Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I saw a picture of this book on instagram and checked it out from the library on a whim.

Summary:  Nick Young has been called home to Singapore for his best friend's wedding and it only seems natural to bring his girlfriend of two years home with him.  Unfortunately for Rachel, Nick forgot to tell her that his family is rich.  And not just really rich, but crazy rich.  Oh, and with his best friend getting married, Nick is now the most eligible bachelor on the island.

Rachel is unprepared to be thrust into a world where millions are spent each season on designer clothing and houses and apartments put castles to shame.  But what's even worse than being blindsided by the strange world Nick's family lives in is the unsettling knowledge that Nick's family and circle think she's a gold digger...and learning that they will hold nothing back to break them apart.

Full of intrigue, gossip and the idle rich, "Crazy Rich Asians" is a fictional but in-depth look at the insane lives of China's elite.

My Thoughts:  I didn't know what to think when I picked this book up, but I gave the gold and hot pink cover a chance and was soon engrossed in the insane lives the characters lived.  Each chapter follows a different character or set of characters through a two week period in Singapore.

Nick is the only son and presumptive heir to a massive fortune.  Taught never to talk about money, it never crosses his mind to warn his girlfriend Rachel about his radical lifestyle in the home country, nor does it cross his mind that his family won't love Rachel as much as he does.

Rachel is an economic professor at NYU and is thrust into a world full of social rules, unspoken understandings and gossip without any preparation.  Faced with the label of gold digger, Rachel must fend off bored rich daughters attempts to scare her back to America.

Added to Nick and Rachel are Nick's obnoxious, social climbing cousin Eddie, his classy yet fragile cousin Astrid, Nick's mother Eleanor and her crazy friends, and a variety of other crazy rich but slightly insane other characters.

I really enjoyed the cast of characters.  Their personalities, motives and lifestyles were planned out meticulously, which added a rich layer of detail to the story.  The plot was ridiculous, but was also part of the charm.  You can tell that Kevin Kwan, a native of Singapore, loves his country and its luxurious, colorful culture.

What I didn't like was the ending to the book.  I wanted the story to wrap up each story line with a definitive ending for each character.  What happened instead felt like a pat on the head and a "maybe to be continued."

Also Read By:  N/A

Reviewed By:  Tami

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"Dance Upon the Air" by Nora Roberts

I picked this book up because I couldn't remember if I'd read this trilogy or not.  And since one of my life-goals is to read every Nora Roberts series there is, I thought I might as well dive right in.  (Note: I had read it before, but I didn't remember many of the details).

Summary:  After faking her own death and assuming a new identity, Nell Channing decides that Sister's Island is the right place to set down roots and start a new life.  Although she quickly finds a job at the local bookstore cafe and friendship with the bookstore's owner, Mia, and local deputy, Ripley, Nell can't help feeling skittish at anything that comes too close.  Especially when that thing is Sheriff Zach Todd.  But Zach's a patient man and uses his laid back, steady personality to his advantage as he slowly finds ways to get close to the mysterious Nell.

But Nell's past isn't quite done.  As she comes into her own, and evil force awakens and threatens to destroy all Nell has come to love.  With the help of her friends Mia and Ripley, and the love of Zach, Nell must come face to face with that which scared her most, or let a curse destroy her once and for all.

My Thoughts:  I loved the setting of this book.  My heart is still a flutter from the idea of Sisters Island.  Perhaps it's due to the stage of life I'm in, but to me there is nothing better small, close knit community with a lively main drag (that includes a non-chain book store!), pretty beaches and a satisfied community.  I want to go to Sisters Island with my family, open my own business and never come back to cubicle walls, 2 feet of snow and keeping up with the Jonses ever again.

I also really liked liked Nell, which is really important when reading a cheesy romance novel.  I find her story interesting and dynamic.  Nell has hit the absolute rock bottom and is slowly clawing her way out of the darkness, on her own terms and in a way that makes her truly happy.  Her romance with Sam doesn't define her and doesn't make her happy.  She makes herself happy and Sam is just the hunky icing on the cake.

I did feel like the romance took second place to Nell's story - but I'm OK with that.  Without spoiling the story too much, Nell's first priority was to rediscover Nell, and I felt like Miz Nora did a phenomenal job.  Nell didn't feel contrived and her issues didn't feel like they were thrown in the bucket to create friction between Nell and Sam.

