Friday, October 23, 2009

Love in a Fallen City

Love in a Fallen City (New York Review Books Classics) Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm not sure how this title ended up on my To Read list, but I'm glad it did. This was a collection of novellas and short stories by Eileen Chang, well known in China, but not in America, although she moved here in her 30's. All of the stories deal with love, marriage, and money or stature. I imagined she was China's Jane Austen, though the mood tends to be darker, and the endings don't always end happily--so perhaps it would be better to compare her to Edith Wharton.
I have to admit it wasn't the easiest read--I think some things were lost in translation. But the stories were well-told, intriguing, and beautifully written. In "Aloeswood Incense" where a poor country girl comes to live with her wealthy, worldly aunt to continue her education, (and receives an education of an entirely different type)--she finds a closet full of clothes that her aunt has made up for her. "Weilong couldn't go to sleep; as soon as she shut her eyes she was trying on clothes, one outfit after another. Woolen things, thick and furry as a perturbing jazz dance; crushed velvet things, deep and sad as an aria from a Western opera; rich, fine silks, smooth and slippery like "The Blue Danube," coolly enveloping the whole body." Or in "Sealed Off", a short story about Shanghi being shut down (Chang lived through the Japanese occupation): "The huge, shambling city sat dozing in the sun, its head resting heavily on people's shoulders, its drool slipping slowly down their shirts, an inconceivably enoromous weight pressing down on everyone." There are little jewels like that all over.
"Love in A Fallen City" is perhaps my favorite (and is also the happiest)but all of the stories are thought-provoking, well-written, and entertaining. No wonder she is a classic in her own country. Thanks to Kingsbury who translated these, perhaps she will become one here.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Hunt for Dark Infinity

The Hunt for Dark Infinity (The 13th Reality) The Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second (and latest) installment in the 13th Reality series by James Dashner. We bought both of these books for Tritan, and he really seemed to like them.
I faulted the first one for lack of orginality--it read like a Harry Potter knock-off. I can't say that about this one. It is one of the most imaginative books I've read in a while. The story is much more suspenseful and complex than the first one. In fact, it is so much more fantastic and involved, that at times it could be confusing. But Dashner works it all out in the end. In fact, I would predict that with a few more novels, he could be a first-rate story teller.
From a parental p.o.v., it is much darker than the first one, but it seems as though most YA literature is darker.
I am looking forward to finding out what happens to Tick and the rest of the Realitants in the next installment.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

The Journal of Curious Letters

The Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality) The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It's hard not to compare every YA book with Harry Potter esp. since a lot of YA books read a lot like Harry Potter. This, too, is about a boy (Atticus, aka Tick ) who is awkward and nerdy who finds he is chosen (along with a smart aleck girl and devil-may-care boy) to help save lives by mysterious means. There are flying motorcycles, and a wise English elder (Master George), a giant, an annoying dwarf, and Tingle Wraiths. I suspect that even his birthmark that he covers up with a striped scarf, marks him as the Most Special of the special youths (not unlike a certain scar, ahem). But we will have to continue to read the series to find that out.
If that all sounds hauntingly familiar, it is. But there are differences, subtle though they may be. Master George is quick to point out that the special "magic" that is exhibited is not magic at all, but science (Quantam Physics) that is behind it all. Perhaps one of the most welcome differences is Tick's home life is loving and caring. Tick's father in particular is supportive and compassionate.
It's an OK book, with a good message and the fight scene near the end was actually exciting. It's not Harry Potter but it's as good of a copy cat as I've read. (And I suspect that most YA, for whom it's written, won't even care.)

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