Showing posts with label Kevin Kwan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kevin Kwan. Show all posts

Friday, April 8, 2016

Kwan's Rich Girlfriend


"Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians, is back with a wickedly funny new novel of social climbing, secret e-mails, art-world scandal, lovesick billionaires, and the outrageous story of what happens when Rachel Chu, engaged to marry Asia’s most eligible bachelor, discovers her birthfather.

On the eve of her wedding to Nicholas Young, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia, Rachel should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, a wedding dress she loves more than anything found in the salons of Paris, and a fiancé willing to sacrifice his entire inheritance in order to marry her. But Rachel still mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. Until: a shocking revelation draws Rachel into a world of Shanghai splendor beyond anything she has ever imagined. Here we meet Carlton, a Ferrari-crashing bad boy known for Prince Harry-like antics; Colette, a celebrity girlfriend chased by fevered paparazzi; and the man Rachel has spent her entire life waiting to meet: her father. Meanwhile, Singapore’s It Girl, Astrid Leong, is shocked to discover that there is a downside to having a newly minted tech billionaire husband. A romp through Asia’s most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and estates, China Rich Girlfriend brings us into the elite circles of Mainland China, introducing a captivating cast of characters, and offering an inside glimpse at what it’s like to be gloriously, crazily, China-rich."

~ China Rich Girlfriend from Goodreads

Hear me out, folks.  On everything I love, I wish I had more to say about Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend.  I really, really do.  However, I don’t.  Or at least have much to expound on about my minuscule disappointment with the book.  A disappointment brewed by the contrived connectivity with each of his characters’ story threads.  Including threads developed completely from the core cast (Nick and Rachel).  So it's kind of strange when I think about how much I loved his previous book, Crazy Rich Asian.  I guess I assumed too much going into his second book.
Nevertheless, after reading China Rich Girlfriend in January, I couldn't find the right words on how I felt about the book.  Good or bad!  So months later, my resounding complaint is still that contrived connectivity issue.  It's like a wall I can't climb.  It's all I think when I recall my experience.  Which has lead me to this late post.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

7 Favorite Reads of 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  2014 IS HERE!

With each year comes one concrete, consistent thing that forever entertains, comforts, and enlightens me... that would be books.  According to Goodreads I read more in 2013 than 2012.  I felt a little surprised, certain that it was the other way around for some reason.  Still, I had a few decent books on that list that I cropped through to find my 7 Favorite Reads of 2013 that I wanted to share on the blog.  Some of the books I've never written about; this is the perfect time to do so.  I also have another list comprising of a few of the books I rather leave in 2013.  Neither list is necessarily numbered in order of greatness, flavor, or level of entertainment.  It’s just a list of the books I walked away from feeling mostly inspired (or uninspired) by.
Here goes…
1. The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

Natsuo Kirino is a Japanese crime writer best known outside of Japan for the English adaptation of her grizzly novel, Out.  I was introduced to her by that particular book, after a bored bookstore stroll for new titles to read.  Quickly put, Out is about four hard-up Japanese women working in a bento factory while disposing bodies for extra cash.  Their method of disposal?  Divide the bodies into pieces before each takes a part to an undisclosed location for dumping.  It doesn't take long before their trust with one another, concerning money and their nasty dealings, begin to unravel from within.  And true to its nature, some of these women don't make it till the end of the novel.  While Out may sound like some sort of ABC crime novel under the streets of Tokyo, the psychology Kirino goes through with each of the women places this book a whole step above.  That exploration into a character's dark psychology (and impulse) is familiar in Japanese crime novels.  You see it in authors Keigo Higashino and Miyuki Miyabe as well.  Nonetheless, I was sold by Out's synopsis and have been a fan of Kirino since.  

The next novel adapted into English was her book, Grotesque.  Just as dark as Out, Grotesque follows the story of two Japanese sisters weighted by the inferior treatment of women in Japan.  One sister has turned to prostitution underneath the weight.  When I say this story will take you down some dark and scary places--I mean it.  It is one ride that will keep you hanging on just to find some kind of resolution with these sisters.  If you can stomach it, of course.  In 2008 the English adaptation of Kirino’s Real World was released.  Here we had another dark story featuring a group of Japanese teens assisting a murderer-on-the-run within their group.  Naturally, Kirino’s dark stories reflect societal concerns, particularly bullying and the heavy amount of pressure placed on Japanese students and academics, so addressed in Real World.  

So what is Kirino’s fourth English adapted book about?  

