Discussion · review · Review Copy

Teng’s Review: Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians #3) by Kevin Kwan

Teng is my very best friend and you can find more of her posts here.

Crazy

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 23rd 2017 by Doubleday
Source: Publisher

Soon after I heard that Kevin Kwan will be publishing his third book in the Crazy Rich Asian series, Rich People Problems, I have been diligently stalking my local library to see if I can get my hands on a copy. Fortunately, Nafiza, with her book magic, procured me a copy, so that I do not need to obsessively hit refresh to see if the waiting list at the library has been updated.

I have read all three books in the Crazy Rich Asian series, and Rich People Problems is a great finale that neatly ties up all the loose ends and brings the story to a very wholesome close. Granted, I would love for the book to be longer, or for Kwan to just keep writing. But I can say that I am happy with the way things ended.

Like the previous two books, Rich People Problems is outrageously funny, deliciously gossipy, and I have yet to read a book that name and label drop with such class and sass. Rich People Problems is worth reading just for the laughs.

As an Asian, Taiwanese to be exact, I adore this book and this series not just for the laughs but also for giving the world a glimpse at very typical Asian culture and family drama. Kwan seems to emphasize on this point as well, that he is, in a way, modernizing or making Asian culture more palatable for Western readers. For Asian readers, like me, I think it is safe to say that we relate to a lot of the issues and storylines used in the book. Ok, I do not have even 1/10000 of the wealth of some of the characters in the book, and honestly, the world Kwan has created is like reading about Narnia and knowing that it is real(Yes, people like the characters in the book are definitely real. The stories I can tell). But the dialogue between Nick Young and his mother, and the relatives conversation about grandmother’s health are very, very familiar.

This is slightly spoilerish, but in the book, Kwan includes a “ten-point social placement scanner,” where he explains how one Asian evaluates another in terms of social status and wealth. The ten points read very privileged, and very few people can probably make it through all ten stages and score a decent result at the end, but dear lord, I understand it. One part that really resonated with me is actually the first point of the ten-point plan that considers what kind of Asian is the individual being evaluated? I know that to others, all Asians look the same, if not similar. But to us Asians, we have clearly drawn lines in the sand between each group and sub-group of Asians, we are clearly aware of the boundaries, and damnit, we are not one of the other Asian that you think we are! On a slightly vain note, as a Canadian Asian from Vancouver, apparently I score about middle in Kwan’s order of importance of different kinds of Asians. I think Kwan’s ordering is quite accurate, and I am, dare I say, proud, that I scored higher than the other type of Asians listed behind my group on the list?  I know it is discriminatory to say one type of Asian is just better than the other, but this way of evaluating other Asians does feel very prevalent in Asian communities, and affects the way we interact with each other.

Speaking of discrimination, I really like that Kwan addresses some of the prejudicial views held by the older characters in his story. Some of the prejudicial views mentioned in the book about parents’ expectation of children, money, mental health and others do exist in Asian populations, and I have heard them. Kwan explains the prejudicial views as because the older characters have held these biases for so long and with their wealth and age, their biased views become the right view in their minds.  This does not necessarily excuse the biases, but I think Asian readers will relate to Kwan’s explanation. Respecting our elders is a core value in Asian culture and in my family too. Oh, it drives us, the younger generations, absolutely bonkers sometimes, but in the end, we respect our elders wishes. Even if it means we stress eat alarming amounts of sweets…and crispy, crunchy deep-fried food.

I highly recommend this book. It is highly entertaining and gossipy, a wonderful glimpse into Asian culture for some, and it is so comforting and relatable for others. Also, I would urge you to read this with some authentic Singaporean food close at hand. Reading this already drove me to visit a Malaysian restaurant, and the book just made me hunger for more Singaporean food.

