It’s time for my latest book reviews. It’s been a while since I last did these, due to my hiatus over the last few months, but I’m slowly getting back into my routine.
I just have two books to present this time around. And my reviews will be fairly short for each book as it took me several months to finish them. But I’ll give you the gist of what they are about and you can read them for yourselves to get the full stories of both.
The first book is a children’s fiction called The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim.
It’s a historical fiction (of course!) story, set in the early 1100s A.D. in China, during the Northern Song dynasty, according to the author. It tells the story of an 11 year old Chinese girl named Jing, who basically is “sold” into marriage for money to another family (the Guo family) that treats her like a slave. She is married to a 3 year old boy of the Guo family (the only one in the family that likes her and treats her with any sort of respect and dignity), but is regarded mostly as a servant rather than a bride, particularly by the two evil sisters in this family. It made me think a little of Cinderella while I was reading it. The evil sisters make a conscious effort to make Jing’s life as miserable as possible. They commit mischievous acts and make it look like Jing caused them, which usually results in her being punished by the sisters’ parents, particularly by Mrs. Guo.
At one point, Jing is ‘accused’ of stealing from one of the sisters and is severely punished by Mrs. Guo. Consequently, Jing is sold again, this time to a place called a “chinglou”, which, from the sounds of it, is basically an ancient Chinese version of a modern day strip club; entertainers of men in Jing’s own words.
The story really picks up when Jing escapes the chinglou, with the help of a spider, whom she met earlier in the story, that weaves a thread that enables her to do this, and meets up with a nightingale named Koko (who escaped from the Guo family) and a boy named Kaizhen, who holds a great secret, which is subtly revealed towards the end of the story and holds the key to Jing returning home to her family.
There are little sketches throughout the book (drawn by Jing’s little brother) sent to her as letters, which are really cute, that she receives while living in the Guo’s household.
Overall, I felt that the story was well written with a good enough plot, though it was pretty one dimensional. It felt like the typical kind of story with the main character facing multiple challenges, both physical and psychological; trying to find his or her own way, meets key element characters that help him or her in their pursuit to become a better person, faces a powerful enemy that needs to be defeated (in this story’s case, it’s a huge demonic tree) and finally finds the happiness and joy that they were seeking in the end. In short, this story was pretty predictable. I could easily see this being the next animated Disney film and would probably score pretty well, rating-wise. Eat your heart out Mulan!
Really, the only thing that I didn’t like about this book were the constant use of foreign words that were not clearly explained. Words like “jing” and “chinglou” are not exactly modern day words from what I gather. But seeing them enough in the text as I read, I was able to use context clues to figure out what I thought they meant. I figured out that the word “jing” probably means “spirit” or some other astral projection-like being that can be either good or evil, as the author briefly has her characters discussing whether or not some jing are deities or demons.
And as I mentioned above, I’ve concluded that “chinglou” is a sort of ancient Chinese “strip club” where men go to be entertained.
A decent story overall. I give it a 4 out of 5.
The second book I have to review is called Suits by Nina Godiwalla.
It is a non-fiction telling of the author’s experience while working on Wall Street in New York; her struggles and challenges both in being the only woman at the time working there, as well as being an American born Parsi, having to juggle her own family values with those of America.
Nina describes just how demanding the job she held at Morgan Stanley, a huge financial firm in New York, was for her; the long hours that she put in, the frustrating moments of having to deal with upper management, as well as her own co-workers in that most of them just seemed to see her as “just one of the guys”.
But besides describing her experience in corporate finance, Nina also talks about her home and family life in her book and how she came to be who she is now. To me, these moments were the best to read as they felt very humble and “down to earth” as she talks about her childhood experience with her family and school life. I really like how she makes references to American “pop culture” icons; TV shows like The Price Is Right game show, which her grandma never missed, As The World Turns and Dallas.
One of my favorite references that she made was playing Super Mario Brothers in her youth and how she would even use that as an excuse to be late for school in the mornings! Now I’m not a gamer by any right. But even I can admit that I played my fair share of Mario games when I was little and can remember being “killed” often by the array of enemies that the game threw at me before reaching the end of the level.
Reading this is what truly brought Nina’s book to life for me; that she openly admits her likes and dislikes and is not afraid of what others think about them. It feels real, which to me, makes the best kind of reading. Being able to relate to readers by sharing similar stories, particularly those when you are a kid, really helps connect both author and reader, and makes you want to cheer the author on as you read their story. And like I have done with other authors that I have read before, I found myself cheering for Nina as well while reading her story, particularly towards the end. I think you will too as you read her story, which I highly recommend that you do.
So I give Suits a 5 out of 5.
That’s it for this month. Now that I am back on a more normal reading schedule, I’ll be posting reviews on a more regular basis. I have some good ones to present for October’s reviews so I look forward to sharing those with you in the coming weeks. Be sure to check out my friend, Salazar’s blog, 14 Shades of Grey, to see what books she has been reading this month. They sound pretty interesting!
Until next time, keep on reading!