Almost the same theme concerning the overthrow of women in Japanese society; however, it’s told underneath a retelling of an old Japanese kwaidan-like myth.  The Goddess Chronicle takes place on a Japanese island shaped like a teardrop (let’s go ahead and push the symbolism).  On this island we’re introduced to two sisters born and designed to fulfill a local prophesy.  One sister, Kamikuu, must be a representative of purity and light, whereas the other sister, Namima, resides in the shade.  Natural to Kirino’s characters and storytelling, Namima wishes to escape her position underneath her sister’s shadow.  This wish becomes increasing dire when Namima is ordered by tradition to serve the goddess of darkness.  To serve the goddess is to live in isolation without the island’s graveyard, attending to the dead.  However, Namima carries a secret that breaks her tabooed position as a servant of the darkness.  Namima devises a plan to escape the island.  Should the tradition-baring locals find out about her secret, the consequences could equal up to her life.  Where Namima's eventual escape leads her is to the Realm of the Dead, where she meets the goddess of darkness herself.  It's here that Namima realizes that she has a lot to relate to with the goddess herself.  They both share the pain of the betrayal.  Now to find absolve (or maybe revenge) within those betrayals are the women’s common goal.


2.  Night by Elie Wiesel


3.  Tar Baby by Toni Morrison




4.  Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor


My post on Linden Hills.  


5.  The Shining by Stephen King




7.  Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan



Now the 3 books I'd probably leave in 2013 follows...

1.  Jazz by Toni Morrison


Seems a little off I'm sure.  It's not that I disliked the book, it just wasn't what I'd hoped for.  I've learned that much of Morrison's material post-80's has what I see as a distracting dip in vivid prose and language.  The problem for me is that that "distracting" sometimes lures me away from gathering some sense of the plot of the book, or even the order of the plot.  Add in the multiple themes and narratives in JazzI just didn't leave fully connected with overall story.  However, some of the individual narratives in the book stood so strongly that it was like reading an individual short story inside the book.  Glimpses of pieces of the past that made the two main characters was where I enjoyed the book the most.  In any regard, it's definitely a book that needs a second, focused read.


2.  The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams


The Urban Fantasy genre has failed me over the years.  After Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series set the tone for what to avoid while writing/reading in the genre, I've been sketchy on picking up anything that even distantly suggests a girl must sleep with vampires and werewolves for a plot.  Save for the authors who introduced me to the genre (sadly, Hamilton is one), I try to look carefully for new authors in the genre.  I'm afraid they'll try to pull me in with a ridiculous plot about sex and a she devil who thrives on it to survive.  Williams, luckily, isn't any of those things.  However, what did annoy me about this particular book was that the heroine spent a little too much time than I cared for ruminating on her affection between two guys.  One guys is labeled bad.  One guy is labeled good.  We got a love triangle and the whole time I just wished the main character, McKenzie, would give up the need for romantic stability and just start slaying heads.  Something tells me that's a personal taste of mine.  Nevertheless, I'm actually on the fence about continuing the series.  I'll let it get a few books in then see.


3.  Deadline by Sandra Brown


She has some good ones.  She has some boring ones.  This was a boring one.  I hate to say it, but many times Brown's characters are all the same.  Their careers are different, but their desires are not.  Predictable in many senses.  I saw a lot of that in Deadline.  Same as in 2012's Low Pressure.  Same as in 2011's Lethal (which I actually liked).  As I said before, Brown's books sometimes read like Lifetime movies--and that's not a bad thing.  But here's what I see too often that annoys me.  There's a guy.  He's often a suspect involved in the murder contained within the book.  He likes the girl.  She's often related to the victim in some way.  They're either on the run from cops or bad guys.  Between that running, she is a wall to his desperate sexual advances.  She cracks.  He makes way.  Together they become a force to smoke out the true killer.  That's been her last 3-4 books.

That's the end of my list folks!  Wish I could've written about them all, but trust and believe me when I say that the ones that I didn't write about would've required an entire post.  Any suggestions or comments?  Do you have a list 2013 book list of favorites?  Share and let's compare notes!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I can not write a post on Chinese biographer, Jung Chang, and Chinese-American author, Amy Tan, without mentioning Singapore born and raised, Kevin Kwan, and his take on satiric romp-literature in the form of his first novel, Crazy Rich Asians.  Now that was a mouthful of a sentence.  In any regard, I’ve wanted to read this book since I ran across it this past summer at my local bookstore.  The glittery gold cover and downy pink-colored lettering just screamed DRAMA LIKE NO OTHER.  Top that with the title itself and your forever-fettered Kdrama (Korean drama) obsessor was ready to peel open its pages to absorb all of the melodrama, fashion, money, and behind-closed-doors corruption of Asian millionaires and their spoiled heirs/esses.  Quite simply, I was ready to get my Kdrama fix in literary form, despite Kwan's cast being Chinese as opposed to Korean.  Should something that insignificant even matter.

