contemporary

Book Review: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan


china-rich-girlfriend-book-coverTitle:
China Rich Girlfriend

Series: Crazy Rich Asians #2

Author: Kevin Kwan

Publisher: Doubleday {imprint of Knopf}

Date Published: June 16, 2015

Format: Hardcover {Library}

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I really enjoyed the first part of this series; Crazy Rich Asians was a lovely little surprise for me last year. I usually don’t read too much contemporary and it’s beyond rare to find a book that will make me laugh (particularly in the out-loud-while-sitting in-a-coffee-shop-and-drawing-stares variety). All of this considered, I was very excited for this book! I had heard from friends that this sequel wasn’t as good as the first, so my expectations were somewhat tempered. While I agree it wasn’t as amazing, this book was tons of fun!

China Rich Girlfriend picks up 2 years after the first book ended. Rachel and Nick are about to get married, Astrid is still married to the increasingly wealthy (and awful) Michael, and their numerous aunts and uncles are still finding things to get upset about, from serious to ludicrous. While Crazy Rich Asians was mostly about Rachel being introduced to her boyfriend’s ridiculously wealthy family and trying to gain their acceptance, this book introduces us to Rachel’s mystery father and his family comes with a whole host of problems. Surprise, surprise, they are also billionaires (what would be the fun if they weren’t? :P)!

I totally recommend this to someone looking for a beach/vacation read or just in need of some entertainment. The characters are pretty much the same as the first book, don’t expect too much growth or enlightenment here, but I didn’t feel that was the point of the book. This is a sneak peek into this wealthy lifestyle and I’m not looking for major character growth. Don’t get me wrong, Rachel and Astrid, in particular, are lovely, but many of the side characters are flat. I did find the new characters from Rachel’s family, entertaining and there were some good stories there. I’ll refrain from saying too much in the review, but they are different from what we’ve seen before.

I will add, I am really happy that there is a third book in this series. It ends in an unsatisfying way, it’s not a cliffhanger or anything horrible, but my thoughts about the book would’ve been more negative if I thought it was the conclusion to the story.

Cover Critique: I love the covers to this series. I will shamelessly say that the covers are the reasons I wanted to read them in the first place! They are very graphic and simple, and I adore the bright colors. The paperback of China Rich Girlfriend has a different cover, which I also really like. I do think it makes a better pair with the paperback of Crazy Rich Asians than this one does, since they are both just faces rocking some awesome earrings.

Quick Version: This is a perfect summer read. And by summer read I mean something that will make you laugh and enjoy some soap-opera-level drama. China Rich Girlfriend is a charming book that excels in pulling you into its lavish world. The characters, apart from the main few, are fairly two-dimensional, but from the way Kwan writes them they still feel like people. Money can bring out the peculiarity in people and this book captures this in an entertaining way.

Score: 4 stars 

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon 

 

18692431Title: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publisher: Delacorte Press [imprint of Penguin Random House]

Date Published: September 1, 2015

Format: ARC {Received in exchange of a fair review}

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When I started this book I really thought I would enjoy it. It is sweet, charming, and has a unique story to tell. But about halfway through the book, a series of twists and plot developments left me sorely disappointed. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but the story just becomes increasingly cliché and unrealistic—especially after the so-perfect, yet oh so forbidden, love interest is introduced.

Madeline is not allowed to leave her home—severe allergies that were discovered when she was an infant have kept her cooped up for most of her 17 years. She’s basically a “bubble boy” and fills her days reading books, taking online classes, and hanging out with her mom and nurse, who are the only two people she has regular contact with. One day she glances out the window and sees a family moving in next door. Last time the neighbors left, it really devastated her, so she promises herself she won’t get too attached. Then she sees Olly. He only wears black, because of course that’s what brooding boys do. They begin talking over email and IM, but eventually that is not enough for them. They want to meet in real life, but Madeline knows that’s a slippery slope.

Their romance is too syrupy sweet for me. Writing limericks and haikus to each other somewhat ironically and stuff like that. It was only as the novel progressed that it got to be too much for me. I really dislike where the plot went and I went from enjoying the book, to being completely disappointed in the span of a few pages. I feel like Madeline went from being a character with potential charm and personality, to one that was making all these outrageous decisions without much founding. Later in the novel, Yoon gives a reason for these, but I felt that this twist cheapened the plot and relationships in the novel. It seemed to be a plot device thrown in so she could get the ending she wanted, rather than what would make the most interesting story.

Cover Critique: The cover for Everything, Everything is gorgeous. I love the white with the colorful pencil drawings outlining the text. It looks like a special book and I can imagine it’ll inspire many readers to pick it up.

Quick Version: After a promising start, I was left disappointed by Everything, Everything. What was initially charming about the novel began to grate on me, especially after some plot choices I found pretty questionable. I do admit that I am not the audience for this book, stories about sick teens have never been my favorites, but I had high hopes for this one. Yoon is an excellent writer and even though I was not a fan of this one, I look forward to what she does in the future.

Score: 2/5 stars

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Title: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Publisher: Balzer + Bray [imprint of HarperCollins]

Date Published: September 15, 2015

Format: ARC– Received in exchange of a fair review

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I’m so glad to be back to this blog! It’s been way too long and I am looking forward to getting Curiously Bookish back in action. I’ve had a crazy year that involved getting married and finishing grad school, so I’ve been understandably busy! 😛 I’m in the middle of restructuring this blog and getting some more exciting plans underway (I’ll have some exciting news to share with you guys soon!), but for now we’ll start with a book review:

Willowdean is a self-proclaimed fat girl who lives in Texas and is obsessed with Dolly Parton. If you don’t like her, too bad. She’s happy with her high school life (as much as anyone could be). But the summer before Junior year, things start to change. Her best friend, Ellen, and her are growing apart. Ellen is the typical all-American beauty and is becoming friends with the popular girls in her class, who keep acting like Willowdean and Ellen’s friendship is more of a charity case than a legitimate relationship.  On top of this, Willowdean’s new job at the fast food place comes with a super cute coworker, Bo. To her surprise Bo likes her, and instead of feeling elated, the normally confident Willowdean feels insecure. She begins to doubt herself around him and think of her body in negative ways when she’s with him. She’s desperate to get her old confidence back and she does the last thing she thought she would ever do, enter the local beauty pageant. To make things tougher it happens to be run by her former-beauty-queen mother.

