I've followed Jen Wang for years, ever since university (or even high school?), when she was still working on Strings of Fate.
She's an extraordinaryI've followed Jen Wang for years, ever since university (or even high school?), when she was still working on Strings of Fate.
She's an extraordinary illustrator but her writing is unfortunately not so strong. Her art and character design are stellar, and I love the quirky characters she creates, but the pacing was so frustrating at times.
As far as I know, Strings of Fate was never finished--I got the feeling that she didn't quite know how the author wanted to end it. In Koko Be Good, the conclusion is definitive (and lovely) but the story stumbles to get there.
Still, a beautiful book, and engaging enough to warrant a second, third, or fourth read, if only for the visuals. Looking forward to seeing more from Jen Wang. ...more
I have to admit, I initially, whole-heartedly judged this book by it's cover; you would too because the edition I have is GORGEOUS. Coral fabric hardcI have to admit, I initially, whole-heartedly judged this book by it's cover; you would too because the edition I have is GORGEOUS. Coral fabric hardcover, with the title in gold and the partial dust jacket depicting waves in blues and greens and yellows. Unfortunately the guts of the book were less memorable than its skin. I wished that the ending was more drawn out; as it is it feels rushed. I enjoyed the story for its weirdness and imagination but it didn't leave much of an impression overall....more
Enjoyable but mostly because I found the details of small-town life interesting. I find it hard to get through novels about the immigrant experience bEnjoyable but mostly because I found the details of small-town life interesting. I find it hard to get through novels about the immigrant experience because they so often rehash the same themes in the same, tired, cliched ways, but "Midnight at the Dragon Cafe" successfully navigates the stereotypes...mostly. The way that Chinese terms were inserted drove me to distraction; I understand if some expressions have no English equivalent, but surely a pinyin romanization, followed by an immediate translation aren't necessary for 'please', 'thank you', 'sit down', etc. It needlessly complicates and interrupts dialogue.
Annie/Su-Jen is mildly likeable, pliant but willing to explore her new life as a Canadian. But she doesn't make much of an impression as a narrator/protagonist. She just doesn't do much at all...it almost seems as if the story could have been told without her.
Throughout the novel, she watches as her family continually wrecks itself and recovers. We hear lots about her feelings towards her family, about growing up Chinese Canadian, about her adolescence, but unfortunately, Annie rarely reacts to anything. She is an observer, which is great in that readers are drawn in to become fellow spectators; however, she is passive to a fault, and rarely if ever acts as a catalyst As a result, the story falls a bit flat.
I enjoyed the matter-of-fact portrayal of Annie's daily life in her small town, as well as the sudden but bittersweet conclusion, but overall, the novel felt a bit hollow. ...more
Lovely. I really enjoyed the quiet affection the characters have for each other. The themes of learning, memory, family and survival as part of a margLovely. I really enjoyed the quiet affection the characters have for each other. The themes of learning, memory, family and survival as part of a marginalized group of people (single mothers, the elderly, the infirm) are explored through the seemingly cut-and-dry world of numbers and number theory. A quick read but very pleasing. Math geeks, eat your heart out....more
Ran out of time to read this and didn't feel compelled to incur late fees at library to finish it. It was okay (from what I read) but have never reallRan out of time to read this and didn't feel compelled to incur late fees at library to finish it. It was okay (from what I read) but have never really related to books about 20-something urbanites even though that is sort of my demographic. Would like to finish this book one day....more
In university, I didn't major in English literature, (I did a minor, while slaving away over inheritance and binary expressions), but in that handfulIn university, I didn't major in English literature, (I did a minor, while slaving away over inheritance and binary expressions), but in that handful of classes and my own reading since then, fairy tales came up more than a few times. Once merely stories that thrilled young children, fairy tales in adult literature are amped-up, postmodern, and often gender-bending tales of the macabre.
The Book of Lost Things is a surprisingly original take on fairy tales and their influence on us as we grow up. The story follows 12-year-old David in World War II-era England, and his troubled life on the verge of adulthood. His mother has just passed away, his father wants to remarry, and there's a new baby stepbrother thrown in the mix as well. Following the whispers of his beloved books and the mysterious Crooked Man, David literally escapes to a new world where wolves can speak, witches devour children, and his worst nightmares come to life.
I was struck by the writing style of this book, which reminded me of C.S. Lewis or Cornelia Funke or, well, of fairy tales themselves. The author, John Connolly, has stated that this is definitely a book for adults. The subject matter is pretty grim, and often disturbing, and wouldn't appeal to many younger readers.
The tone encourages you to simply read and enjoy the story without overthinking the plot or themes. This should have been difficult for me as an adult reader, having been made thoroughly and painfully aware of the allegorical nature of fairy tales in university. But when I read fairy tales as a child (or had them read to me), I doubt that I was ever too aware of the morality or implied meaning behind them. Like those classic tales, The Book of Lost Things unravels beautifully while quietly leaving a lasting impression on the reader. ...more
Finally picked this up at TCAF'09. I met one half of the team (Derek Kirk Kim) behind this trio of short stories (Gene Yang couldn't make it, sadly).Finally picked this up at TCAF'09. I met one half of the team (Derek Kirk Kim) behind this trio of short stories (Gene Yang couldn't make it, sadly). I will admit I fangirled, just a little, but mostly on the inside. I remember nervously mumbling that I used to follow Same Difference back when he was posting it online, 3 panels at a time, 3 days a week. Apparently that makes me an old school reader. Which is fine by me :D
The Eternal Smile has a lot going for it. It's got two award-winning comics writers/artists with a history of great collaborations behind them. The art is, of course, fantastic. The writing is original, especially "Duncan's Kingdom", which Yang and Kim finished years ago before either were published in print. The physical book itself has French flaps, cool spot lamination, and a heftiness that is very satisfying. Yum. (Yes, that would be me showing off my publishing certificate.)
I wasn't disappointed but I was a little underwhelmed. But then again, I was underwhelmed by American Born Chinese, too, until I read it again and finally understood what Gene Yang was getting at. Race and culture and identity are crazily complicated. The Eternal Smile tackles an equally complex theme—each story examines reality and fantasy and how we use one to escape the other. Like American-Born Chinese, I think I'll have revisit this book to really appreciate it. It can be really hard to absorb everything in one go, especially with a medium that is as deceptively simple as comics.
So three stars for now, but give me time and it'll likely bump up to at least a four....more