This juicy piece of amusing fiction delivered just what it intended to, with the exception of a slap-across-the-face scene served by an overprotective, old money mother to her low-income son’s girlfriend.  That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.  And in many ways the devious antics displayed in the book were soft, as opposed to the cruel and downright trifling excursions played out by rivals in Kdramas.  But you know what, that’s not what this book is about.  Hardly.

I like to think that Crazy Rich Asians is a percussion strike between Kwan’s insider view of elite Asians and Jackie Collins's Western glitzy glam.  And to be honestly, while I love Collins, Kwan’s writing is far less diarist and cliché.  Which brings me to another point as to why I liked this book.  Crazy Rich Asians moved away from those stereotypical/cliché numbers we’ve become accustomed to by Asian-enthused novels.  This isn’t a book about an immigrant experience or a pro-democratic movement over China.  Matter-of-fact, it doesn’t even take place in China--specifically.

Aside from the opening character introduction taking place in 1980s London, Crazy Rich Asians starts in New York.  It's here that our main couple, Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young, share a quiet moment over tea in their favorite spot.  They are professional educators, matched by a mutual associate.  Nevertheless, the discussion over tea seems simple: Nick’s best friend’s wedding will take place in Singapore and he would like Rachel to attend and meet his family.  Rachel comes from a modest family/background, and is not even partially aware of Nick’s wealthy background and family.  She might’ve picked up on small, curious bits concerning Nick’s "resources", but the majority of her perception of him is that he is frugal and hardworking (besides being sweet to her).  Therefore, there is nothing for Rachel to assume, regarding Nick’s family.  Yet, she is tentative about meeting them and Nick's friends for the summer.

And for good reason.  Minutes after Rachel and Nick share a closing kiss, their conversation is captured by a nosy patron who recognized Nick.  Said patron emails her sister, who in turn calls her best friend in Singapore, who then texts eight different friends.  Eventually the news of Nick bringing a girl home to Singapore spreads like a virus across powerful social circles.

The proceeding chapter showers us with Nick’s uppity mother, Eleanor Young, receiving some unsettling information that Nick is heading to Singapore with a Taiwanese-American gold-digger (that‘s how far Rachel‘s “dossier” has stretched from the truth).  That’s three demeaning strikes and two lies already against Rachel before she even sets foot on a plane to Australia.  The only truth is that she is American.  She is later coined an ABC which means American Born Chinese.  However, this does not make Rachel’s situation any better as Eleanor use every available force of power that she has to put an end to Rachel and Nick’s relationship (the snubs begin with Eleanor leaving Singapore before their arrival).  The inventive cohorts that support Eleanor’s cause do most of her dirty work.  Of course she couldn't be bothered to roll around in the mud.  However, she is very present as a villainesque mother, drenched in her obsession with maintaining control, wealth, and her definition of the Young family image.

While Rachel and Nick's A plot takes up the ground of the book, Kwan gifts us with several B plots that increases the book‘s focus on wealth and the personal turmoil and baggage it creates.  One B plot consists of Nick’s fashionista cousin, Astrid, and her martial woes.  While another focuses on Nick’s other cousin, Eddie, and the strife he puts his children through as he struggles with his desire to appear seamless before his family and peers.

And believe me when I say that there is more to be had from this book.  Much, much more.
Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte

Crazy Rich Asians was just an entertaining read all around.  I enjoyed it a lot more than I anticipated, considering how I had a hard time establishing the multitude of side characters with their names, families, and purposes.  I probably struggled the most here, whereas some reviewers didn’t exactly like Kwan’s use of dropping big brand fashion names.  Nonetheless, after their fifth appearance, I started to understand who side characters like Daisy Foo and Ling Cheh represented in the scheme of the novel.  I also sputtered along with Kwan’s mixture of English and Romanized Chinese.  Not because they were present, but because they were footnoted.  This usually meant I had to cut myself from the narrative to spot the translation.  In nonfiction this doesn’t seem to bother me, but in fiction I realized that it did.  I would’ve preferred if he integrated the translations into the text by means of simply having the characters translate it themselves as a form of emphasis, or have characters respond accordingly so that it translates clearly to the reader.  

Nonetheless, nothings takes away how absorbing and fun Kwan’s novel is.  His writing didn’t slow down as he switched between revolving plots on the fly.  Each main character he employed drove me with a smile through their stories, as well as hot moments of rage (even the genuine Rachel drove me crazy at moments).  I don’t recall being able to put the book down after my initial adjustment to his style.  While it’s too late to label this a beach read, I still encourage anyone interested in peeking into the screwball lives of elite and powerful Asian families to pick up this book.  That way Kwan can present us with another book because Crazy Rich Asians will leave you wanting more.

ENJOY!

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