Posts by: Li

Review: Love in the Time of Cholera

Posted 18 April, 2008 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

Love in the Time of Cholera
By: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I bought this book back in December but never got around to reading it until February. This is the first book I’ve ever read by him (though I did hear of his other book, One Hundred Years of Solitude) and with a movie made basedon the novel, I figured to check it out. It’s a wonderul book that starts off with the main characters in their twilight years before going back and retracing the beginning of their romance and the course of their lives before returning to the moment depicted at the beginning of the novel and then its aftermath. It must have been a daunting task to retrace a half-century of the lives of Florentino Ariza, Fermina Daza and Dr. Juvenal Urbino, a task that is truly impressing. The plot itself is very simple, the case of a love triangle and the question of security, the nature of true love and steadfastness. Social issues are also mentioned in this novel, set in South America over the course of the later half of the 19th century. Marquez’s prose is wonderful, you get a sense of the environment and the times that these characters lived in. At times I found myself relatively unsympathetic towards Florentino and Fermina and their actions and behaviour and surprisingly found myself sympathetic to Urbino at times. The ending of the novel was also a bit depressing to me, a commentary on the course of life and the nature of old age. But I believe the plot was good enough to keep you going, the scope is impeccable even if the characters can be startling at times.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Review: The Summoning & The Blood King

Posted 18 April, 2008 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

The Summoning
The Blood King
By: Gail Z. Martin

The Summoning and The Blood King make up the first two books of Martin’s The Chronicles of the Necromancer. I came across these books while scanning the fantasy bookshelves in the bookstore. The premise was interesting so I decided to check them out. The story basically follows Prince Martris “Tris” Drayke and his small group of friends who escape their home after Tris’s older brother, Jared, slaughters his entire family and claims the throne for himself with the help of his mage, Foor Arontala. Tris is on the run, pitted with a series of dangerous instances, vowing to return one day and overthrow his brother. At the same time, he learns that he is his grandmother’s heir, a Summoner with the ability to channel and contact the dead at will. The plot’s straightforward but Martin makes it interesting by throwing in some very interesting concepts, like the idea of a Summoner who could contact and summon the dead and the vayash moru, who are like vampires. What’s also great about this series is that the women aren’t very irritating; I noticed in a number of fantasy novels that the women are usually presented as either too weak or too annoying or both. I was glad to see that Princess Kiara was a strong character while still being a woman with her own wants and her own choices. She can be rendered defenseless in battle but she isn’t weak. What’s also great about these two books is that although they’re pretty hefty novels (500 pages each), the action is quick-paced and it doesn’t suffer from moments of lagging action (if you do, it would be a matter of preference later in The Blood King when the characters are splintered off depending on their task). Although Martin set out to write a series about this world, the story of Prince Martris Drake does conclude quite nicely at the end of The Blood King so you have the option of not continuing. I would recommend this book if you’re into fantasy involving family issues, magic, vampires and adventure.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Review: The Thieves of Faith

Posted 18 April, 2008 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

Yeah, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Been too busy with school to bother updating (pesky papers left and right, you couldn’t really do much of anything else really…wait, scratch that, I did do a bit of reading despite crazy schedule) but now that school is over and done with, I can finally catch up, hurray! Mind you, this is going to be a massive catch up, so this should be fun.

The Thieves of Faith
By: Richard Doetsch

This is actually Doetsch’s second novel (his first one being The Thieves of Heaven). What drew me to his novel was the fact that his main character, Michael St. Pierre, isn’t your ordinary protagonist that you’d see in Steve Berry’s books or Dan Brown’s books: Michael is a professional thief. Add the idea that he’s about to making a daring heist behind the Kremlin walls after someone relatively close to him is kidnapped and you’ve got an interesting story on your hands. It’s a great premise and Michael is a very intriguing and fairly enigmatic character with a tragedy; he’s really a good guy. And he’s aided by a cast of fairly interesting characters, like his best friend Paul, who provides a good amount of the entertaining dialogue in this book. Although this novel had an interesting premise, some interesting back and forth exchanges and action sequences and some great characters, there were times that the story suffered from some lagging moments. Not to mention the character Susan Kelley drove me insane to no end; I know Doetsch presented her as a woman who’s tough and lawyerly who had experienced tragedy, but I didn’t feel any sympathy for her whatsoever for the way she treated Michael and Paul and the decisions and actions she made along the way. Overall, good book to read when you’re taking a break from hardcore course material but the plot pacing could’ve been improved upon. But hey, anything involving Russia in the story gets props from me.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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Review: The Dim Sum of All Things