Have you read Crazy Rich Asians? Are you excited to see the movie adaptation with an all-Asian cast? They just wrapped productions last month! @kevinkwanbooks

Discussion · Roundups

June Wrap Up

June was mostly a good reading month for me. These are the titles I read:

  1. Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami
  2. The Possessions – Sara Flannery Murhpy
  3. Girl in Dior – Annie Goetzinger
  4. Beautifully Different – Dana Salim
  5. Shark Lady – Jess Keating
  6. March Book One: John Lewis
  7. The Impossible Fairy Tale – Han Yu Joo
  8. The Sand Warrior – Mark Siegel
  9. Alphabetter – Linda Ragsdale
  10. A Turn of Light – Julie E. Czerneda
  11. Phoebe and Her Unicorn – Dana Simpson
  12. How I Did It – Linda Ragsdale
  13. When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
  14. Big Trouble – R. A. Spratt
  15. Faith volume 1 – Jody Houser
  16. I Like Myself! – Karen Beaumont
  17. Giant Days vol. 2 – John Allison
  18. Afar – Leila del Luca
  19. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog – Mo Willems
  20. Frantumaglia – Elena Ferrante
Discussion

#CurrentlyReading

I haven’t been reading much these past few weeks what with Ramadan, fasting, and revising The Fire Within but I am going to make a concentrated effort to get back into it. I mean, I generally read a bit every day but not as much as I used to. Which is ridiculous because it’s not like my TBR got any smaller.

Here are the books I am reading:

  1. A Summer of Burning by John Burnside
    This apparently deals with huldras and I have never read a book that does so yay, I’m excited.
  2. Frantumaglia – Elena Ferrante
    I’ve got a little over a hundred pages left of this. I really appreciate the stuff she talks about where writing is concerned and how much the role of the writer matters.
  3. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
    I had to put this down because I needed to read something else but I am super enjoying it and will continue to do so hopefully once I pick it up again.
  4. A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab
    I am sure this will be good. I just need to begin this brick of a book.
  5. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There – Catherynne M. Valente
    This is as lovely as I had expected it to be. I just need time to immerse myself completely into the narrative.

I hope the books you’re reading are fun.

Discussion · review · Review Copy

The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo, 한유주, Janet Hong (Translator)

Impossible

Paperback, 214 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Graywolf Press
Source: Raincoast Books

This was a strange strange book. But first, the official synopsis:

The Impossible Fairy Tale is the story of two unexceptional grade-school girls. Mia is “lucky”―she is spoiled by her mother and, as she explains, her two fathers. She gloats over her exotic imported color pencils and won’t be denied a coveted sweater. Then there is the Child who, by contrast, is neither lucky nor unlucky. She makes so little impression that she seems not even to merit a name.

At school, their fellow students, whether lucky or luckless or unlucky, seem consumed by an almost murderous rage. Adults are nearly invisible, and the society the children create on their own is marked by cruelty and soul-crushing hierarchies. Then, one day, the Child sneaks into the classroom after hours and adds ominous sentences to her classmates’ notebooks. This sinister but initially inconsequential act unlocks a series of events that end in horrible violence.

But that is not the end of this eerie, unpredictable novel. A teacher, who is also this book’s author, wakes from an intense dream. When she arrives at her next class, she recognizes a student: the Child, who knows about the events of the novel’s first half, which took place years earlier. Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale is a fresh and terrifying exploration of the ethics of art making and of the stinging consequences of neglect.

To talk about this book with any clarity, I’m going to have to give some inevitable spoilers. I will try to avoid them if I can but I might find that I simply cannot evaluate the book without mentioning them. But we’ll see.

You should also note that it’s 3 am and I am fasting just in case this effects the tone and content of my review.

I can read and understand Korean (mostly with the help of a dictionary) so before anything else, I will say that the writing style in translation drove me absolutely nuts. I was very annoyed by the fragmentary narrative which worked in parts but got old pretty quickly because you cannot sustain the style for an entire novel–in English. I reckon that the book in its original language is wildly poetic, the repetitions make beautiful use of the Korean language and the effect is lyrical. In English, this style is, I’m sorry to say, nothing less than annoying.

