Crazy Rich Asians

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Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan

December 2015

I was motivated by two factors to pick up Crazy Rich Asians. The first (and redundant) reason was The Skimm. ūüėČ They recommended the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, a while back. I was really¬†intrigued, so I looked it¬†up, found out it was the sequel, looked up the first book,¬†checked Crazy Rich Asians out of the library, and started reading it (this was well before we moved in Oct!). I was really enjoying it, but I had a large stack on non-library books that I wanted to read before the move, so I paused reading and returned it. Somehow, my brother and I got talking about the book and he shared that he had read it, loved it, and had no idea there was a sequel (which he presently bought). As a result, I was even more interested in reading it.¬†And bonus, he had both books so I could borrow them from him! Fast forward to now, we’ve settled into our house and I finally got to pick back up Crazy Rich Asians. Happily, I really enjoyed it and it was totally worth the wait.

Kevin Kwan is brilliant. He has a depth of¬†detail that is both interesting and overwhelming. [He elaborates on the varied Asian cultures, down to different dialects, foods, slang, and nuances one normally wouldn’t pick up on, and as a result, it was very interesting and also overwhelming at times.]¬†Kwan’s characters¬†are varied and dimensional, his plot is extremely clever, and his writing was both humorous and touching. The general plot follows Rachel and her boyfriend Nick. They are both professors in NYC and Nick convinces Rachel to spend the summer with him in Asia where they will meet his family, spend time where he grew up, and attend his best friend’s wedding. What he, rather unwittingly, leaves out is that the wedding is THE wedding of the year, he is himself one of the most eligible bachelors and mothers and daughters throughout Asia are competing for him, and his mother is quite particular about who is with her son (to put it mildly). SPOILER: all of this culminates to make Rachel’s treatment by Nick’s family horrendous–from¬†a rotten, mutilated¬†fish in her purse, to ex’s dishing on their history with Nick, to being blatantly told that she cannot ever marry Nick by his mother and grandmother. In a plot twist, Nick’s mother earths up Rachel’s birth father (whom Rachel thought was dead) and discovers he is a criminal in prison. When all is thought to be lost between Rachel and Nick, the plot twists again and Nick fights for Rachel¬†and discovers that her real birth father is someone else entirely (a long story told by Rachel’s mother, recounting her horrors as a young woman married to an abusive man and how another young man helped her escape-and was unknowingly Rachel’s real father). In the end, Nick sticks by Rachel and essentially leaves his family because of how awful they were to Rachel.

Summing it up: I really liked Crazy Rich Asians. While it took me a little while to really get into the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

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The Queen of the Tearling

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The Queen of the Tearling

by Erika Johansen

December 2015

That was intense! This is the first book by Johansen that I’ve read, but it will not be my last. It literally swept me along from the first page to the very end. I thought that it was a novel premise for such a well known genre. I was on the edge of my seat as I read, but I also really enjoyed what I read and wasn’t anxious in a way that took away the fun. ūüėČ

Kelsea is the uncrowned Queen of Tearling who has been hidden for nineteen years for her safety. She’s been raised by her guardians, Carlin and Barty who are also training her to be a queen. The story begins when Kelsea is of age and ready to be crowned. However, it is not simple for her to gain her throne because of traitors and an usurping uncle. She has to win the trust of her guard and her people and not be killed in the process.

I was SO frustrated throughout the book because Kelsea doesn’t know a lot of her history and /or who she really is or what is going on in her country. I felt like she had the right to be¬†more prepared. She was prepared in other ways, but it wasn’t enough. That being said, I’m pretty sure that was part of the point and it was certainly part of the plot¬†. . . just super annoying for me personally because I totally fell for Kelsea and wanted her to succeed from the first sentence. I loved some of the novel concepts like that fact that Kelsea is really plain and how she is very clever for not being told a lot. She is a strong and courageous heroine and that was wonderful to read. A caution: there is a decent amount of language (heads up to those of you who are sensitive to that), and a lot of heartache. As a mother, it was very hard to read a bunch of the scenes. I get why they’re in there and they are important to the story, but it’s sad.

I loved, Johansen’s writing style and I really enjoyed her plot, characters, and the way the story developed. I begrudgingly admit that Kelsea not knowing things was good for the reader in that you had to wait to find everything out (hurumph) . . .I guess I’m just impatient! This book was just so good and I’m really happy I picked it up. Credit is due to my sister who recommended it based on the fact that I loved Goose Girl and I enjoy the show, Game of Thrones. ūüėČ Thank you, Han! Awesome recommendation.

Summing it up: I really enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling and I’m looking forward to the second book in the serious (hopefully Jan/Feb I’ll get to it!). I definitely recommend it! Has anyone else gotten swept along with Johansen’s stories? Are there other good ones to check out?

All the best, Abbey

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me?

   

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me?

by Mindy Kaling

December 2015

*Crying I’m laughing so hard* (me reading both of Mindy Kaling’s books)

I read Mindy Kaling’s first book over the summer and then I just finished her second book. They are both hilarious and well worth reading! I finished both books in about a day and a half each. They are witty, down-to-earth, and impossible to put down. I definitely laughed more during the first book,¬†Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?¬†¬†That book had a lot of Kaling’s opinions and thoughts about life. She is hilarious in her content and also the way she puts pen to paper. I literally died laughing! ūüėČ I found the second book, Why Not Me?¬†to be more serious, as Kaling put more of a vulnerable side forward. It was more of a memoir with funny stories sprinkled throughout. I loved reading a more serious side, but I was happy she kept her humor too. I felt like¬†I read two very different books¬†with the same hilarious writing style (love that they weren’t redundant in any way!). I basically think Mindy Kaling is brilliant. period.

