Posts Tagged ‘romance’
Summary: Major Ernest Pettigrew, retired and widowed, leads a quiet life in a small town in the Southeast English village of St. Mary. Until, unexpectedly, the death of the Major’s brother ignites a friendship with local Pakistani shopkeeper Jasmina Ali. Finding that they have more in common than they could ever have imagined, friendship begins to blossom into something more. Can their rural English society, still holding onto the lingering traditions and prejudices of the past, accept this turn of events? And more importantly, can the Major himself?
Review: This is an excellent, and funny book. The characters are unique and well written, the English humor accessible to an American audience, and the issues (both personal and societal) are timely. While this will be most approachable to Anglophiles and fans of gentler reads, this is the rare title that I would recommend to almost any reader.
Read-a-likes: Other similar English titles, such as Old Filth by Jane Gardam or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, should be of interest to fans of Simonson’s work. But other titles dealing with older individuals adapting themselves to a new life and world, such as Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan are worth a look as well.
Review by Eric.
Has Miki fallen too hard? It’s summer, and Miki Yoshida is learning all about love. Her senior year has blossomed with promise ever since she gained Hiro Sakurai’s confidence. Now, she’s resolved to keep his trust as he reveals more about his secret mission and warns: “Don’t get involved!”"But Miki fears his work might do more harm than good, and she takes control—with disastrous results. How can trying to make things right turn out so dangerously wrong?
Review: I’m really enjoying the Miki Falls series! Summer takes place a few months after the first volume, Spring, but readers new to this series don’t necessarily need to read the first book in order to enjoy this latest installment. Crilley provides enough recap to not drag the story down and continues at a good pace to keep the story moving forward. Miki has been successful in gaining Hiro’s confidence and discovered his big secret. Now the two have formed a strong friendship as Miki learns about what exactly Hiro’s special mission entails. As Miki learns more about Hiro and his past, she begins to realize that her place next to Hiro is impossible yet she can’t help but feel close to him and she thinks Hiro feels the same.
In Summer, we see Miki and Hiro become more dimensional characters. While Hiro tries to back away from Miki and conceal his feelings for her, Miki pushes forward and dares to ask why. She refuses to take no as an answer and doesn’t dissolve into a pool of tears, which is one of the reasons why I like her so much. Similarly Hiro struggles with his choice of doing his duty or listening to his heart. More information about Hiro’s job is provided in the book, which is really unique and interesting. We also see a female acquaintance of Hiro’s past that adds more tension to this sweet love story.
Miki Falls is an OEL, original English language manga-style graphic novel series. It is perfect for those readers who are hesitate about reading Japanese manga yet curious about the stories they contain. The soft black and white illustrations perfectly complement this gentle story about first love. I especially love the set up of separate panels that express the emotions that run across the character’s faces making them real. I hope that you pick up Miki Falls and I look forward to reading Autumn, the third volume of the series.
Readalikes: Miki Falls Volume 3: Autumn by Mark Crilley
Briony committed a crime. She killed her stepmother and made her twin sister, Rose, sick. Briony’s guilt is a cloak that she wraps herself and now can’t imagine not wearing it. To escape from her burden, she goes to the swamp where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. In addition to her overbearing guilt, Briony can also see the Old Ones, a clear indication that she is a witch and therefore should be sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.
Then a young lad named Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He’s as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she’s extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn’t know.
Review: Chime is a gorgeously written novel, where each word, each character, and each setting were carefully chosen and used effectively. After reading the first page of the book, I knew this book would be different. The dialogue and society evoked an old fashioned fairy tale story. What sets Chime apart from the numerous other books that focus on folklore is its unique use of magic and settings of swamps. I’ve never thought of a swamp being a magical place before, but Billingsley makes it work.
