sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
[personal profile] sumofparts
I finished my second set of 50, yay and started a new set. Below are some thoughts on the books.

Remainder of second set:
39. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
40. A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee
41. Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice
42. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
43. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
44. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
45. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai
46. Snakes and Ladders by Gita Mehta
47. The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee
48. Beijing Confidential by Jan Wong
49. Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre
50. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
New set:
1. Decoded by Jay-Z

Cut for length )
sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
[personal profile] sumofparts
Sort of a mid-year update. It's been a while since I read some of these so I've just written short impressions but feel free to ask about any of the books.

33. Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
34. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
35. The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
36. Valmiki's Daughter by Shani Mootoo
37. Skim written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
38. Henry Chow and other stories edited by R. David Stephens (white)

Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
This was a well-written book but ultimately disappointing because it just didn't feel like it was going anywhere. Judging from the Goodreads reviews, this was a departure from Brick Lane, which I'll still try eventually.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Like other posters on the comm, I enjoyed this book but it was not without its flaws, which I think everyone else has covered pretty well.

The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
I liked the book but I don't feel everything gelled very well for me. I did like how the main character wasn't always the most sympathetic.

Valmiki's Daughter by Shani Mootoo
Gorgeous writing and evocative descriptions but similar to The New Moon's Arms, something didn't quite click for me. Still, I'd definitely try this author's other books.

Skim written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.
Very detailed and beautiful drawings that really capture the story. Equal credit should be given to author and illustrator.

Henry Chow and Other Stories by various authors, edited by R. David Stephens
Enjoyable but uneven collection of short stories for teenagers. I liked the different story settings and character perspectives. From the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop.

a: ali monica, a: hopkinson nalo, a: mootoo shani, a: mariko tamaki, i: tamaki jillian, w-e: stephens r david, short stories, fantasy, lit fic, young adult, coming of age, graphic novel, bangladeshi-british, latin@, dominican-american, caribbean-canadian, jamaican, trinidadian, asian-canadian, chinese-canadian, japanese-canadian, glbt, women writers
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (Default)
[identity profile]
Haven't posted in a while. Here's a series of mini-reviews with some spoilers. Also, some of the books contain potentially triggering content.

6. Un-Nappily in Love by Trisha R. Thomas
7. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
8. Tracks by Louise Erdrich
9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
10. Umbrella by Taro Yashima
11. Little Joy by Ruowen Wang
12. Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker
13. Erika-san by Allen Say
14. Dahanu Road by Anosh Irani
15. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
16. The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
17. In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez
18. Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
19. Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
20. Monster by A. Lee  Martinez
21. Certainty by Madeleine Thien
22. So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan
23. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
24. Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez
25. A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez
26. A Person of Interest by Susan Choi
27. Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

Mention (not counted)
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (white); illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (person of colour)

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[identity profile]
I've been meaning to read this book since I first heard of it back in 2006, when it won the Giller beating out odds-on favourite De Niro's Game (which would go on to win the Booker). The reason it took so long for me to eventually get around to reading it was because it had two things against it: Bloodletting is a collection of short stories and everyone knows short story collections are a chore to plow through* and the stories were written by a doctor, who had set his stories in the medical community. The book sounded dreary and so I kept passing up chances to read it until finally, prompted by a desire to finish this challenge, and a second personal challenge to try and read all the Giller winners, I picked up the book.

Bloodletting is a bit unusual in that it is a short story cycle: the short stories are all loosely linked by four doctors, introduced in the first two stories: Fitz, Ming, Sri and Cheng. 

There is something here for everyone though the opening story How to Get into Medical School Part I was easily my favourite. How to opens with two University of Ottawa students struggling through finals. Ming and Fitz have been study partners, but they both feel their relationship deepening into something more. Ming is quick to put a stop to this, sighting a dedication to getting into medical school as a cause, though she is also put off by the fact that Fitz is white, something her Chinese family would never approve of.  Lam does a brilliant job of unfolding the delicate dance between Ming, who is all sensibility, and Fitz who is all sense as they try to deny their attraction at the same time as they give in to it. The story works completely on its own, but there is a great follow up How to Get into Medical School Part II, which is equally worth reading. 

However Lam has greater ambitions than to simply follow the personal dramas of his collection of doctors. As the book branches out the doctors become secondary characters and the patients begin to take over although this is brilliantly reversed as the book draws to a close as in later stories the doctors contract diseases themselves, slipping into the position of patient as they weaken and eventually die.

A gritty, interesting work, and a peak at the vulnerability of doctors who snap at patients, who go through the motions, who sometimes barely understand it is that they are doing.

*Sarcasm for all the times I have been told this. Once I started actually reading short story collections I realized I loved them, and the people who denounce them are usually people who have never read one in their life.
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (books)
[identity profile]
Here is a batch of mini-reviews and notes on books I read from May to October. I started including descriptions from other websites but didn't do that for all the books. Also, please note there are potentially triggering scenes and events in some of the books (e.g., rape, childhood abuse, incidents with dubious consent, violence). Please let me know if you need more detail.

