Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians, #1) by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Release date: June 11, 2013 
Publisher: Doubleday 
Pages: 527
Reading level: Adult 
Genre: Contemporary 
Series: Book 1 
Source: Purchased 

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars 

When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

Review: 

I admit I wasn't too interested in reading this before I saw the awesome trailer for the upcoming movie. I am so excited to see it! Since I always like to read the book first, I quickly ordered this online and devoured it in only a couple of days. CRAZY RICH ASIANS was a delightfully fun read with a meaningful heart. Rachel and her boyfriend Nick live in New York and are comfortable with their normal routine. Rachel is surprised, but excited, when Nick invites her to a wedding in Singapore where she can finally meet his family. Little does she know is that Nick is one of the most eligible bachelors among Singapore's rich and famous.

Some people might be embarrassed about their guilty pleasures, but I will readily admit to loving the Kardashians, the Bachelor, and Gossip Girl. All of the drama, gossip, and romance makes these kinds of shows and books easy to consume. The only aspect of CRAZY RICH ASIANS that made this a little more of a complicated read was all of the different characters and their alternating chapters. While I enjoyed getting to see things from these varying perspectives, it did confuse me a bit at first. Lots of new people to keep up with and I had no idea who was related to who and who hated who. There was a family tree at the front but I usually forgot to reference it. I'm not sure how the author could have introduced all of the other characters and built-up their various backgrounds without the alternating chapters, though. There was also the added mystery of Nick's mother investigating Rachel's background.

Surprisingly, I literally knew nothing about Singapore. While I can't say I know too much more about it after reading this book, I did like the inclusions of descriptions of the native food and use of non-English words. Kevin Kwan relied heavily on footnotes so be prepared to have to look down fairly often. He did his best to make them humorous, but I did find myself skimming over them or skipping them entirely.

The ending was interesting and a lot of surprises were revealed about several characters. I am not particularly eager to rush off and buy the next book, but I will probably pick it up eventually. What I am most excited about is seeing this crazy world brought to life on the big screen. I can only begin to imagine the intricate fashion, huge mansions, and elaborate gatherings that filled the pages of CRAZY RICH ASIANS so it will be a ton of fun to watch this all come to life. Rachel was a very realistic and endearing heroine and this book was not all fluff. There were a lot of serious incidences and Rachel has to deal with a lot while in Singapore as she learns about her boyfriend and herself. 


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: The Line That Held Us by David Joy

THE LINE THAT HELD US by David Joy 
Release date: August 14, 2018
Publisher: GP Putnam Sons
Pages: 272
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Thriller
Source: First to Read
Links: Author 
 Goodreads • Amazon 

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
When Darl Moody went hunting after a monster buck he’s chased for years, he never expected he’d accidentally shoot a man digging ginseng. Worse yet, he’s killed a Brewer, a family notorious for vengeance and violence. With nowhere to turn, Darl calls on the help of the only man he knows will answer, his best friend, Calvin Hooper. But when Dwayne Brewer comes looking for his missing brother and stumbles onto a blood trail leading straight back to Darl and Calvin, a nightmare of revenge rips apart their world. The Line That Held Us is a story of friendship and family, a tale balanced between destruction and redemption where the only hope is to hold on tight, clenching to those you love. What will you do for the people who mean the most, and what will you grasp to when all that you have is gone? The only certainty in a place so shredded is that no one will get away unscathed.
Review:

This is 100% not a book that I usually would go for, but something about the summary appealed to me. I like a good thriller and this book was fast-paced and dark. It''s my first read by David Joy and he did a fantastic job creating a truly diverse range of characters- many of which were hiding secrets. Darl and Calvin have been best friends for years, so it only makes sense for Darl to call Calvin when he accidentally kills a man while hunting deer. What results is an insane roller coaster of a story that I definitely did not see coming.

THE LINE THAT HELD US is very short. I read it on a plane in a few hours but it certainly packed a punch. Darl's actions lead to a ripple effect that ends up impacting almost everyone he knows. The man he kills is a Brewer. The Brewers do not have a good reputation in the town and so when Dwayne Brewer realizes his brother is missing this does not bode well for those involved. This wasn't a typical mystery, it was definitely more of a dark thriller. Still, I was never entirely sure what shocking thing would happen next.

I am always impressed by strong character development and while we never got a chance to really know the characters before the "incident", they were all certainly memorable. THE LINE THAT HELD US took place out in the middle of nowhere and focused on the intersection between family, friendship, and trust. Lies were told, promises broken, and quite a lot of blood was spilled. I am interested in seeing the wide spread reaction to this book. The ending left a little to be desired and I had to reread the last few pages to make sure I knew what had happened, but I overall found this a unique and interesting read. It certainly will not be for everyone, but I think the darkness was what made this book so powerful.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Four Dark Queens by Astrid Scholte 
Release date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Putnam 
Reading level: Young Adult 
Genre: Fantasy 
Links: Author  Goodreads • Amazon 
A divided nation. Four Queens. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.

Get in quick, get out quicker.
These are the words Keralie Corrington lives by as the preeminent dipper in the Concord, the central area uniting the four quadrants of Quadara. She steals under the guidance of her mentor Mackiel, who runs a black market selling their bounty to buyers desperate for what they can’t get in their own quarter. For in the nation of Quadara, each quarter is strictly divided from the other. Four queens rule together, one from each region:
Toria: the intellectual quarter that values education and ambition
Ludia: the pleasure quarter that values celebration, passion, and entertainment
Archia: the agricultural quarter that values simplicity and nature
Eonia: the futurist quarter that values technology, stoicism and harmonious community
When Keralie intercepts a comm disk coming from the House of Concord, what seems like a standard job goes horribly wrong. Upon watching the comm disks, Keralie sees all four queens murdered in four brutal ways. Hoping that discovering the intended recipient will reveal the culprit – information that is bound to be valuable bartering material with the palace – Keralie teams up with Varin Bollt, the Eonist messenger she stole from, to complete Varin’s original job and see where it takes them.