Along with the fabulous world building, the characters of Chime are really the best part of the book. Briony is the narrator of our story. We spend much time in her head. The use of stream of consciousness is expertly done in Chime. I was completely immersed in Briony’s tortured and complex psyche. Her voice is so strong and so distinct. Her guilt is palpable and makes you feel like you are carrying her world on your shoulders. For much of the novel, Briony suffers from self hatred and shame. She believes she is the sole person responsible in bringing chaos to her family and should be sentenced to death because of this. Though she did get a bit whiny at times, I found her to be strong willed and she didn’t always make the right choices, which reminded her and the reader that despite her claims of what she is, she retains her humanity. I have to confess that I didn’t warm up to Briony right away and it’s really not her fault either. Her name just echoed a character with the same name that I detested and who actually should feel guilty and ashamed for what she’d done- Briony from Atonement by Ian McEwan. I took me a few pages to get over that bump.
Eldric, Briony’s love interest, is wonderful. His charming, out going, adventurous and laid back attitude balances Briony’s dark mood. He really lights up the pages. He and Briony worked so well together, and I’m pleased to say that their relationship seemed real. It was based on friendship and then advanced to young love rather than young lust. Their interactions, jokes and banter, felt very real and helped balance the dark, heavy themes of the book.
Rose, Briony’s sister, who is mentally compromised, is sweet and young at heart. Though people are quick to dismiss her as being ill, she is much keen and observant of her surroundings. Rose’s participation in Briony’s mysterious is crucial to unlocking what really happened to her and their stepmother.
What deterred me the most from loving Chime is that the plot moved very slowly, particularly in the first half of the book. I found many of the plot twists to be predictable and knew them before they occurred in the story. The pace does pick up during the second half as we learn more about Eldric’s father’s plan to drain the swamp which has made the Old Ones unhappy, particularly the Boggy Mun, who has plagued the village’s children with swamp cough in retaliation. When Rose’s lingering illness turns into a cough, Briony knows that she must do whatever it takes, even revealing her secrets, to save her sister. After a while, I stopped reading the book for its plot but rather sat back and watched Briony come to an epiphany about what is true and false about a mystery that has consumed her life. Though the descriptions allude that Eldric is solely responsible for her awakening, he really isn’t. He does indeed help Briony but it is Briony herself who slowly puts the pieces together and has the strength to accept the consequences. That being said, Chime is a brilliantly written book that does include a very dark, gritty, magical world along with just the right dose of romance to prevent being steeped into darkness, but it is ultimately a novel that explores the tortured psyche and the powerful forces of guilt, redemption, and self love. If you decide to pick this book up, just be patient and keep reading. It does get better once you get through the slow half.
Readalikes: Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray or The Prophecy of Sisters by Michelle Zink
Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning, as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared in to the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father’s greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom. Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and a chance to win his heart.
Review: Turgeon’s retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved classic, The Little Mermaid, is darker and possibly more foreboding than the original tale. When two women vie for the heart of one man, it’s pretty obvious there is going to be heartache and misery. After rescuing a human from the sea, mermaid Princess Lenia falls hard for Prince Christopher. She is willing to give up her beautiful voice and endure the constant pain caused by her new legs in order to pursue him on dry land. Meanwhile, Princess Margrethe has also set her sights on the handsome prince in hopes of uniting their two warring kingdoms.
Unlike the original fairytale, Turgeon’s brooding retelling gives a voice to both women, giving us a tragic tale of destiny and desire that shatters our heart in pieces. Lenia is an optimist, completely enchanted with fragile humanity. She yearns to have a soul that will live forever instead of just turning into sea foam when she dies in the sea. Though she is warned that nothing good can come out of humans, she desires above all else to explore the upper world.
Like Lenia, Princess Margrethe of the Northern Kingdom is also sheltered, living in a convent disguised as a nun to ensure her security from her warring kingdom. Margrethe keeps to herself and her destiny has been preordained: to become the next best ruler. As she lives amongst the peasants, she realizes how the poor status her people are living in and vows that she will make everything better when she has the throne.
Turgeon follows the outline of Christian’s fairytale pretty well for the most part. The chapters are divided by Lenia and Margarethe’s point of view in alternating chapters. I felt myself torn between the two female characters who share many similarities. I wanted both of them to be happy. What I couldn’t understand is why they both loved the womanizing prince so much. If I could find a flaw in the book, it would be the flat, uninteresting prince who actually has very little page time. Nonetheless I found Mermaid to be a compulsive read. I wanted to know how all of the three characters will collide in the book’s climax. It kept me guessing who if anyone will live happily ever after. Mermaid is definitely a dark tale meant for adults and not exactly a cozy bedtime story. Readers interested in fairytale retellings should definitely pick this one up and will find it hard to put the book down once they begin reading it.
