich world through Rachel’s eyes. But I just found her so uninteresting. She is supposed to be a professor in Economics at (maybe) NYU. She is apparently worldly, educated, sensible, etc. She just ends up seeming unbelievably naive to me. Like, has she never visited an Asian family before? Has she never visited anyone’s family before? All she does throughout the novel is get shepherded from mansion to mansion to spa to mansion and has run ins with bitches, bitches and more bitches and she does nothing to stand up for herself. Her character is as frustrating because she’s constantly the victim and does nothing to assert herself. Why should we feel for this girl? Part of the issue seems to be how Kwan writes his female characters. He doesn’t seem to be a real idea of how females talk, interact and think. It reads like he spent a couple hours watching and rewatching Mean Girls. His male characters are better developed but again, why should we feel for any of them? They

The plot is so thin and the characters are of such little importance to the author who just masturbates all over the pages with so. much. description. that adds so little to the actual story. Why do I need to know the specific details of each character’s house – the outrageous price of such and such antique ming vase, the exact cost of the gold baroque detailings in the crown moulding, the amount of servants and lady maids, etc. Towards the end, I just started skimming past the descriptions because it was getting so annoying.

I will give it to Kwan that his setting is certainly interesting and Singapore comes across like a whole other planet because it’s so far removed from the world I come from. I also enjoyed his extensive and satirical footnotes. But none of that is enough to make me recommend this book.

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Review: Wedding Night

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It’s been so long since I last read a book – I think it was winter? I was in the middle of reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman which just couldn’t capture my attention and it turned me off of reading for a while. I think I subconsciously wanted to finish it before I started another book so I just put off reading altogether rather than plow through the damned thing.

Anyway, after a bit of encouragement from my husband, I downloaded a couple books onto my Kobo to do some summer reading. I started off with Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella because I wanted something light and airy to dip my toes into. Turns out this novel was the perfect palate cleanser from Moran’s book.

Wedding Night is similar to all of Sophie Kinsella’s books, especially with regards to her protagonist. Lottie is apparently smart but actually seems flighty, air-headed and illogical. But she’s also funny and has a good heart. (Hmmm, Becky Bloomwood much?) Unlike Kinsella’s other novels, this one actually tells the story from two points of view: Lottie, who’s impulsively married her teenage summer fling, and Fliss, Lottie’s big sister who tries to talk some sense into her. The alternating of narrators made the novel more interesting than it would have been otherwise. I liked reading Lottie’s conflicted feelings about her new husband and her ex-boyfriend. And I really liked reading and relating to Fliss’s madwoman thoughts, even forgetting at some points that she was talking crazy-talk.

I also enjoyed that the novel was set mainly in Greece. I’ve been hankering to go to Greece in the last few years and this novel’s setting makes me want to go even more. Kinsella usually doesn’t write descriptions in a particularly remarkable way – perhaps because the majority of her novels take place in London? – but her descriptions of Greece really took me there. When Lottie describes her love of guest house there, I feel like I’m right there too. 

I did find myself bored with Kinsella’s tired old protagonists who are all essentially the same woman with different names and settings. The set-up of each of her novels seem to be, “What would Becky Bloomwood do?” and the plots sets out to answer that question. Yes, I knew that when I bought the book but I wish Kinsella would surprise her readers once in a while.

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Review: Your Voice in My Head

your voice in my head

After about six months sitting on my Kobo “Unread” list, I finally opened up Emma Forrest’s Your Voice in My Head this Christmas “break” (which wasn’t really a break as I still have to go to work). I knew it was a book I should read, but sometimes knowing I should read a book makes me less inclined to do so. I don’t know why because almost inevitably once I’m finished, I’m so happy I did read it.

As I was not even halfway through Forrest’s book, I was happy that this lived up to its hype. The way she writes about her fucked up, crazy thoughts that she knows aren’t “normal”. The way she encapsulates how it feels to be sad – how terrible, terrible, terrible it is. How all-encompassing it is. And how she managed to pull through it and come out the other side – not happy but recovered. It resonated with me in a really raw and truthful, if not fucked up kinda way.

I haven’t felt sad in a while. It’s been a long time since I let my mind wander into that abyss even though I feel it always lingering on the outskirts of my mind. I won’t let myself feel like that because I know it leads to places I don’t want to go. But lately, I’ve been feeling sad again – just a touch more than usual. Perhaps it’s just seasonal affective disorder. But this book really spoke to how it felt and sometimes still feels to be there.