Posted 1 February, 2008 by Li in Books / 2 Comments

The Dim Sum of All Things
By: Kim Wong Keltner

This book came to my reading list through a recommendation. “Chick lit” apparently is a very controversial term so let’s call it a “light read”; as a “light read”, it’s certainly a unique one. It focuses on a Chinese-American woman who lives with her grandmother in California, who has an o-kay job and who, having grown up in North America, is struggling to reconcile her ethnic Chinese heritage with the manner that she had grown up in. It’s something I personally could relate to on certain levels, which is why I was extremely curious to read this book. Ms. Keltner does a superb job in setting the stage and really exploring that tension there, of Lindsey growing up completely immersed in American pop culture but at the same time dealing with the Chinese culture many of her family members and relatives have kept on and how she describes them. The process of her coming to terms with her heritage is quite touching (if not slightly cliched of other “coming-of-age” stories out there). However, the book did hit a couple of slow snags over the course of the story (will not mention particulars as to not spoil the entire premise for readers), like it’s missing some element that would’ve given the plot some sparkle, and what started as a promising story ends up partly flat by the end of the novel. Another thing that slightly irked me was the characterization of Lindsey’s best friend, who is a Filipino, in the novel. It seemed rather…well, unauthentic. The father’s characterization was on the dot there, but the friend just seemed rather…well, odd in my opinion. I recommend this book regardless for Keltner’s representation of an immigrants’ child’s route towards reconciliation between two cultures that they are dealing with, but in terms storytelling, it works but it could have been stronger.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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Review: Fathers and Sons

Posted 1 February, 2008 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

Fathers and Sons
By: Ivan Turgenev

Despite of the fact that I am specializing in Russian history, I have not read a lot of Russian literature to date. So the fact that my 19c Imperial Russia professor assigned Fathers and Sons was welcoming in that sense. Of course, whenever a professor or teacher assigns a books, one gets a little wary of the book itself—after all, you have the deadline when the book has to be read by, the comments you have to make of them, the sorts of things you should be picking up as you read the book, etc, etc. Suddenly the book’s not fun anymore and you don’t get to appreciate the book as much. But Fathers and Sons falls under one of those exceptions where you find yourself completely immersed in the story and the setting and the characters. Each character in this novel represents a strand present in Russian society and yet they all have their own individual voices, they all have their own personalities that marks them as unique, as human. The story itself follows a young son, Arkady Petrovitch, who comes home from university with his nihilist mentor/friend named Bazarov, and finds himself in a totally different mindset and perspective from his father and uncle. It’s really a novel of perspectives, of how they view everyday life and how they come to terms with these realities. But the personal dynamics nad interactions were really what drew me in to the storyline. Unlike many readers who had read this book, I found myself more inclined to Arkady, his father and his family’s position and opinions moreso than Bazarov’s, who I found rather irritating with his blunt assessment of the world; he seemed to me a person without any sort of passion, who is incapable to ever reconciling with the fact that as humans we have passions and we do have emotions and that we bring meaning to the things we have. Like the movement he represents, he breaks things down, he questions everything and nothing is spared from his criticism and yet he is incapable of presenting a viable alternative to the things he just broke down. The reflections and dynamics that are represented in this novel are quite addicting to say the least; I personally couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Easily one of my favourite Russian novels, a must-read.

Rating: ★★★★★

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