List of Books Read
33. Burndive by Karin Lowachee
34. Cagebird by Karin Lowachee
35. Ocean of Words by Ha Jin
36. Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
37. The Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong
38. Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang
39. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
40. Pulse by Lydia Kwa
41. Choose Me by Evelyn Lau
42. The Monkey King & Other Stories edited by Griffin Ondaatje
43. The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
44. Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami

Reviews )
[identity profile]
5. Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai

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6. Naughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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7. Charisma by Steven Barnes

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8. Racing the Dark by Alaya Dawn Johnson

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9. How Like a God by Brenda Clough

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10. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh

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11. The Ballad of Billy Badass and the Rose of Turkestan by William Sanders

Contains spoilers for the ending )
[identity profile]
1. Eye of Jade – A Mei Wang Mystery by Diane Wei Liang - First book of a mystery series, features strong Chinese female character who works as a private investigator in Beijing. Unfortunately, the mystery itself didn’t grab me, as I thought the ways in which the protagonist solved the mystery were filled with coincidences and her assistant revealing something he found as he walked along the alleyways of Beijing that helped her discover the truth. Nor did I particularly empathized with the protagonist herself. Yes, yes, she’s independent and full of honour and pride, etc etc, but somehow she felt more like an “idea” of a character, someone that the author keeps telling us about her characters achievements, yet never really gave her leading girl room to react and breathe life into the world the author illustrates.

However, the one thing I did like about this book was the backstory, and how her mother and father were connected into her current case. The bits of what we saw of Mei Wang’s mom and dad were utterly fascinating to me, and the decisions they made during the Cultural Revolution appealed to me the most. Now, if only this story was retooled into a story about her parents working their respective jobs and meeting each other during the Cultural Revolution, I would have gobbled this story up.

But I think this opinion of mine may also be attributed to my personal preferences: I don’t normally go for mystery novels, and novels that take place during a specific time in history (And I find the Cultural Revolution particularly interesting) are far more fascinating to me.

2. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler - My first novel by Butler. While the whole re-imagining of the vampire lore was utterly fascinating, I found myself rather meh towards the actual story itself. I never really got to like the main protagonist – she felt too alien and inhumane, and I couldn’t find it in myself to be emotionally invested in her adventures. Also, the whole new vampire lore felt very… Stuck forcefully into the story. I got the impression of ‘Oh look, let’s take a paragraph or two to illustrate how my great and complex society works!’ in certain sections of the story I read. It was rather disconcerting, and it took me a long time to finish it because after trudging through one chapter, I’d always get up and go do something else. I never got invested enough in the story to plough through it from beginning to end.

So, the tl;dr – cool concept, actual story didn’t click with me

3. Certainty by Madeleine Thien - Gail Lim, a producer of radio documentaries, goes off to unravel the hidden, untold stories of her parents’ lives.

Let’s get this out first: I really didn’t like this novel. It was a frustrating read, because the whole story felt so heavy-handed with the message the author was trying to send, and I think the author was also trying to do too much all at once, resulting in a jumbled and inconsistent story. The whole thing felt too complicated, what with our protagonist already dead at the very beginning of the story, to the bits where Thien would switch between writing about what happened in the past, what Gail went through as she travelled the world to do her documentaries, and the life of her boyfriend when she was gone. I tend to love, love multiple layers in my fiction—but only if it is done properly. And in Certainty, it just didn’t work. None of the transitions flowed well, and she would never give us enough time to become acquainted and attached to her characters before switching perspectives again. Also, the heavy handed messages about memory, truth, etc. It all felt very… Pretentious. Do not recommend.

4. Hunter’s Oath by Michelle West - Set in a fictional land called Breodanir, wherein the people are under the protection of their gods, the Hunter God, and males of certain families, called the Hunter Lords swear to these gods and partake in the Sacred Hunt every year. To keep in touch with their humanity, Hunter Lords bond with a huntbrother, a male from outside the family.
I didn’t care much for this story, despite the very obvious slash possibilities of such a premise mostly because I didn’t care for our protagonists. I never felt emotionally engaged to the storyline and I found it hard to immerse myself in the book.

5. The Arrival by Shaun Tan The pictures are gorgeous—simple and detailed all in one—and without a single word Tan managed to convey every tiny human emotion, every little moment, and captured how big the world was, and how we are all connected to one another. (more)

6. Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai - One of my favourite novels I read in 2008. And certainly my favourite SF novel I read by a POC so far. It’s set in a future city wherein bank jobs are done through video games, past leaking into the present in the form of a disease, and one of our main protagonists stinks of Durian. What more can anyone want from a story, really? =D

Also, Larissa Lai did a lovely reimagining of the Chinese creation myth and Nu Wa is incorporated beautifully in this novel. And her lead protagonists, all females with agency, were strong and sympathetic and their own person. Made of Win. (more ramblings here)
[identity profile]
"Throwaway Daughter" was a puzzling book for me. The main character is Grace Dong-mei Parker, a Chinese-Canadian adoptee whose attitude towards the country of her birth changes during her adolescence. When she graduates from high school, she goes back to China, to try to find her parents, but particularly her mother.

It was puzzling to me because I kept having to remind myself that it was fictional. Ting-xing Ye left China as an adult in 1987, and has settled in Ontario, Canada. I don't know why my brain kept defaulting to "memoir": perhaps because that's the genre I'm used to from Chinese authors. Which ~sigh~.

More... )


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