Summing it up: I absolutely recommend both books, without hesitation! Go block out two-three days and give yourself a good laugh and walk away feeling so much better!

All the best, Abbey

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

December 2015

This long titled book was my November book club book! I was excited to read it, but I got bogged down because the entire book is letters. I actually had such a hard time getting into the book that I was only about half way through it at book club. Everyone agreed that the format was difficult, but they all really enjoyed the book, especially when they got to part 2. They unanimously said it was worth finishing. Naturally (because I love my book club), I sat down to finish it (after taking a break to read The Language of Flowers). Well, they were all right, of course . . . I ended up really enjoying it! It did take until almost to part 2 to really get the flow and characters, but it was worth it. What a sweet, fun novel. Juliet is the main character-a British author in 1946 who is looking for her next novel. She becomes friends with people on the island of Guernsey when one of them writes her to get a particular book and her recommendation. Then evolves the story of the book group founded on Guernsey during the war (hence the title), and Juliet runs with it as a book idea. Juliet is an easy character to get behind and root for to succeed. She, as well as her friends on Guernsey, are endearing. I love the different characters, even though they were quite irritating to begin with, being as there are so many of them! And the love story for Juliet was so sweet and was a lovely subplot to the rest of the novel.

At one point in the book, Juliet is writing to Dawsey (the man who originally wrote Juliet), and has this fabulous quote: “That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive–all with no end in sight, and for no other reason that to sheer enjoyment.” This is truly what I have found, and not just in books, but on Facebook, or my book club, or the Skimm, or just out there on the internet. I love that about reading, just like Juliet!

Summing it up: I recommend it if you can get past the letter format. ūüėČ

All the best, Abbey

The Language of Flowers

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The Language of Flowers

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

December 2015

Words. Words are an incredible gift. How do I find the words to describe this book and do it justice? I suppose I’ll begin like I usually do-how I decided to read this book. We just moved and I thought that joining our town’s¬†library book group might be a good place to meet people. The December book was The Language of Flowers. I read the back and didn’t really get excited-it sounded like it might be sad. But, I was intrigued by the flowers and their meanings (the¬†subject has always interested me), and I’m trying to broaden my reading (aka not just read happy, feel good children’s literature, haha!). So, I decided to go for it. An ironic side note: I actually can’t even go to the book group after all! However, I’m so glad I decided to give The Language of Flowers a chance. Diffenbaugh is gifted to say the least, and certainly has a way with words. From the moment I began reading I was entranced. It took me a bit to follow the flow because it hops between the present and the past, but once I got going it was very easy to get swept away. The characters are believable, real, and raw. Honestly, this was one of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve read and I cried through the whole book. I really thought things would end in a dark place, but Diffenbaugh weaves in hope in a beautiful (and not¬†schmaltzy) way. I really respect the way the book is real in it’s dark places as well as it’s light and joyful.

Some spoilers ahead for the next two paragraphs (there’s a lot I want to remember from this book!): Victoria is the main character and is in and out of foster homes until she turns nine. She comes to live with Elizabeth, a single woman who runs her own vineyard. It is a rocky relationship which soon turns into a loving one. Elizabeth has cut herself off from her sister, Catherine, because she stole Elizabeth’s love away when they were younger. Catherine doesn’t fair well because the young man abandons her pregnant with a¬†son, Grant. The animosity is great until Elizabeth decides she wants to reconcile (at this point, Catherine is suffering from mental illness and refuses to talk to Elizabeth). Victoria can’t understand why Elizabeth¬†would want to do that and decides to take matters into her own hands by burning the vineyard and blaming Catherine. It backfires and Victoria is sent back into foster car until she turns 18. When she is out of the system, a florist takes her in and gives her a job. She meets Grant through this and they fall in love and Victoria gets pregnant. All this time Victoria struggles with self hate and hate towards all around her. She believes she will never be good enough and always will ruin a good relationship, so she leaves the baby with Grant and disappears. She ends up with a successful florist business and in the end is able to reconcile with Grant, Elizabeth, and her baby girl, Hazel. The end of the book closes with plans towards a healthy, whole family, allowing ¬†for Victoria to take baby steps to get there. Throughout the whole book is also the concept of the meanings behind each flower. Elizabeth and Catherine teach this to Victoria and Grant and that is how they in turn begin communicating and part of the way Victoria finds healing. There is much, much more, but that is the broad synopsis.

This book is raw and honest and beautiful. I don’t know much about the foster care system, to that was eye opening for me. Victoria is so hard and bitter and stubborn-you really want to shake sense into her as she runs away from love again and again. But you realize that she’s never known love and you root for her the whole book and hope for her when she has none. I think a lot of books tie things up very happily in a “too good to be true” way. I mean, I love that, but it can be a little much. So, I love that this ending is different. Victoria is reconciled, but it’s too much for her to live with everyone, so she will begin her new life living alone, but being with Elizabeth, Grant, and Hazel, moving toward living with her family and being a mother. The last line of the book is beautiful, “Over time, we [Hazel and Victoria speaking] would learn each other, and I would learn to love her like a mother loves a daughter, imperfectly and without roots.” My final love of this book is how Victoria changes from a closed, bitter person, to a woman who is letting herself change and opening herself¬†to receiving love.

Summing it up: Read with tissues and keep hope even when things are dark! I loved this one and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey