Date: April 19, 2017

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees  by Viet Thanh NguyenThe Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Published by Grove Press on February, 7, 2017
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 224
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

With the coruscating gaze that informed The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

This second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

Wow this collection made me think and get even more fascinated about those who left Vietnam and came to the United States to resettle. Some stories didn’t resonate with me as much as others did. The stories flowed together well though I thought.

“Black-Eyed Women” (5 stars)- a woman with a career as a ghostwriter finds herself laying some ghosts to rest. Her heartbreaking story of her and her family fleeing for a better life in America will gut you when you get to the end and read about how entwined she is with her mother.

“The Other Man” (5 stars)- a man who resettles in the US in the 1970s finds himself on uncharted territory when he ends up being sponsored by two gay men in San Francisco.

“War Years” (5 stars)- a young boy recounts a story about a widowed woman from Vietnam demanding money from his family in order to fight the Communists. The story helps him see his mother and father in a new light. I honestly thought the story was going in a different direction until I got to the end and you end up feeling pity.

“The Transplant” (4 stars)- A man named Arthur Arellano who has a liver transplant. This causes him to look for the man’s family. This causes him to look at his family in a different way when he finally meets the son of his transplant donor. I was enjoying this until the end, when I think that Nguyen maybe wanted you to feel sorry for poor put upon Arthur. I was kind of over this guy though when you realize how self absorbed he is.

“I’d Love You to Want Me” (5 stars)- A woman who is struggling with her husband’s onset of Alzheimer’s. Mrs. Khanh’s story was probably my next favorite after Black-Eyed Women. Her realizing that her husband had a life she didn’t know and how she really doesn’t care for her oldest son. You get to see Mrs. Khanh slowly giving up on her dreams when she starts to think about what does love really mean. In her mind, it’s being devoted.

“The Americans” (5 stars)- James Carver, an African American former Air Force pilot (I think) goes back to Vietnam with his Japanese wife to visit their daughter who is there teaching. Lord, his daughter was exhausting. There’s a scene when she yells at her father for what he did while running missions in the country. And sigh, nope, no sympathy for Claire. I did love though James going through his struggles in his career and life and him being pretty baffled by his daughter and what she wants from him. Loved the ending a lot though.

“Someone Else Besides You” (3 stars)- My least favorite. A man going through his family’s history and why he wasn’t ready to have children with his ex wife. The father in this story was odd to me. I don’t know what his purpose was besides to criticize the son. The story takes an odd turn after some vandalism.

“Fatherland” (5 stars)-Really enjoyed this one. A woman named Phuong is excited to meet her half sister who has lived in America, that comes back to Vietnam to visit her, and the rest of the family. The story set up (Phuong’s sister Vivien) was raised with her two other siblings in America and her mother divorced their father. The father marries his mistress and has three other children he names after the first set (yeah that happened). What I loved was Phuong coming to realization about her father and her half sister.

five-stars

The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang

The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade ChangThe Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang
Published by Houghton Mifflin on October 4th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
one-star

Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

Seriously. This book is awful. I read that this was supposed to be funny (I didn’t laugh at all) and hey if you want to read about a self absorbed rich family who consist of Chinese people, I say go read Crazy Rich Asians instead. One of this books’s genres on Goodreads is “Abandoned” so I should have looked into that before I spent money on this thing.

This book takes place in 2008, of course for us Americans, we know that is when the housing bubble in the US burst, and then we had a recession set in and millions of people were without work and or lost their homes. “The Wangs Vs the World” follows a millionaire (maybe billionaire) family living in L.A. who lose everything when the family patriarch (Charles Wang) decides to put up his home and businesses as collateral to start a new line of makeup products. When the economy takes a tumble, Charles decides he will pack up his second wife (Barbra) and pick up his two kids who are at school (Grace and Andrew) and make his way to his oldest daughter’s (Saina) home in Helios, New York. We get not only Charles’ POV during this mess of a book, but also Grace, Andrew, Barbra, and even the POV of the freaking car they are riding in for the majority of this road trip.

I can honestly say that I didn’t care for one character at all. These people suck. Charles is just a terrible father and husband. It’s understood he has affairs, but you know, don’t get upset about that. That’s just the world or something.

Barbra was obsessed with Charles when she knew him in China and just bides her time to get him after his first wife dies in the weirdest accident ever. She’s not worried about being a mother to his children that he had with his first wife and is just barely present it seems in anyone’s life.

Saina was okay at first, but she’s dumb when it comes to love and it gets old reading about her romance problems.

Andrew was a hot mess. I just…reading about someone’s comic stand-up is not interesting. At all. Wait, I take that back, I did laugh while reading Chelsea Handler’s books, so maybe once again it’s just that this book is not funny.

Grace was inoffensive. I wish I cared more, but honestly since the whole rest of their family was exhausting, I just wanted to be done with them all.

The writing was not that great. Between the run on sentences that lasted whole freaking paragraphs sometimes which was bad enough; Chang also had some dialogue I think either in Cantonese or Mandarin and doesn’t translate it. I say I think since once again she doesn’t bother to translate what people are saying.

Also, FYI authors, there is nothing endearing about reading how prejudiced and racist in some cases the whole family was about people who were African American. Also be prepared to read about how if you have a mixed race kid who is cute, that makes it okay to be with a black man or woman. Shoot they even had some comments towards white people. I just didn’t find any of it clever. I found myself cringing throughout and sighing.

Also there is a point in the story where Chang goes into a fixed rate loan he takes out which took me out of the story. Dumb me, but didn’t the whole housing crisis happen cause people everywhere had adjustable rate mortgages that overnight went from being several hundred dollars to several thousand? It just didn’t even make sense to me why Charles took out a loan when he supposedly had money to burn.

The book settings moves around a lot, the family is traveling by car from California to New York and all I have to say is that the route they take seemed to be making the trip longer, but I am too lazy to look up potential routes. That is way too much effort for me to be putting in towards a book I seriously disliked. The action at one case even moves to China.

The ending was just a question mark to me. I don’t know what I was supposed to think and honestly I didn’t care. I was glad to be done with this book so I can freaking count it towards Booklikes-opoly. FYI, that is the only reason I kept up with this.

Electronic edition: 368 pages (via Goodreads)

201 to 400 pages: $3.00

Bank: $23.00

one-star

Mad Love by Nick Spalding

Mad Love by Nick SpaldingMad Love by Nick Spalding
Published by Lake Union Publishing on December 6th 2016
Genres: Romance
Pages: 316
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
four-stars

Can two people who have never met make a marriage work? Popular dating site Sociality thinks so, and is marrying London lad Adam to California girl Jessica to prove it.

What better way to show that your ‘love algorithms’ work than to put two complete strangers together in an expensive publicity stunt? But, as livewire Jess and lazybones Adam quickly discover, just because a computer says you’re the perfect match, it doesn’t make it so!

Two million Sociality subscribers and the media are following the happy couple’s progress, and they have to make a go of it or they’ll lose everything, look like idiots, and destroy Sociality’s reputation. But can the mismatched pair, who seem to be constantly at each other’s throats, put their differences aside and work their way into each other’s hearts?

Nick Spalding, bestselling author of Fat Chance and Bricking It, will make you cry with laughter at this story of marital warfare—complete with sinking boats, badly aimed flatulence, well aimed tennis balls and some very suggestive pastry.

I seriously love Nick Spadling. There have been only one book that was a miss for me so far. The other ones have been hilarious though. In “Mad Love” Spalding takes a look at a man (Adam) and woman (Jessica) who agree to get married via a dating website (Sociality). With the promise of a new flat that they can call their own and a split of thousands of pounds Adam and Jessica are trying their best to give their marriage a go. But they both realize that when one tends to fib (lie people) on their dating profile, that Sociality’s algorithm may be wrong about what a perfect match they should be.

Adam works as a video game journalist. I was going to say something about ethics in gaming, but that is bringing bad memories up for me, so let me say that Adam is not an ass. He is currently living in a place with a lot of flatmates and a cross eyed rat, so I can see why he would leap on being married to Jessica when he finds out about her. The beginning depicting Adam waking up and going to a video game con was hilarious. I just cracked up. Spalding always does a great job with the guy POV in these books.

Jessica is an American living in London trying to get her masters in Nutrition (I am to lazy to look that up to make sure that is accurate). She is also working at a strip club as a bartender. Once again, Jessica’s POV had me laughing at so many times in this book.

When Adam and Jessica agree to their marriage and realize it means that Sociality’s owner is going to be up in their faces for the next several months, you realize that both of them are trying to put their best face forward until it turns into a War of the Roses thing that the book did a great job with.

The only misstep I will say that happens, that really is what besides the ending made me knock a star from this book, is that Spalding gives us insight into why Adam was so focused on staying married to Jessica. I maybe rolled my eyes a bit. It felt like it came out of nowhere since there are no hints to this during Adam’s POV that Spalding could have at least hinted at so we could see what secret Adam was keeping.

The writing was great. Spalding does a great job of depicting relationships (see Love From Both Sides) and he has a great voice for both male and female characters. He chooses to tell the story from both Adam and Jessica’s POV with each chapter beginning with a question and answer they responded to on the Sociality website. I laughed so hard many times I started howling. There are just some scenes I don’t want to spoil for you. But let me just say, the scene with them getting married. It was inspired.

The book setting switches between London and Jessica’s birthplace of California. Spalding does a great job of depicting where Jessica grew up to the point I want to visit there sometime.

The ending was a bit eh to me though. I thought it was just too over the top and not realistic.

four-stars

The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin ChupecoThe Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
on March 7, 2017
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 432
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
one-star

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there's anything I've learned from him in the years since, it's that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she's a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles...and make a powerful choice.

Image result for stares into space gif

This freaking book.

Just to get this out of the way, this was not a good book. As many reviewers at Booklikes noted, this YA fantasy novel hit every trope that many of us readers are tired of reading.

Main character is the best (insert name of thing) ever.

There is purple prose galore.

World-building is all over the place and more often than not, author contradicts themselves regarding the rules they have put in place.

There is a love triangle (STOP IT!)

People (usually women) are jealous of main character for reasons unknown. That don’t make sense to you as a reader, but at that point you just go with it since you want it to end.

Development of characters seems to be an afterthought.

Book ends on freaking cliffhanger so you know as a reader that the author/publisher is going to stretch this thing out to at least 3 books. Looking at you “Dorothy Must Die” series which managed to push out 4 books.

I really loved the cover for “The Bone Witch” and when I read the synopsis a few months ago I thought this book would be right up my alley. I was wrong.

Told in alternating points of view, “The Bone Witch” has a character who is a bard (no, not looking up his name) who comes across Tea, who is a dark asha (think witch, it’s easier) also called bone witches.

This bard has come from (don’t recall kingdom) in order to find Tea.

Tea agrees to tell her life story after the bard witnesses her slaying a daeva in order to get its bezoar. Just think of a daeva as an undead thing that looks like a dragon. I don’t know. The bezoar is a jeweled remnant left behind that a dark asha like Tea can use in her spells. Seriously, after that the book just jumps into a free for all regarding this world that we find ourselves reading about.

When the POV switches to Tea, we find out what incident occurred in order for Tea to be declared a dark asha. We get to read about how she raised her dead brother (Fox) from the grave. And this is what kills me. The book has promise when you read about that. You are instantly fascinated. Then you are drowned in minutiae and you just don’t care anymore.

The book goes back and forth between the bard’s POV and Tea’s. I really wish that Chupeco had not decided to tell the bard’s POV in italic. I know that they want to visually show the different points of view. But it was hard to read. I don’t think people realize that when you have an e-reader or heck even a hardcover or paperback having someone’s eyes having to constantly adjust to different fonts can cause a headache. I know I had one yesterday.