Still, the style creates remarkable atmosphere and works wonderfully with the sections detailing the lives of the children and in particular the brutally sad life of the unnamed Child. However, as a writer, I cannot help but speculate how different the book would have been (in English) had the author utilized different styles in each of the two parts of the novel. The difference in the narrative styles would have delineated the adult character from the Child and given the book a more solid feel. But that’s just me as a writer.

The story itself is a bit like On a Winter’s Night, A Traveler by Italo Calvino in the way it is somewhat metaphysical in that the story is aware of itself as being a story, as being fictional. And I feel the style in the second part drowns out this important fact which would otherwise have been fascinating.

As it is, there is an  unsettling ambiguity about the Child whose name we never do find out and the adult narrator. I can’t say anymore because to do so would be giving away the story and I think the book is crunchy enough, for all its flaws, to be worthy of a reading. The Impossible Fairy Tale is eerie and reminiscent of a horror movie except a lot more intellectual in the way it approaches its story.

Discussion

#CurrentlyReading

It’s just after Suhoor on the 8th day of Ramadan and I am too full to sleep. So I’m going to talk about my most favourite thing ever which is reading…though these days I’m really into writing as well. I’m finally finding writing super fun. It’s still difficult, don’t get me wrong, but it’s something I seem to be able to do so I’m exploiting that…talent? Can I call it that? I don’t know.

Anyway, here are the books I’m reading (or lingering over for that matter).

  1. Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor
    I don’t know why I’ve still only read the prologue to this. I’m no longer as intimidated that her wordsmithery will mean my own abilities to write have been siphoned away. I don’t know.
  2. Culture and Imperialism – Edward Said
    Another one I haven’t read much (or at all) of since the last time I talked about reading. I want to read it but I can never quite get in the mood to continue.
  3. Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami
    You should all know that I am a Murakami fangirl and though I have only read the first story in this collection, I already love this book.
  4. The Impossible Fairy Tale – Han YuJoo
    This started off quite slow and ponderous and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make my way through it but once I got used to the style, gosh darnit. This is creepy. I don’t know what to expect but I reckon some kids will die.
  5. The Possessions – Sara Flannery Murphy
    I need to pick this up and finish it. I only have a 166 pages to go but for some reason I am dragging my feet.
  6. Arena – Holly Jennings
    I’m only 37 pages in so I don’t know yet whether I like it or not. Ilona Andrews blurbed it so I hope it’s good. I trust them.
  7. Frantumaglia – Elena Ferrante
    I haven’t read any of Ferrante’s books but gosh, once I finish this memoir in letters, I will give on a whirl.

I hope you’re reading fun things.

Discussion · Roundups

May Wrap Up

Months fly by, don’t they?

Here we are, yet again. And I read some interesting books this month. Not a huge number but I am fine with that. I did read a variety of genres though and that’s always awesome.

The titles I read:

  1. Becoming Unbecoming – Una (graphic memoir)
  2. The Clothing of Books – Jhumpa Lahiri (Short, nonfic)
  3. The Fog – Kyo Maclear (PB)
  4. Exit West – Mohsin Ahmed (Lit-Fic/Spec-Fic)
  5. Saints and Misfits – S. K. Alit (YA)
  6. The Crystal Ribbon – Celeste Lim (MG)
  7. 100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age – Kelly Grovier (Nonfic)
  8. Men Explain Things To Me – Rebecca Solnit (Nonfic)
  9. This Impossible Light – Lily Myers (YA)
  10. The Good Immigrant – Nikesh Shuka (Nonfic)
  11. Books Do Not Have Wings – Brynne Barnes (PB)
  12. Night Sky With Exit Wounds – Ocean Vuong (Poetry)
  13. Sacrifice – Cindy Pon (YA)
  14. Etched in Bone – Anne Bishop (Urban Fantasy)
  15. Kamala – Ethel Johnston Phelps (Short Stories)