The regular Nora Roberts themes of creating your own family, your own future and your own happy are very much alive in this book.  It's one of the reasons I love Miz Robert's books.  Even when the characters should be out of hope, they use their force of will, determination, smarts and loved ones to make it all better.  We should all be so lucky.

Rating:  I enjoyed this book although I'm not sure I'd read it again.

Also Read by this Author:  
I've read almost all of Roberts' catalog, which you can find at her website.  You can check my other reviews on Robert's books by searching for Nora Roberts in the quick search on the right hand side of the page, or by clicking individual links here:  Shadow Spell   |   Dark Witch   |   Thankless in Death   |   Concealed in Death  |  The Collector  |  Blood Magick  |  Blue Dahilia  |  The Liar

Reviewed By:  Tami

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"The Road" By Cormac McCarthy

I first heard of this when the movie came out. As I like post-apocalyptic stories, it's been in the back of my mind for a while now and so I decided to finally read it. 

Summary: This story begins after an apocalyptic event. Based on the environmental effects and hints in the flashback scenes I believe the event was a nuclear war, followed by nuclear winter. Nowhere in the book is it explicitly stated, and this is likely because knowing the details of the event is not an immediate concern for the characters.

The protagonists are a father and a boy who are walking along a road, trying to get south where they believe the weather will be warmer. They are not the last two people in the world, but for much of the book it feels that way because the father does not trust anyone at all. His only goal is to protect his son and is unwilling to let anyone get in the way or complicate the situation.

As they walk the road, they are forced to make many choices as they encounter people and suspiciously wonderful places. The father is the constant voice of caution, while the son, who has known only the wasteland, is full of hope and wonder. He does not mourn the loss of the old world, and it frees him to dream up how good this new world could be.

What I Liked: I liked how it presented a believable environment. I have recently stumbled across a cold war documentary that took a scientific look at the effects of nuclear winter, and so when I read The Road I noticed the detailed resemblance. I also like of McCarthy shrugs off all the bits of a story that don't really matter in this tale. There's no need for names, or long prologues. There's the two guys and then there is the immediate world as they experience it. 

What I Didn't Like: I have an unsatisfied feeling after reading it, like it is the prologue to something more.

Rating: Recommended for anyone. Must read if you like the genre.

Also Read by this Author: None.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"The Return of the King" by JRR Tolkien

In middle school I got half way through the Two Towers. I stopped because I found it depressing and the elven was unintelligible, but now that I am an adult nerd, I feel like I should have all four of them under my belt, and not just the movies. At the library I saw all four in audiobook format and decided I could finally finish the series. 

Summary: This story begins right where The Two Towers leaves off. Most of the original fellowship has set to work in defending the lands of Gondor while Frodo and Sam are on their own adventure. Minas Tirith is assaulted by a massive army of orcs from Mordor. The long battle is the balancing point to determine of the evil Saruon will be able to steamroll over Middle Earth or not. Every resource is thrown into the fight on both sides, with several close calls saved at the last minute.

While nearly the whole world is distracted by the battle, Frodo and Sam are able to work their way through many challenges in the lands of Mordor, with Gollum behind them all the while. The power of the ring to corrupt is a constant threat to the mission and to their own survival.

At the end of the book, the hobbits return home to find they don't recognize it anymore. It has been marked by the war and by a new evil leader who has only just taken power in the Shire. Our hobbits are now veterans of a great war, something rare among hobbits, and decide to take on this leader themselves.

What I Liked: I like that it concludes the story. I also really like the way the war is handled in the Shire and when the hobbits come home they get to be the main heroes with no tall folk stealing the spotlight.

What I Didn't Like: This book took me the longest to get through. The grand pronouncements of doom combined with the pining for a lost age makes for a really depressing read. I'm also somewhat sick the idea that heroes must let villains go free so that the heroes aren't turned into villains. There are some villains so dangerous that to let them free is a terrible, terrible idea and this book has a nice example of what happens when that dangerous villain is also a powerful wizard.

Rating: Read it as part of the series.

Also Read by this Author: The HobbitThe Fellowship of the Ring. The Two Towers.

Reviewed by: Nick