Readalikes: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, The Mermaid’s Maddness by John C. Hines, Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli
Delphine Khanum fantasizes about rekindling her relationship with her father-in-law Zaki, whom she loved long before she met and married his son. But as she discovers in this richly layered, multi-generational tale, the closer one’s dreams become, the more risk there is of losing sight of what really matters.
Review: Aspirations and family ties are examined across three generations of the Khalil family in Farooki’s enjoyable novel. Lucky Khalil is a talented young soccer player with his sights set on taking the World Cup home for England. His father, Jinan, is the serious-minded, hard-working son of a Bangladeshi immigrant, married to Delphine, who feels her perfect marriage is confining. The patriarch of the Khalil family, Zaki, is a shopkeeper and gambler with wanderlust and an attraction to his son’s wife. As you discover earlier on in the book, Delphine is approximately fifteen years older than Jinan and Zaki was once her lover.
When Delphine gives in to Zaki’s advances, family bonds are stretched to the breaking point and the character’s true colors appear. As each of the characters advance in their ambitions, the cross-purposes of their desires and responsibilities blend intricately and threaten to crush the family.
The Corner Shop is clearly a character driven novel. Each character struggles with attaining their dreams or rather the mere idea of what their dreams should be. Reality and aspirations clash. With the exception of Jinan, who achieved his dreams and is happy with the results, it was interesting how other Khalil family members felt trapped yet at the same time freed by their dreams. Before being a contender of England’s football (what we in the US call soccer) team, Lucky is already plagued by a nightmare of failing his country. Delphine who came across as a modern day Madame Bovary is tired of her “perfect marriage” where she is adored and respected by her husband. Delphine wants more of the romantic notion of a marriage rather than the banal day to day moments with her husband. Zaki is suffers from the Peter Pan complex who abandons his conventional shopkeeper’s life and responsibilities when things get too complicated for him and abruptly leaves to search for something fulfilling.
I like how The Corner Shop avoids the overly discussed theme of being immigrants adjusting to a new lifestyle and zeroes in what we all, regardless of our cultural, religious, social backgrounds may be, think of: what, exactly, leads to a more fulfilled life? Though told mostly in the omnipresent third person narrator, there are sections where the narration style breaks and some of the characters narrate their side of the story, which can be challenging to follow and interrupts the pace and tone of the book. For the most part I enjoyed the flawed characters, but the twisted love triangle between Delphine, Zaki, and Jinan was hard to wrap my head around and just felt wrong. All in all, a nice quick read for fans of Jhumpa Lahiri and Zadie Smith.
Readalikes: Interpreter of the Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Description: Miki is ready for adventure and romance. She is tired of being a pushover and vows that her senior year of high school will be different. She will be confident and in charge. Her senior resolution is called into question when Miki sets her sights on Hiro, a tall, handsome new boy at school who is determined to be antisocial. Miki thinks Hiro is putting on a show and hiding a dangerous secret, but what is it? Miki is determined to find out.
Review: Miki Falls is exactly what I needed at the moment. After reading a few titles that left me in a “blah” mood, Miki Falls is a fresh of breath air for me and I’m so glad that I picked it up. As the story begins, Miki is both literally and figuratively falling out of a window and possibly in love too. We learn that Miki threw herself outside of a third story window. The reason is not given, however, we think it has to do something with Hiro, the mysterious and distant new boy that enrolled in Miki’s high school as Miki beings to explain on how everything happened.
Miki is a extremely likable teen. She is trying to confront her insecurities and no longer wants to be passive. She wants to take charge of her life, which at times makes her impulsive and stubborn especially when she refuses to be avoided by Hiro. She goes out of her way to be nice to him and to speak to him even though he has continually expressed his disinterest in anyone yet Miki sees a vulnerability in Hiro, a person who is much like herself- a rule follower and not living life.
