Monday, June 27, 2016

The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

Jade Chang
expected publication date October 4, 2016

I was given this book by the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.

In the Wangs vs. the World , Charles Wang (who has just lost his fortune) and his family scuttle out of Bel Air just before the bank can foreclose on their mansion. The plan is for the Wang family to drive cross-country to the NY house of the eldest Wang child, and the novel is the tale of their (supposedly) comic adventures as they travel.

I disliked each member of the Wang family from the moment s/he was introduced, and further character development never changed this. Because I could not connect to any of the Wangs, I found it impossible to take interest in their story.

Humor is, of course, an intensely personal thing. Ms. Chang's humor is not my humor. The use of "bad language" as verbs and adjectives, for example, just doesn't tickle my funny bone. I was also not particularly amused by her elaborate set up of the Wang's name (which Mr. Wang deplores because of the genitalia connotations) and the fact that he was heir to a urea production factory. Like I said, her humor isn't my humor.

Overall, I guess I was not a good fit for this book. A review is a personal opinion, and I've no doubt that other reviewers will see this book quite differently than I did. I, however, simply did not like it. I am giving it two stars, though, instead of one because her use of backstory was well done and effective.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was Here
Fredrik Backman
5/5 stars

Britt-Marie leaves her cheating husband and takes her first job in decades, working as caretaker in a recreation center in Borg, a dying town.  OCD and socially awkward, she finds it hard to adapt at first.  Then, she unexpectedly finds herself coaching a children's soccer team--and just as unexpectedly, finds herself changing and growing.

This is a gem of a book.  I read it--all 324 pages of it--from beginning to end in one sitting.  While I was first just amused by Britt-Marie and her foibles, I quickly became attached to her and concerned for her future.  Backman made me care about Britt-Marie and the people of Borg.   It was well-written, with deep thoughts sprinkled throughout, and a story that was sweet, sad and believable.  I was uncertain until the very end as to how it would end, and one can rarely say that about a contemporary "feel-good" novel.

Obviously, I highly recommend Britt-Marie Was Here. It's quick and pleasurable, and leaves the reader feeling both hopeful and satisfied.

On a personal note: Yes, I read this entire book, cover to cover, without stopping!  It is the best I've read this year, just barely beating The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman.

Sunday Salon: The Week in Review

Musing for this week's Sunday Salon.

This week I read one ARC that just wasn't great and one that was super.  Yesterday I started another that I am having a real hard time reading.  I think I'm going to have to read it in small doses while I read one that I do enjoy.  I've got two library books, the book from my OwlCrate, a stack from the used book store (last month's trip) and today I went to the library's used book sale and brought home more--I really want to read one these and not this ARC.

Our county's library has a four day sale.  The first day is for Friends of the Library members only, which we are.  We didn't have a great deal of time to spend today, but I still found some treasures.  Look at the set of Alcott books from the 1950's (photo below).  They have never been read!  I also found old copies of the Woman in White (one of my favorites) and the Princess and the Curdie (by a favorite author).  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and Norwegian Wood have been on my I'd-like-to-read-it list for a while.  The Nabokov is one of the few I don't own (Transparent Things). On Tuesday, they have their bag sale ($5 for a grocery bag full of books) and I'll go back then. The pickings will be slim, but I'm sure I'll have no trouble filling up a bag!

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders

The Secrets of Wishtide 
Kate Saunders
to be published September 13, 2016
5/5 stars

I was given this book by the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.

This is the first mystery in a projected series about Victorian widow Letty Rudd.  Her brother Fred, a successful barrister, occasionally provides Letty with investigative jobs that are better suited to a genteel touch than to your typical police detective.  In this case, influential Sir James Calderstone hires Letty to ferret out the past of his son's inappropriate love interest.  What begins as a simple probe into a woman's life takes a serious turn, and Letty becomes involved in a quadruple murder.

Saunders is a polished writer, and this novel was immensely readable.  It was told in the first person, in Letty's voice, in a light-hearted, but still very Victorian, tone.  The characters were immediately likable, as well as fleshed out and believable.   The plot was just convoluted enough to be enjoyable, but with the right amount of clues for the reader can solve the mystery along with Letty.

Overall, I was impressed with the Secrets of Wishtide and I look forward to the next in the series.

Jasper Fforde

From my Instagram account: Photo prompt was "book you wish ended differently".  This one!  And I have been waiting since 2009 for a sequel!

Thursday, June 23, 2016


I received my first OwlCrate today! I'm really excited about it, and about next month's!

The June "Royalty" Crate contained:

 -My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand and Jodi Meadows, along with a letter and paper crown sent by the authors

 -a truly beautiful bracelet handmade by Rich Love Shoppe

 -a mini mystery Funko. I got Merida from Brave. (If anyone would like to trade with me, I'd love Cinderella, the mouse, Belle, Cogsworth, Jasmine or Rajah.)

 -adorable magnetic bookmarks from Craftedvan. (I have more on order from them!)

 -a small print based on Red Queen by Evie Seo

Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang

Half a Lifelong Romance
Eileen Chang
3/5 stars

I was given this book by the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.

Half a Lifelong Romance was originally published in China in 1951, and is being translated into English for the first time. It follows the thwarted romance of a couple living in Shanghai in the 1930's.

The reader knows from the first page that the romance between Manzhen and Shijun was not a happy one and there is an air of melancholy from the first sentence ("He and Manzhen had met. . . a long time ago.") that continues throughout the book. Chang has done an excellent job in setting that mood and evoking the emotions that go with it.

The pace is slow, due to the massive amount of details given. These details cause the reader to become completely immersed in the lives of, as well as in the culture of, the characters. However, at times the details become overwhelming and detract from the flow of the story.

Overall, it is an exceptionally well written book, but is a very slow read.

Note: This is my opinion; on Amazon, 55% of the reviews were 4 stars.

On a personal note: I had looked forward to this book all year, after reading about it before it was published.  I've tried to get my library to buy it so I could read it and finally put it on my to-buy list.  When I started reviewing again and it was available, I was thrilled.  Imagine my disappointment when this much anticipated book turned out to be such a reading quagmire.  I gave it three stars because she is an excellent writer, but her style was not for me!