Your Voice in My Head is one of those books where you want to take your time reading it so you can revel in the experience. And as soon as you’re done, you’re tempted to pick it up and read it again. I finished the book around 11pm last night and I feel like I want more. I wish I read this book as soon as it came out, so I can discuss it with someone. So I can find someone who is as excited about it as I am. I want to go over certain parts and talk about it, how beautifully written it is, like she’s in my own head thinking my own thoughts. For now, I can only read year-old reviews and have these discussions internally with myself instead. And wait for the movie to come out – hopefully this year?

Overall, I highly recommend Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest. Please read it. And then come discuss it with me. Please.

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Review: Bossypants

Bossypants

Tina Fey & her book, Bossypants

Tina Fey’s always been a celebrity I’m supposed to be a fan of. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s pretty but not in the plastic, unattainable, air-brushed way. But I actually haven’t seen her in much save for Mean Girls, Baby Momma and those Sarah Palin SNL skits a few years back. I just haven’t been much of a fan as I know I should be.

I’ll admit, I put off buying and reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants for a few months because I didn’t want to read something because everyone else was. I like to be cool and different that way, okay? Besides, I had just read A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth and was looking forward to reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) as my next celebrity biography.

So last week while I was on a business trip and had some time on my hands, I decided to finally dig into the book. I so thoroughly enjoyed myself that I regret not reading it sooner and tempted to go watch 30 Rock.

Fey’s writing style is flows well and makes the reading easy. She’s entertaining which should be expected as she’s a comedy writer (for SNL and 30 Rock). I just didn’t expect to be laughing out loud (or LOLing) while reading so many passages. I particularly enjoyed her time at camp with her gay friends who were in the “half-closet”.

I also enjoyed how Fey wrote about her father Don Fey, describing him as a man who commanded respect just by entering a room. And in reading her description of him, I kinda started feeling like I respected him too, even though I’ve only seen a tiny picture of him.

One of the biggest things I liked about reading the book was Fey’s honesty. She’s candid about those times she acted uncool. Like when she applied for a job she knew her coworker wanted and she only took to get out of where she was. Or when she admitted she was more comfortable with her gay friends in the half-closet rather than fully out of the closet. (They were there for more than just her entertainment?)

I also enjoyed her assertion that women didn’t need to be cute or sexy to be funny. Yes, it’s a feminist slant but damn it if it wasn’t correct. Women are funny and it doesn’t always need to be as a sidenote to her looks. One chapter tells about how Jimmy Fallon got owned by Poehler for telling her she wasn’t being cut.

Speaking of, the last few chapters that read like a love letter to Amy Poehler, her frequent costar and fellow former cast member at SNL. I love how much respect she has for Poehler (and all of her current/past costars).

Anyway, definitely pick up this book if you’re into comedy writing. If you’re into celebrity biographies. And especially if you’re into Tina Fey.

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The Things That Shaped My Youth

Inspired by Kloipy’s post: 10 Things That Shaped My Youth, I started to think about what influences in my youth shaped me to be who I am today. Here’s what I came up with:

1) My brother

VyTri & Me

Yes, my brother & I even shared haircuts.

My brother was my first hero. He was two years older than me which meant he was infinitely wiser. I wanted to be just like him. He loved to draw, so I loved to draw. He watched GI Joe and Transformers, I watched them with him. He played hockey, I ended up being the goalie. I was a tomboy because I was a reflection of my brother. He must have loathed me being his shadow and copycat, never getting a moment’s peace. But I adored him and lapped up every bit of play time I could get out of him.

Continue reading

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Review: Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter

I originally picked up Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda to read for this new chick lit book club I recently joined. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward reading it as it seemed a heavier tone than “chick lit” normally is. (Think: Shopaholic novels) I wasn’t sure I would be into the weight subject material.

But after reading the first couple of chapters, I realized I was about to read not only a good book but what would turn out to be one of my favourite books. I ended up reading the whole thing within a day losing a lot of much-needed sleep.