Hiro is your typical brooding love interest who is hiding a secret. I liked how his revelation is an odd twist and something that I didn’t guess. Crilley does a great job in building suspense and mystery surrounding Hiro’s past and his mood swings. I can’t wait to see how the supernatural aspect of the book develops in the next three series.
I really enjoyed Crilley’s manga-like format. Unlike manga’s the book does not read from right to left nor are the illustrations squeezed into panels. A lot of the illustrations are crisscrossing sequential panels that emphasize art as well as furthering the plot, which allows the story’s emotion, humor, and drama unfold in front of the readers. My favorite part of the illustrations are the focus on the eyes of the characters that are cut in between dialogue to heighten the characters’ sense of vulnerability, confusion, and shock. Crillye’s light shading and unique facial features give the book a softer and romantic feel.
If you are curious about manga but a bit afraid of it’s format, I would highly suggest to pick up the Miki Falls series not only to read a great story but also to experience what reading a manga might feel like. Even though the characters are in their teens, I think this series has a wide age appeal very much similar to the Twilight Saga due to a chaste yet passionate love story. It’s definitely worth checking it out.
If you like this book try: Miki Falls Volume 2: Summer by Mark Crilley
Description: Kimberly Chang and her mother have immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn in the 1980s with the help of Kim’s Aunt Paula. As a result, they are are forced to work for Aunt Paula in a Chinatown clothing factory earning one and a half cent per item they make in order to repay their debts. With barely enough to keep them alive and living in a dilapidated, rodent and insect infested house house without heat, Kimberly is determined to make her and her mother’s life better.
Review: There are many immigrant stories told throughout the years. Their struggles with culture shock and poverty are nothing new, but nonetheless familiar. What sets apart Girl in Translation is the voice and strength of the main character, Kimberly Chang. Kim is a very smart girl who is practical, incredibly intelligent, hard working, loyal, and a dutiful daughter. She knows her limits in terms of her poverty and learning a new culture that is completely different from her own, yet she is resolute in finding a way out of her situation as well as naive. I connected with Kim right away. I understood her desire to grab on to education as her way to gain freedom, both economically and personally. Her dutiful roles and thinking of her family mirrored my own beliefs. Although she has her own share of flaws, Kim never resorts to long term angst and anger towards her mother for their dire situation, which is mainly due to the fact that her mother is doing all that she can to survive. The book is Kim’s odyssey from adolescence to womanhood.
The writing of Girl in Translation is very simple and straightforward. I liked how Chinese proverbs and sayings are interspersed throughout the book. The anguish and plight of the Chang women are well developed and tangible. I couldn’t help but root for Kimberly in her small and large victories. Just when I thought I had the book figured out, there was a big twist at the end that made me cry. Looking at Kimberly’s story and knowing her personality, I don’t think it could have ended any other way but it still broke my heart. Girl in Translation is an immigrant’s story, a story of coming of age, of love and loss, and of dreams to achieve. It is one that you should definitely read and experience.
If you like this book try: A Step From Heaven by An Na, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, or Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Description: A fictionalized biographical account of the lives of the Bronte family. From the death of the mother Mia to the death of Charlotte Bronte, who died at the age of 38 and outlived all of her siblings.
Review: The title of the book is misleading. The novel doesn’t focus on the two leading sisters, Charlotte and Emily, but rather the entire family. Branwell, their egocentric brother whom their father, the Rev. Patrick Bronte, doted upon is a complex character. At times I couldn’t help but like his charm, but my opinions of him definitely changed by the end. There is also a keen observation of the talented youngest sibling, Anne, who can’t help but be in the shadow of her elder sisters. The two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, both of whom died after falling ill at a nightmarish girl’s school, are also included in the tale.
Charlotte’s personality of constantly seeking approval and love is shown quite nicely. Branwell’s hubris can be a bit much, but I could see glimpses of the male characters in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in him. I wonder if he inspired his sisters while they were writing. Emily was a fascinating character. She doesn’t speak much, but when she does it usually profound. I also really liked strong, but silent Anne. Now I have a desire to read her books too.
