There are, occasionally, books that are so profound that I reread the details and love the characters and don’t want the book to end. Aren’t those the best?
This month’s selections have that profound quality. They are all are mesmerizing, some made me angry, some made me laugh out loud., and one is just tragic.
Let’s start this review with the funny one, then the one that made ma mad, then two beautiful books, and last tragic one.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
This was such a clever book and very entertaining! (Much to my surprise!) And, yes, I did laugh often. The characters are purely silly and say the most outrageous things.
It begins with Rachel Chu heading to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick Young.
He has family living in Singapore and will be visiting to attend the wedding of the century in Asia. Rachel and Nick have been dating for a couple of years and she thinks this will be a vacation.
What she doesn’t know is just how wealthy Nick’s family is! She only learns this when their private car pulls up to the home of his grandmother and she sees, not a mansion, but a palace. She also discovers that he was raised in this atmosphere with many, many servants, private planes and chauffeured cars, and everything imaginable that wealthy (really wealthy) people have at their fingertips.
Rachel attends some of the bride’s pre-wedding functions and meets old girlfriends of Nick’s, along with various other family members. Since he is Asia’s most eligible bachelor the family is aghast that he has taken up with such a commoner as Rachel. So, will Rachel and Nick’s relationship survive this amazing trip or will she return to New York?
The book is full of references to the shopping trips that the wealthy family members regularly take as well as the descriptions of their very large homes. There is also a side story about Nick’s cousin Astrid that is interesting!
I did enjoy this book and my advice to you is to read the fine print (footnotes) on the pages! The author uses many examples of languages spoken by the characters and types of food and I found some of the descriptions hilarious in those footnotes! 5 stars for this one!
Vox by Christina Dalcher
In a futuristic United States women have been silenced. Oh, not completely. But almost!
Women and girls are outfitted with a “bracelet”. Each day the bracelet counts the words spoken and the limit is 100.
If a woman speaks more than 100 an electric shock is sent through the bracelet and the severity of the shock depends on how many words over the allotted 100 have been spoken. The shock can be debilitating or even cause death.
The transition to this kind of control of women is due to the Pure religious movement whose leader has taken over the country. Men and women are now leading somewhat separate lives. Women cannot work because they cannot speak. Schools are separate because the little girls cannot speak.
Two things horrified me (and made me angry) with this book:
- One was when Jean’s (the main character) daughter comes in from school with a message. It seems that her all-girls classroom will have a competition to see who says the least amount of words each day. This particular day the little girl has won. Jean checks Sonia’s word counter to find it is at zero. Sonia is six. SIX. And for an entire school day, she has spoken no words.
- The second thing that is atrocious was during a discussion with her husband when Jean is able to talk freely. He responds with this: “You know, babe, sometimes I wonder if it was better when you didn’t talk.”
This book will cause you some moments of anger and yet, it has moments when it rings true. Are women’s voices heard today? We can certainly say more than 100 words each day, but are we heard?
The back story of this book involves Jean’s other children and her co-workers from before the bracelets happened and the women’s fight to escape this horrible program. 5 Stars!
The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani
Beautiful book with compelling relationships between the main characters, a hint of sadness, fierce loyalty, and solving mysteries to overcome the past.
Jaya is a journalist in New York and has suffered through three miscarriages. She and her husband, Patrick, have separated due to the overwhelming grief this has caused them.
Then she hears that her grandfather in India is quite ill. Her mother refuses to travel to India to be with him, so Jaya goes. She realizes when she leaves that her family’s secrets lie in wait for her, or so she hopes.
Arriving in India, Jaya finds that her grandfather has already died, but then she meets Ravi. Ravi first served the family when her grandmother, Amisha, was alive. Ravi knows the family story and over a period of time, Ravi tells the whole story to Jaya.
The stories alternate from Amisha’s life to Jaya’s present-day life. Ravi begins with Amisha’s young marriage, the birth of her sons, and then the arrival of British soldiers that teach in a locally run school. Amisha is a storyteller, a writer, and she wants to go to the school to learn to write in English. At the school, she actually begins to teach writing to the young students as she learns the English language.
This is a beautifully written story with fabulous details about the Indian culture. You will love Ravi, who is totally devoted to Amisha. Their witty exchanges are quite funny at times. 5 stars for this one!
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
Another beautifully written book with a wonderful story!
Sam Hill was born with an unusual eye-color, actually pinkish-red. Tormented and bullied in his elementary school, Sam is constantly encouraged by his parents, especially his mother.
This book ends up being a fabulous testament to a mother’s love and the resilience it presented to a son.
Sam is befriended while still in primary school by two other students that are equally considered misfits as he is. One is Ernie Cantwell, the only African American in the school. The other is Michaela (Mickey) Kennedy, an unfortunate young girl that is virtually raising herself. These three are quite inseparable as youngsters and remain so through college and their lives as young adults.
Not unsurprisingly, Sam and Mickey both become ophthalmologists. Ernie plays professional football and then creates a successful computer company.
Right in the middle of these are several crises that challenge all three of them, especially Sam. And all through the book the continued devotion of Sam’s parents to him and to each other is a remarkable story.
This book was mesmerizing! I loved all the characters and really did not want the book to end! This one is well worth your time! Five stars for this one!
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
And the tragic book, but very compelling and a must-read!
Charlie, actually Charlotte, is a 17-year old that has been abused, raped, abandoned by her mother, homeless, starving, and more. Her story is tragic and gritty and sad.
The way she copes with all of this is to cut herself. In own meager possessions, she keeps a “tinderbox” that has gauze, bandages, peroxide, and pieces of glass. It’s her cutting kit and she resorts to this often- to the point that she has scars covering her forearms and thighs.
The book opens with Charlie confined to an institution housing young girls with severe emotional problems. She stays there until the hospital lets her know she is not financially able to continue her treatment and she is discharged into her mother’s care. Instead, Charlie travels across the US to a friend’s home.
It is in Arizona that Charlie attempts to recover from her ordeal and this includes getting a job, finding her own place to live, and avoiding alcohol, drugs, and cutting. She meets people at her job and in her apartment hunting that become friends of a sort, but really it is all up to Charlie. Will she make good choices and will she stay away from those that influence her to go back to the old ways?
There are so many characters in this book that affect Charlie’s life and you will love some of them and hate some of them. The book is well written but in an unusual style. Many of the sections are only a paragraph long. The writing is raw and real and sad.
I loved Charlie and wanted her to make it. Five stars for this one! I can highly recommend it!
Which one will you pick to read first? Better yet, try them all!
My rating system: 5 stars- perfection, the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.