Secret Daughter follows the interconnected lives of three women: Kavita, an Indian woman who gives away her newborn baby girl in order to save her life and is haunted by that decision. Somer, an American doctor who, with her husband, adopts the little girl after finding out they are infertile. And Asha, the little girl born in India and raised in America who tries to understand where she comes from and how she fits into it now.

Gowda’s writing is intense and emotional, particularly when telling Kavita’s story as she describes her longing for her daughter, even after she has her prized son. The emotional depth with which she writes about relationships, between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives resonated with me in a very real way.

I also quite enjoyed her imagery of Mumbai, India where you can see the best of mankind and worst of mankind all in one city. The colours, the smells and the tastes of India were so evocative that I really felt like I was there, even though I’ve only known India from a handful of movies and photographs.

I also enjoyed the culture clash sensitively described not only between India and America, but also between the old world and the new. Tradition vs modernization. In this way, I am reminded of one of my other favourite books, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri which also navigates the same waters in a similarly touching manner.

I encourage everyone to go read this book immediately. I’m so glad I read this book for a book club so I can discuss with people all the thoughts I have running through the head.

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Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus

Warning: This review contains possible spoilers.

This morning I finally finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Since closing the book in my Kobo reader, I haven’t really been able to stop thinking about it.

From the publisher:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Before buying this book, I read reviews claiming Morgenstern’s book to be the next Harry Potter: taking up the Fantasy genre mantle that Harry Potter left behind. I have to admit, with such heavy expectations, I was hesitant to read it for fear of disappointment. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is one of my favourites and I am hard-pressed to believe something else so great could come along so readily. Thus, The Night Circus stood on my Kobo shelf for four months before I decided to finally open it.

Morgenstern does a great job describing the circus. I could easily imagine the black and white striped tents which are deceptively larger inside than they appear. I could almost smell the caramel and hot chocolate. The reveurs with the red scarves so bright against their black & white attire. I could almost believe the circus was real, much like how I could also believe Hogwarts was real. And I wanted to visit, or felt like I had visited it but a long time ago that it’s just a faint memory.

The book starts off a bit slow and I had trouble caring for the main characters, Celia & Marco. In particular Marco who seemed cold, arrogant and distant. It’s not until halfway when Celia  & Marco discover each other as their respective opponents does the book pick up steam. Suddenly, the rivalry holds more weight as more lives are involved and thus, more consequences.

Morgenstern creates full characters out of Celia and Marco, but at times, I could only see them as characters written in a book rather than living, breathing souls. Their courtship and eventual relationship don’t feel as real or profound to me as I would have liked. Thus, the climax wasn’t as monumental and all-consuming to me. I didn’t care whether or not they ended up together or were separated forever. Instead I found myself more drawn to Bailey’s parallel story. His life, his friendship with Poppet and Widget and what the circus meant to him.

Nevertheless, by the end of the book, I wanted to keep reading more, even though the ending was perfect. I still want to know more about what happened to each character and how they and the circus lived on. I want more circus tales, about other people we didn’t meet or only briefly met. I want to read more of Morgenstern’s book, if only The Night Circus wasn’t her first book.

I’d still definitely recommend this book, especially since I want to discuss it with someone and flesh out everything I’ve been thinking.

Have you read The Night Circus? If so, what did you think about it? Impressed? Less than?

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Books I’m reading: March 2012

I’ve got the following books currently loaded on my Kobo ereader:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
As an avid Harry Potter fan, this book has been recommended as the next Harry Potter. Currently about 20% of the way through it, I found it doesn’t quite pull me in the same way as Harry Potter does. I will give it to the author though that she creates a vivid picture of the circus and definitely makes me want to go. I suppose to main thing right now is that I’m not really that invested in the characters yet.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
Thanks to my friend Jennifer who gave me The Outliers in November (which I’ve since given to my husband to read), I’ve been lapping up all of Malcolm Gladwell’s writing. I’ve since read The Tipping Point and am reading What the Dog Saw as soon as I’m done The Night Circus. If Blink was available on the Kobo I’d also read this asap.

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
Not 100% sure of what the heck it’s about but I’ve been intrigued by the book and her previous book The Birth House. I figured I’d download this one first and see how it goes.

Also thinking about getting:
Your Voice in my Head by Emma Forrest
Bossypants by Tina Fey
White Girl Problems by Babe Walker

Also need to start reading Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda for my Chicklit Reading Group before April. Yikes!

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