I wasn’t aware that there were two older Bronte sisters before Charlotte, so that was a treat to learn about them too. Despite relentless struggles and early deaths, the Bronte sisters are rightfully memorable and celebrated.
Morgan stays pretty close to the real biographical facts of the Bronte family. She deftly shows the struggles of each individual as well as the evolution of great, female writers. Her writing is excellent. The language is extremely descriptive and detailed. When reading the novel, I could totally picture myself at Halworth and observe what is going on, but also know what the characters are feeling. Though the pacing is a bit off at times, I found The Brontes a thoroughly enjoyable novel.
Readalikes: Passions by Jude Morgan or Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael
Description: In collection of eight linked short stories, the lives of landowners and their workers on the Gurmani family farm in the countryside outside of Lahore, Pakistan are explored.
Review: Mueenuddin takes a critical look at the lives of several social classes in his debut collection of short stories. The eight stories explore relationships among the descendants of the super-rich Harouni farming family, living near Lahore, those who work on the farm, and those who marry (often unhappily) into it. Each stories are slices of life, giving the reader a glimpse of daily life. The stories are full with indigenous detail which had me transported to my last visit in Pakistan along with subtle understanding of their characters’ complex experiences and destinies.
No one is spared criticism and heartbreak in any of these stories. Servants use their years of loyalty working for their masters in hopes of getting support in return. Women expertly use their sensuality to ensnare a well off suitor and try to move up the social and security ladder are fatalistically ironic. Blind justice and characters who can almost grasp happiness are also recurring features in the short stories.
Out of all the stories, my favorites are “Lily” and “Provide, Provide”. In “Lily,” we see the beginning of a budding and promising relationship. Just as the “honeymoon phase” is over, we began to witness its slow deterioration. “Provide, Provide,” features the cunning and ambitious Zainab who insinuates herself among the Harounis, abandoning her weakling and drug addict husband to marry a well-placed household servant, only to lose everything. Mueenuddin is a very skillful and talented writer that left me wanting more. I will definitely pick up his next work.
Readalikes: Interpreters of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Dubliners by James Joyce, Corner Shop by Roopa Farooki
Description: In order to save the family from financial ruin, the Stephenson sisters try to change their destiny. One contemplates a loveless marriage while the other casts a love spell to summon her true love. Kat, the youngest of the Stephenson sisters, comes up with her own plans for her sisters’ suitors after discovering that she has magical powers herself.
Review: Kat, Incorrigible is a delightful read that mixes adventure, mystery, romance, magic, and humor in all the right doses. Readers are transported to Regency England, where the social mores that are present in Jane Austen novels still rule society.Though set in the past, the female characters very much have a 21st century perspective on how they want to live their lives.
Kat is our lovable heroine and narrator. She is spunky, hilarious, adorable, and ready to be unladylike if that means she can save her sister from marrying a cad. When Kat’s plans to disguise herself as a boy and get a job are dashed, she stumbles upon her magic powers, which are very powerful. In addition to saving her family, she also on the radar for a powerful group called the Guardians who are trying to recruit her. Kat’s magic isn’t really explained besides being inherited from her family, but I hope we get more information about this and her late mother in later installments of this series. I loved how Kat interacted with her sisters, which very much rang true as they get into constant arguments and make-up while still doing anything to help each other out.
I also loved the other characters of the story too, which included Kat’s lovable but oblivious father, her prim and proper Stepmama who hates her family’s disreputable history, and the various male suitors for her sisters. I thought they were well developed and came alive. Out of all the secondary characters, I loved Kat’s sisters.
While the plot for Kat, Incorrigible is multifaceted, it does not drag the book down. Each plot thread is woven nicely and I didn’t get bored with any of them because there was plenty of humor and action. The humor of the book reminded me very much of Princess Bride, which is very hard to do.
Despite a quick wrap up of the many plotlines, there is a lot we don’t know about Kat and her world. I can’t wait to find out what mess Kat finds herself in the next book. Tweens, teens, and adults alike will absolutely love this book
If you like this book try: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers, The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray or The Agency series by Y.S. Yee