Tag Archives: Chinese

Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

zara wallpaper avatar - book reviews

Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

07.25.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

crazy rich asians

***

Category: Fiction

Author: Kevin Kwan

Format: Hardcover, 408 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67905-3

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

***

Summary from publisher:

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she”ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

***

Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is a debut novel filled with plethoric proportions that crack open the secret microcosm of the ostentatious privilege and snobbish elitism which belongs to and is bred exclusively for the Asian and pedigreed superrich.

The main character, American-born, young Chinese woman, Rachel Chu, with little to her name except a doctorate and a mistaken identity of belonging to a lower-class, wealthy family who owns Taipei Plastics due to the run of gossiping tongues and a shared last name is unaware of the significance of her boyfriend, Nicholas Young’s, family history, lineage, and excessive financial power.

In her humble naiveté, she agrees to accompany Nicholas on a trip to Singapore, only to be thrown into the cruelty of voracious gossip, stealth backstabbing, and seething envy by his high-minded, vicious relatives and competitive rivals.

While the writing and the plot is simple, with thick and often detailed footnotes meant to add humour to the book, it’s the characters themselves who shine in the literal limelight of their pampered and often gargantuan egos.

Money can do that—as well as open doors of exclusivity meant for those with massive fortunes, in particular, the three most powerful clans in Asia: the Youngs, the Shangs, and the T’Siens.

This book describes an audacious decadence, one filled with private planes, palatial properties, couture clothing, and a decorum adhered to and expected from the politics of the severely wealthy, and the sweet bloodlines of Asian royalty.

There are, however, a few characters with enough integrity and humility that decide to be grounded and “easier”-going than their stuck-up counterparts:

Nicholas Young, while the expected heir to his grandmother’s massive fortune, chooses a more independent and low maintenance life in America with a like-minded woman, who, while she shares common interests with him, remains an outsider to his privileged financial and social class.

Astrid Leong, cousin to Nicholas, and idolized for not only her grand net worth, but her complete accessibility and divine taste in couture clothing and jewellery, remains a non-superficial woman who has had to learn to cope and grace herself in playing the role she was born into.

Then, of course, there are the contemptuous characters whose skewed views of self-importance bloats them into a pompous stratosphere that blinds them to their superficiality, while also making them ridiculously hilarious because of their audacity:

Elenor Sung-Young, Nicholas’ over-protective, controlling mother who goes as far as to hire a private detective to scrutinize his American-born Chinese girlfriend.

Edison Cheng, who’s financial insecurity compels him to brashly control and coordinate his wife’ and children’s greeting, mannerisms, and brand-named clothing, as well as his insecure and desperate effort to please those in positions of financial power.

The book reads as an Asian soap opera of the opulent rich, with at its heart (and yes, it is more money), a love story between a young couple that battles against the expectations threaded in their birthright and the modernity and ease of free love.

While it brags a fantastical extravagance in the story; its characters, especially its snobbish breed, compels the reader to new depths of contempt, which may dilute his or her original jealousy of their excessive wealth.

Succinctly said? It’s a perfect beach read for the summer, both glittery as its gold-foiled front cover, and its story literally true to its title—the Asians in it are superbly rich and absolutely crazy!

***

Characters:  3 stars

Pacing: 3 stars

Cover Design: 2 stars

Plot: 2.5 stars

***

Zara’s Rating

z ring - smallz ring - smallrsz_three_quarters

***

A special thanks to Random House of Canada  on behalf of Doubleday Canada for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.

***

About the Author:

kevin kwan
Photo credit: Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte

***

Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore. He currently lives in Manhattan. Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel.

– From Random House of Canada website.

***

Links:

Like Crazy Rich Asians on Facebook

Follow Kevin on Pinterest

***

If you were as rich as one of the Asian families in “Crazy Rich Asians,” what would be the first thing you would do with your money?

Make a list of all the things you would buy or do if you were as wealthy as the characters in this book. What does your list look like?

***

zara bird autograph

Fashion Fridays: The Headmaster’s Wager. 06.29.2012

Fashion Fridays:

The Headmaster’s Wager

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Fashion Friday is a weekly meme created by FireStarBooks in order for book lovers to post any fashion related idea or image that they think would be a great match for books on Friday.

Here are my fashion choices for the book, The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam:

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

The Headmaster’s Wager: A Review

Book Review:

The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam

05.30.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

***

Category: Fiction

Author: Vincent Lam

Format: Hardcover, 393 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-66145-5

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

***

 

***

Here is a video clip of the author, Vincent Lam, speaking a little about his book, The Headmaster’s Wager:

***

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam is a plot-driven, cultural, and generational story of the father-and-son relationship as represented in the characters Chen Kai and Chen Pie Sou (or as he is better known by his English name in the novel, Percival Chen); and Percival Chen and Dai Jai.

***

And amidst the father-and-son archetypal quest for vulnerable and honest communication, understanding, and connection, is the ambition for wealth and success, and the competitive obstacles and vices of gambling, womanizing, and drug addiction.

Mahjong tiles

***

The violent backdrop of the Vietnam War is the pathetic fallacy that accompanies the repression of turbulent feelings found in the main character of Percival Chen, respectfully, affectionately, and sometimes mockingly referred to as hou jeungHeadmaster.

***

There is the yearning that began as a young boy for physical and emotional closeness to his father, Chen Kai, who leaves both his mother and himself in pursuit of wealth promised in the distant land of Indochina.

That continues in his wrongly placed affection for the cruel and wealthy socialite, Cecilia, with whom he is both unloved and abused.

***

What unravels is a life as headmaster to Chen Hap Sing, a prestigious school, The Percival Chen English Academy, as originally housed by the house his father built, which grew from the laborious determination of a man’s will to prosper in the business of rice mills.

This position continued its survival through his most trusted confidant and friend, Mak, an influential teacher and administrator at the school.

This survival continues even after his son, Dai Jai, is forced to leave the country after political entanglement with the Vietnamese authorities, which is assured by Mak’s myriad of contacts and connections and the power of the headmaster’s desperation and large sums of piastres-turned-gold.

Still, it is only with Jacqueline, a beautiful Annamese girl that Percival Chen finds solace and short-lived redemption.

***

The tension in the book originates from Percival Chen’s competing desire to share his honest feelings and vulnerability to those he loves and the difficult resignation he finds in following what is deemed appropriate, cultural decorum and propriety. This tension first reveals itself in the restraint of Percival Chen’s emotional landscape.

The enjoyment of the book is found in the tension that explodes as further truths are revealed by the surprising plot. And as significant it is that the characters are flawed, the success of The Headmaster’s Wager as a book is that it is a richly, plot-driven story.

And Percival Chen’s compulsion to play his stakes at the mahjong table is both his curse and his gift, as the skills he uses to read his opponents along with the luck housed in the belief and faith he has in the gold nugget heirloom that was passed down to him from his father—are the very same gifts he uses to survive not only the Vietnam War, but the tumultuous betrayals and sacrifices of his love—which is of course, the headmaster’s true and highest wager of all.

***

Zara’s Rating

***

A special thank you to Doubleday Canada and Random House for providing me with a media copy in exchange for an honest and unpaid review.

***

My name is Vietnamese.