This sounds like a book that will have a ton of different things going on, but I like anything that involves powerful female leaders and a heroine working to save the day. I've been getting more and more into fantasy lately, so this debut looks like it will be right up my alley. Can't wait to check it out! 

Can't Wait Wednesday Is Hosted By: Wishful Endings inspired by Breaking the Spine

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review: The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

THE MASTERPIECE by Fiona Davis
Release date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 368
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: First to Read
Links: Author 
• Goodreads • Amazon 

Overall: 3 out of 5 stars 
For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.
For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist." Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded--even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter--Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.
Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece--an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.
Review: 

This is my first Fiona Davis book and it was certainly an interesting read. I love New York City, so was extremely eager to read about Grand Central in a historical context. THE MASTERPIECE alternates between the 1920s and the 1970s following two characters: Clara Darden and Virginia Clay. These two woman are unique and each are working to prove themselves as independent and capable in very different time periods. Clara Darden is an artist teaching at the Grand Central School of Art and Virginia Clay is a divorced woman who finds a job at the train station information booth. At first it seems that the only thing tying these two woman together is their time spent in Grand Central, but that quickly proves to not be the case.

Clara dreams of becoming a famous illustrator, recognized for her talents and able to make a career out of it. Virginia simply wants to keep her and her daughter afloat. I appreciated the depiction of these strong woman who had to work around sexism and other challenges every day. Clara's coworkers at the art school were well developed characters and I appreciated the subtle hints of romance that took time to develop. It was interesting to see the different kinds of art being done at the art school and how there was some prejudice against illustrators at the time. I did like Virginia's character a bit more. She was very likable and the fact that she was dealing with scars both physical and mental made me want to root for her success even more.

The stories begin to come together when Virginia finds an old painting in Grand Central and starts to research more of Clara Darden's history. Several characters from the two time periods weave between both stories and it was a bit sad to see the state of the art school (and the station) in the 70s. Grand Central Terminal was a beautiful place of architectural wonder and it featured the art school, grand parties, and well dressed travelers. By the 70s it was falling apart and considered dangerous because of the muggers and drug dealers that frequented the dark corners of the station. There were numerous subplots to keep track of from the individual woman's experiences to the deterioration of the terminal to missing art to Virginia's daughter. This was one of my biggest issues with the book. Some of the plot points seemed rushed or unnecessary and the author tried to fit too much into the book.

THE MASTERPIECE, to me, was at its best when focusing on the characters. Fiona Davis did a great job of creating very fleshed out and unique individuals. Characters who only made a small appearance were memorable. The ending just felt a bit rushed and because so much was happening in two different time periods the book often felt rushed and a tad unbelievable. Still, I liked the characters and seeing Grand Central through the years. I'm glad the beautiful building still stands. Fiona Davis always receives a lot of praise so I will be checking out some of her other titles for sure. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Release date: September 26, 2006
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Brooks
Pages: 254
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Thriller/mystery
Source: Gift
Links: Author • Goodreads • Amazon

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.
Review:

This is my third Gillian Flynn book (and I believe she only has three) and while I can't say I loved it, SHARP OBJECTS was one crazy read. I am a huge fan of a good mystery/thriller and Gillian Flynn has proved herself adept at coming up with some pretty messed up characters, so I figured this would be an intriguing read. Camille Preaker was certainly messed up, but in a way that made me feel so sorry for her. Other than her boss, Camille did not have anyone on her side and she was dealing with people even more messed up than she was. SHARP OBJECTS was a dark and, at times, painful read and while the ending was a tad predictable, I think this was an overall solid mystery.

Flynn has a gift for creating some nasty characters and showing the worst sides of human nature. GONE GIRL was my first introduction to Flynn and I have enjoyed working through the rest of her books as crazy and dark as they are. SHARP OBJECTS follows Camille Preaker as she returns to her hometown to write a story on two mysterious murders. We quickly realize most people, including Camille and her family, have something to hide and that there is way more to these murders than the reader may initially realize. This was a slim book, so it is easy to devour in a few sittings, especially as you start to put clues together and get closer to the end. The darkness and evil contained in this short book was definitely intense and there are some fairly graphic descriptions of cutting and self harm.

Unfortunately I found the ending to be a bit predictable, but I thought SHARP OBJECTS was unique in the way it presented such a damaged main character. I have recently begun reading more thrillers and that has made me much more critical of how the endings play out, but I still recommend SHARP OBJECTS to fans of darker and more twisted thrillers.

I don't want to give too much away, but I have recently discovered this novel is being made into an eight-part series on HBO starring Amy Adams. If you want to read the book first you still have time, the show just started airing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

THE SPELLBOOK OF KATRINA VAN TASSEL: A STORY OF SLEEP HOLLOW by Alyssa Palombo 
Release date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin 
Reading level: Adult 
Genre: Historical Fantasy 
Links: Author • Goodreads • Amazon 
When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina - unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina's father favors.
But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together - all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow's legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows's Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.
Enlisting the help of her friend - and rumored witch - Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane's disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional - often magical - means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo's The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won't erase.
This sounds awesome! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a classic and this should be an interesting side of the story. Can't wait. 

Can't Wait Wednesday Is Hosted By: Wishful Endings inspired by Breaking the Spine