This was a very entertaining read! Willowdean is definitely not the typical YA protagonist. She is very opinionated, confident, and clever. The story deals with body image in many different ways and with all kinds of characters. It’s about not being perfect, or what you see as perfect, and finding out that everyone can be just as insecure as you are. Murphy did a good job of balancing the message of being happy with who you are, with also being able to admit your faults and doubts.

I really enjoyed the way friendship was handled in this book. Willowdean and Ellen were everything to each other when they were younger, but now that they’ve gotten older, it’s not working out well. Willowdean feels like Ellen is leaving her behind and she doesn’t even feel comfortable talking to her about her maybe relationship with Bo. They drift further and further apart as Ellen makes friends with the popular girls that don’t like Willowdean, and the feeling is mutual. This forces Willowdean to make friends with some of the other girls in her class, the other girls who don’t fit in. This group is a bunch of girls who get bullied and teased, but unlike Willowdean, they don’t have the confidence to stand up for themselves. At first, she treats them with disdain and frustration, especially when they all decide to join the pageant along with her. Eventually, she begins to like them and sees the value of having different kinds of friends. That was probably my favorite part of the novel; you don’t need to have just one friend who is everything to you. Especially as you get older, your best friend and you may grow up to have different interests and like different things. You may drift apart, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t still friends. You can make different friends and so can she, but you are still always there for each other.

Friendship is where Dumplin’ is at its strongest, but I wasn’t as big of a fan of the romance. I really just didn’t like Bo as a character. He was the brooding, mysterious boy and he really didn’t have much of a personality. He started the story as a transfer student who had some secrets, but it never progressed from there. He was also quite cruel to Willowdean in the early parts of the novel, he wants to keep their relationship a secret and only hangs out with her at work and by the dumpster or in his car afterwards. It just has so many red flags that even when he apologizes later, it still doesn’t sit right with me. There is another boy introduced later in the novel, Mitch, who I thought was a more interesting character. He really likes Willowdean and is very open about it, but she simply doesn’t like him like that. I guess that is very high school, though. Making the wrong decisions about boys is pretty realistic sometimes!

Cover Critique: I’m a big fan of the cover. It’s so graphic and simple. Willowdean in that pose in the red dress really does represent the novel well. Everything is clean and simple, which makes that red stand out even more. I also really like the crown at the top, it’s cute and combined with the image, really lets you know that this is a pageant book.

Quick Version: Dumplin’ is a charming, easy read. Willowdean is a girl you don’t see a lot in fiction, especially as the main character. Friendship and the issues that come with growing up and maintaining friendships are really a bright point in the novel. While I didn’t like Bo and the romance, the true heart of the novel lies with Willowdean and Ellen and learning how to be confident and love yourself, faults and all.

Score: 4/5 stars

The Awakening of Miss Prim, Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Title: The Awakening of Miss Prim

Author: Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Publisher: Atria Books [imprint of Simon & Schuster]

Date Published: July 8, 2014

Format: Galley– Provided in exchange of a fair review

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Prudencia Prim is a young woman who is looking for something different from her life in a big city. She moves to a remote village in France, San Ireneo, to work as a librarian in a large mansion. She is a highly intelligent woman; she has a great knowledge of literature and philosophy as well as holds a few different college degrees, but she also allows herself to be a little sentimental. When she arrive at the village she is surprised at how backwards everything is. This is a town were tea-time is taken very seriously and everyone seems to be able to quote Thoreau and Dante with ease. Miss Prim clashes with them often and the novel is full of philosophical debates and arguments about everything from home schooling to the necessity of having young girls read Little Women (any book that mentions how awesome Little Women is as a plot point is a total win for me).

The Awakening of Miss Prim is a very thoughtful book. There is not a ton of plot here. Not much actually happens in San Ireneo. At first I was bored with this book; I was waiting for something to happen. When I had gotten about a third of the way through, I realized that it wasn’t going to pick up, it just wasn’t that kind of book. And you know what, after I had that realization I started really enjoying it. This book will make you think, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a book do that. It presents all these different topics and the characters debate them endlessly. They never really give a “right” answer, which encourages us to come to our own conclusions.

You can feel how influential both Lousia May Alcott and Jane Austen were to Fenollera. She constantly alludes to them in the story and at times points out when she “rips them off.” If you enjoy the works of either of those authors there is a good chance you will like what Fenollera does here. The romance in this book is lovely, but you shouldn’t go to this book looking for something sweet and light. Miss Prim and her “Man in the Wingchair”, as she calls him, have their fair share of disagreements and different stances on big issues, but you’ll have to read the book to see how that all works out!

Cover Critique: I really like this cover. It’s colorful and sets this book apart from everything else out there. It is a little busy, but it’s done well and is perfect for the type of book this is.

Quick Version: The Awakening of Miss Prim is a book that doesn’t just want to give you a light-hearted romance, it wants to make you think. There is very little action in this book, I mean there is a whole plot point that is about whether or not Mr. Darcy is the “perfect man” and another about the pros and cons of matchmaking, but if you accept that, I believe this can be an enjoyable read.

Score: 4/5 stars 😀