Tea was not exciting at all. If you want to read about her crush on Prince Kance enjoy that. Also read about how angry she is at having to deal with chores and the food she eats. For pages and pages. I am not kidding about this. A good 3/4 of this book was just descriptions of what she was wearing, what was in her hair (jeweled things that somehow give ashas power), how she felt when Prince Kance was near her, what she was eating, how she sang, danced, and fought. This book borrowed heavily from “Memoirs of a Geisha” to the point that a few times I felt like I was experiencing deja-vu because a scene would sounds so similar to one from that book.

Image result for memoirs of a geisha gifs

There were a few things in here that I think that Chupeco wanted to include for a very special after school moment, but it fell flat to me. She includes a character (named Likh) that wants to be an asha (he has a silver heart) but in this world, since he is a male, he has to be a deathseeker. Likh doesn’t want to be one, and Tea and her dead brother Fox try their best to be behind his efforts to become an asha. At one point he makes a speech that he doesn’t seem himself as a boy, that since he was a boy he liked girl things (dolls and dresses) and I just cringed inside.

Image result for stop it gif

I think Chupeco is trying to portray him as gay. But that does not equal only liking girl things and not liking swords or rough play. Heck I was a tomboy and fought my mother tooth and nail to not be in a dress outside of church (boy did she despair) and yet I was not gay. I just think she should be careful with generalizations like this when writing.

We have other characters like Lady Mykaela, Lady Zoya, Mother Parmina and others who I wish we had been able to visit with more. They had more going on then Tea that was for sure. But honestly after a while, it was hard to keep track of so many people. Every few pages it felt like someone new was being included in this book.

The writing was purple prose run amok.

And honestly what really kills me about this book is that I still don’t get the world building that Chupeco has in this book. We have ashas who can control fire, water, wind, and earth (I think). And then we have dark ashas who can control the dead. How the heck does that even link up to the other four elements? Even Captain Planet decided to go with “heart” for crying out loud as a fifth element.

Don’t get me started why ashas who can control the elements are even being taught about dancing, flower arrangement, how to sing, how to perform, etc. Chupeco even has the ashas going to tea houses to have conversations with men. Once again there is a whole what in the world thought running through my mind. When Chupeco goes into Tea having to work off her debt to the “Mother” of her house I just started to laugh. This fantasy world is definitely not for me.

Chupeco tries to describe the runes that Tea is learning about, but man oh man my eyes just glazed over. We really only get two fight scenes in this book, and those were the only interesting parts of this book. Everything else was a big meh to me.

Chupeco has “The World of the Bone Witch” section that she included at the end of the book. It would have been better to put that up front after she showcased the maps of this world. I also really wish that Chupeco had thought to include a dictionary for the terms in this book. You have to guess a lot at what certain words mean or what she means when talking about somethings. For example, the clothes that the ashas wear are referred to as huas. Guess what I could not find that word anywhere in the dictionary. I ended up having to Google and found out that hua means China. I don’t know if that is true or not since it popped up via Wikipedia. I imagine that Chupeco means that this outfits (based on the endless pages of descriptions) are similar somewhat to kimonos though. Same thing when I tried to look up daesha which turned up some interesting results.

The setting of this world that Chupeco creates at first glance sounds interesting. Everyone has an actual physical representation of their heart that they wear for all to see in a heartglass. People (ashas mostly) can see the colors in the heartglass and can tell if you are happy, anxious, sad, sick, etc. But if you give your heart away (cue danger) you can slowly start to die. But sometimes not. And sometimes you can get a new heart. I am sure this is all going to reveal about love or something in book #2 or #3.

Chupeco also shows the kingdom includes people with blonde hair and blue eyes, dark haired people with dark eyes, and golden skinned people with I can’t even remember what eyes they had, I think she refers to their shape. But then people pop up who are dark skinned and I just didn’t have the energy to figure out what kingdom they even come from.

The ending was a freaking cliffhanger. There are enough clues here and there that you can imagine what happened to put Tea on this path, which is why having a cliffhanger really doesn’t work. There was one reveal that I think will surprise some readers if they manage to finish this book. I know that I don’t really care what caused Tea to take the measures that she is about to do.

I read this for booklikes-oply. The Kindle Edition is 432 pages.

one-star

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