Here are a couple of books I’ve recently read…and what I think of them.
I have a handful of resolutions for 2019 — one of them being to finish at least 52 books by the end of this year! I’m on my way, but I wanted to share some quick thoughts on what I’ve read so far on here…just in case anyone else is interested in some of these titles.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
When Charles Wang’s business goes belly up (in the financial crisis of 2007/2008), he decides to take his family — his youngest daughter, his son and their stepmother — across the country to go meet up with his oldest daughter. An Urea (yes, the product you put in cosmetics and lotions) and somewhat failed cosmetics magnate, his world of riches comes crashing down on him after some risk-taking. His children come across as spoiled (the oldest one’s relatively better), his (now) wife is mostly standoffish, and he’s mostly a buffoon — though I will give him some credit for seeming to care quite a bit about his kids. The book also switches between English and Mandarin, though the they don’t translate the Mandarin within the work.
Let’s see: I had no sympathy for the majority of the characters, there was no clear goal within the plot (mostly because of bad writing), and I wish (hate to compare your work, Chang, to Crazy Rich Asians, but I’m going to) that the Mandarin portions had some translations. I was often frustrated and slowed down by having to fill in the blanks so many times to try and understand what was going on when the characters spoke Mandarin. About a third of my way into reading the book, I wanted to give up because I didn’t feel like the writing was compelling enough to make me want to stick around; in fact, I predicted that the ending of the book would be unsatisfying. I was right. I strongly recommend against reading this boring, bland and unoriginal book, which supposedly has a “comedic” tone. Where? It’s not funny when a book is overall a waste of your time. 1/5.
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Separated into six sections, each portion is tied together via the character Holly Sykes, a young woman who is believed to have been born with an “invisible eye.” Holly runs away from her Gravesend home in her teen years, but is also haunted by the fact that her little brother Jacko disappeared around the same time. Much of the decision-making she does — along with some of the narratives of the other characters — make for an interesting yarn of adventure, heartbreak and victory.
I loved this drama/fantasy title. When everyone jumped on the Cloud Atlas bandwagon, I did not. It actually took me a little while to get to the novel; that paired with my lack of care for the movie left a bland taste in my mouth. It was the abstract of The Bone Clocks that compelled me to borrow it from the library — and I’m glad I did. Every character is thoughtfully laid out for the reader; the ones I need to care about I actually do care about, and the stories suck you in. There is a lot of travelling in this book, and Mitchell does have a gift for setting the scene. This is a significantly longer read, and it was a little tough at times to understand what was going on, so I’d treat this title more like a marathon and instead pace yourself if you’re hoping to truly enjoy it. 4/5.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
This book details the author’s experiences and accounts of the ill-fated 1996 climb up Mount Everest. At the time of the climb, Krakauer was on assignment with a magazine called Outside. In case you’re not aware of what happened on that climb, I’ll leave you to it to look it up — just so that we avoid spoilers.
Growing up, I was never a fan of non-fiction work, but I feel as though this changed my mind on that. (As of writing, I’m reading another non-fiction book that I’m enjoying — more on that for another post!) The writing feels genuine, and while most people have imperfect memory, I, for the most part, respect where Krakauer is coming from. I do admit that he does sometimes come from a very holier-than-thou point of view in his writing, but it doesn’t detract too much from my ability to understand what he’s trying to convey. Also — any piece of work that gets me to choke up in shock, fear, and disappointment has my admiration. I was not a fan of the long rambling post-script (I believe I read the second edition of this book) so if you’re not into he-said, he-said arguments, skip that section. Overall, a solid read. 4.5/5.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
When Dr. John Montague, a paranormal investigator, decides to explore Hill House (a home in a place that isn’t exactly made clear to the reader, although it is said to be situated near a town that’s named a handful of times in the book) he allows his wife, two women and one of the heirs to the home to join him. Montague is hoping to find proof that the supernatural does exist. The books centres mostly around Eleanor Vance’s experiences at the home — though all of the guests seem to be privy to their own frightening experiences.
I didn’t mind this book. I actually read it after I watched the Netflix series and I was surprised at how ‘meh’ I found it to be. I think it’s a book I will need to dip into again at some point, because I did become quite invested in characters like Eleanor and Theodora, and was genuinely scared for them. It’s definitely not the best book I’ve ever read, but I can see how Shirley Jackson’s novel is a standout gothic/ghost/horror story; the acknowledgement is much deserved. It’s a short, somewhat chilling read — perfect for the weekend. 3.5/5.