Book Review: Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

This book was an impulse buy. I am absolutely hopeless at walking out of a bookstore empty-handed… LOL…

The back of the book blurb reads: “Crazy Rich Asians meets Bridget Jones’s Diary…” and I knew I had to give this book a shot. I have read Crazy Rich Asians (my review is here) as well as Bridget Jones’s Diary (which I read a long time ago) and I liked both so I thought it’s a good basis as any to read this story.

It was a good purchase! The main plot features Andrea Tang, in her mid-thirties with a successful law career and a flat of her own, enjoying life with a trendy group of friends. What more could you want? Well, in the very matriarchal Chinese-Malaysian family circle, she is lacking in one major part of her life; marriage. With the announcement of her cousin’s engagement, she is about to become the only unmarried member of her generation in the extended family.

With best friend and cousin, Linda (who is only half-Chinese so the family holds her to a different standard), she attempts to find Mr. Right. A chance meeting with very wealthy Mr. Eric Deng seems to be the answer to her ring-less problem but is she being true to herself? What about that annoying Suresh Aditparan who is also vying for partnership at her firm? Why can’t Andrea treat him more like an enemy?

I like Lauren Ho‘s style of writing. The voice she has given Andrea is slightly self-disparaging yet optimistic. The inclusion of a few colloquial terms and social media shorthand makes it appropriately Singaporean, bringing a smile to my face.

I love the play in the relationships between Andrea and Linda, Andrea and her mother/family, Andrea and her friends, Andrea and her work, Andrea and the men in her life, Andrea and her dreams. There are a few LOL moments and a few more head-shaking ones too.

The struggle to find a man whom you love while at the same time satisfying the expectations of the family is so familiar to many Asians but I think it’s not limited to Asia. However, the extent to which one would go or should go to satisfy family is a long and complex debate, depending on which side of the marriage journey you are on.

So if you are interested in learning a bit about an Asian woman’s mindset towards marriage and the juggling act between the demands of work-life and her family she performs, have a read of this book. Let me know what you think.

Happy Reading!

syc

Book Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

When I first bought this book, the first thing my husband and son said to me was “Why are you buying such a big book?” LOL…

Well, to answer the question, I was captured by the description on the inside front cover page which reads, “A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.”. Then it goes on to describe in three short paragraphs three strong female characters, each with their own goals/agendas and troubles. Plus there were mentions of dragons and a hidden society of mages; all of which I think can make a good fantasy story.

And I was right!

I LOVE this book! On the front cover, there is a quote which says, “Deserves to be as big as Game of Thrones – Laure Eve”. I could not agree more.

A multi-layered story told from multiple points of view and across several kingdoms could have left a reader lost BUT Shannon does such a great job that not only was I never lost but I remembered details from where I left off. It is quite amazing as I took a long while to read the whole book because it was such a big book (more than 800 pages) I only read it at home and didn’t take it with me everywhere. (Well, I did bring it with me when we quarantined during our recent trip to Singapore.) This is all down to the strong characters, intriguing storylines that Shannon has created and her wonderful writing style.

I love how the dialogue is slightly reflective of old royal courts. The words Shannon has selected to use in her descriptions of places and clothing etc have certainly enriched my own vocabulary. I enjoyed learning about things such as partlet and palanquin.

I also enjoyed how Shannon was able to weave the individual stories of the three main characters and the histories of their various countries together to form a cohesive narrative. The exploration of how myths and legends form and how over centuries the truth of these can be distorted to serve whoever is in power is so interesting. She also shows brilliantly how people hold so tightly onto their beliefs and how secrets are created to keep those beliefs, even at the expense of many lives.

I have not outline any of the storyline or even named any of the characters because I really don’t want to give anything away. I do hope what I have written has sparked in you a curiosity to want to read this fabulous book.

Happy Reading!

syc

Book Review: Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar

I chose to read this book because I am interested in history, especially of Asian countries and this book promised a different perspective of a very significant time in India’s history; a time when Gandhi started his campaign towards India’s independence from British rule.

I had read a bit and heard much about what Gandhi had done and how he advocated for civil disobedience as a non-violent way to make his point. But it was always from an adult perspective and usually from a rather politically-one-sided recount of various different events.

Kelkar made a ten-year-old girl, Anjali, the centre of the story and we see how the independence movement affected her and her family; how it confused her and turned her world upside down, how she coped with all the conflicting emotions within herself and the incomprehensible reaction of her best friend, who was a Muslim.

As we walk through the story with Anjali, we learn how these historical events affected the lives of the ordinary people and how the caste system was very much a part of life in India. We also see what might be the motivation of different people who joined the independence movement, also how political will, even if it seems to be for the greater good, might not translate into immediate benefit for every citizen.

All these are written in an easy to understand language yet Kelkar kept a good pace which maintained my interest in not just Anjali’s story but also in the lives of the people around her and in the outcome for Anjali and her family and also for India as a whole.

I think this book is a great way to introduce middle-graders to what might have otherwise been a very serious and complicated historical event.

Have you read other historically based books which you would recommend?

syc