This was a cliche and occasionally-rated-R story that, out of curiosity, I chose from among Kindle's many free self-published romance novels. You can...moreThis was a cliche and occasionally-rated-R story that, out of curiosity, I chose from among Kindle's many free self-published romance novels. You can tell that the author had a lot of fun writing it, and I say, More power to her! My favorite line is
"He could smell the traces of vanilla shampoo blended with a sweet floral perfume that reminded him of springtime and his grandmother's lilacs. Only the lilacs never filled him with this kind of longing."(less)
The premise and world-building is interesting though derivative, and not at all plausible. The narrative is awkward and full of deus ex machina. The c...moreThe premise and world-building is interesting though derivative, and not at all plausible. The narrative is awkward and full of deus ex machina. The characters are substantial enough for an action-driven story. And the writing is bad.
Prime examples (of many):
"I know I haven’t been in this part of the woods before, there were no sizable rocks like the one I’m sheltering against on my earlier travels."
"even more strongly than at home, I feel my impotence."
"When I open my eyes, the world looks slightly fractured, and it takes a minute to realize that the sun must be well up and the glasses fragmenting my vision."
"This girl...is unrecognizable. Her features eradicated, her limbs three times their normal size."
The necessary violence made you stop and think. I liked the issues (wealth & ethics; TV & desensitization; survival vs. compassion, etc.) and my favorite thing was the extreme dual philosophies as embodied by straightforward idealist effeminate Peeta and calculating practical manly Katniss. But this reversal, too, was ultimately disturbing as it depended on these very notions of gender roles.
And is it bad that I just wouldn't even want my kids reading books with sentences like "Today I'll have to be scrupulously careful" and "We look well [i.e. 'good'] together"?!
The whole time I tried to imagine how I would've responded to this book if I were 13. And I just don't know. Would I have been engaged by its tensions and themes, by its narrator who has a heart but buries it so deep that she even righteously guilt-trips clinically-depressed loved ones? Would I really believe in her contrived internal melodrama and become immersed in her telling of the story?
When I reread other YA coming-of-age books, I don't feel that they're simplistic in any way. But when I read THE HUNGER GAMES now, and the narrator is explaining things excessively and smacking me over the head with the fact that these aren't normal circumstances since they have to fight to the death, etc. etc., my mind just goes totally numb. And I feel that we should give teen readers more credit than that.
Which is why I feel that an Ursula LeGuin dystopia would be healthier than this.
That said, I can't wait for the HUNGER GAMES movie.
Barnes's novel is innovative, pretentious, anti-Semitic, strangely sentimental, and seemingly driven by hardcore hallucinatory drugs. There are precis...moreBarnes's novel is innovative, pretentious, anti-Semitic, strangely sentimental, and seemingly driven by hardcore hallucinatory drugs. There are precise poetic moments, and then there is the other 90% of the text, which is bizarre, scatter-brained language that hopes to communicate something but doesn't, at least for me. Barnes should have written a long poem instead. These are the kind of books that make me wonder why I am an English major.(less)
Last summer I had the wonderful chance to hear Deanna Fei read from her debut novel A Thread of Sky, about Chinese American women traveling to China....moreLast summer I had the wonderful chance to hear Deanna Fei read from her debut novel A Thread of Sky, about Chinese American women traveling to China.
This summer, I came across Ann Mah's Kitchen Chinese.
Something interesting: Both Fei and Mah published their respective novels in 2010 and wrote as they were living in Beijing. Yet Fei's is a contemporary fiction offering, while Mah's is straight-up chic lit. After several pages of cliches and cheesy writing that made it feel like CHEETAH GIRLS 2/EAT PRAY LOVE Asian-American style, I decided to go with the flow.
AND GOT HOOKEDDDDD
I loved how the narrative was arranged by region/food and included Taiwan and Hong Kong. I GOT SO HUNGRY WITH THE FOOD DESCRIPTIONS! And thought that Jeff Zhu the Mandopop star and love interest was hilarious. I enjoyed being immersed in the Beijing expat community. (If anybody is interested in that, Kaiser Kuo (Ich in Ein Beijinger), like Ann Mah, worked at the expat magazine the Beijinger!) It was super fascinating to have that world fleshed-out in fiction, and despite the frame of cliches, it was creative and entertaining.
It also made me happy to be able to identify with many of Isabelle's experiences as an ABC in China; like Iz, I will never forget how accomplished and cool I felt when the taxi driver didn't ask, "Where are you from?"/"Ni shi na guo ren?" for the first time!
Sometimes we all need to read a cutesy, alternately lame and funny romantic comedy, and if you are in the mood for one of those (along with some Chinese food and healthy culture clash), then I would definitely recommend KITCHEN CHINESE. It made me smile a lot.
Notes: There were like 2 pinyin errors and some other minor typos--step it up, HarperCollins!
Many of the opening chapters quoted from Swallowing Clouds by A. Zee, which I now also want to find~(less)
We plan to meet tonight at a nearby Thai restaurant, all the while under the amazed gaze of the woman behind the desk, and I leave, forgetting about Kelmscott and Chaucer and floating down the marble stairs, through the lobby and out into the October Chicago sun, running across the park scattering small dogs and squirrels, whooping and rejoicing.
Clare is wearing a wine-colored velvet dress and pearls. She looks like a Botticelli by way of John Graham: huge gray eyes, long nose, tiny delicate mouth like a geisha. She has long red hair that covers her shoulders and falls to the middle of her back. Clare is so pale she looks like a waxwork in the candlelight. I thrust the roses at her. "For you."
*cringing cringing CRINGE CRINGE*
My favorite part is "tiny delicate mouth like a geisha." SO CRINGE-LICIOUS(less)