Words of Asia | In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar

WOA

For a listing of the links to all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Mia Alvar is a writer who currently lives in New York City. She was born in the Philippines and raised in Bahrain and the United States. In the Country is her first book.inthecountry

Where Does it Take Place?
Like the Filipino diaspora, these stories take place anywhere from the USA to the Middle East which gives readers a look at how different the immigrant experience is as well as the common thread between all their experiences despite ending up in different countries with different cultures.

What’s it About:
In the Country, is a collection of nine short stories about the Filipino diaspora. These are women and men who are starting their lives in countries all over the world.

My Thoughts:
Usually with short stories collection there are some stories I love and others I don’t love. However, with Mia Alvar’s In the Country I found that I love pretty much most of the stories in the collection. Each of the stories is more captivating than the previous one. The stories, themselves have a lot of substance, and are extremely thought provoking. The recurring theme in In the Country is that there’s so much more to people and situations then you may see at first glimpse.

With so many choices to choose from, I’d have to say my favourite of the collection would probably be, The Miracle Worker story which is an exceptionally well written story about a woman who is hired to teach severely handicapped girl. As a result of her encounter with the girl and the girl’s mother she starts to doubt her marriage and what she wants in life. I loved the story for the message it imparts on the reader at the end. Additionally, I enjoyed reading Legends of the White Lady because it mixes a traditional ghost story with the contemporary story of a foreign model in Philippines. What I loved most about this book was reading about all the Filipino people living all over the world and the lives they lead, as these stories are the ones that I don’t often hear about or come across as often in the books I tend to read.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Stories about the immigrant experience, and not just of those who have immigrated to North America but those who have moved to countries that you may not expect them to.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Haruki Murakami is probably the best known Japanese authour in the Western world. He has written many contemporary works of literature which include both novels and short stories, as well as works of nonfiction. He has also translated many well known books into Japanese. Currently he resides in Japan with his wife, Yoko. His latest book to be translated into English is the novella, The Strange Library which is available now in stores.

colorless

Where Does it Take Place?
Mostly in Japan, as Tazaki travels back to his home town, Nagoya from Tokyo where he currently lives in order to confront his former friends.

What’s it About:
When he was in high school, Tsukuru Tazaki was friends with four other students, Akamatsu, Oumi, Kurono and Shirane. The five of them were inseparable, however, Tazaki eventually left to go to university in Tokyo the others stayed in Nagoya. Then one day all four of his friends cut him off without any explanation, and while hurt he never explored the issue further. Years later, in his mid-thirties Tazaki is encouraged by his girlfriend Sara to find his former friends and get an answer so that he can finally move on with his life.

My Thoughts:
While I have read a few of Murakami’s short stories, I never got around to reading any of his actual novels. However, when I heard about the premise of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage I was immediately intrigued. I think my reason for this curiosity was because I wanted to see how Murakami would tackle the issues of friendships as they evolve, change and as people grow apart. As expected, he does a fantastic job and as always his writing is flows so well that it feels like a well constructed symphony. And while I haven’t read the original version of the novel, I believe that Philip Gabriel did a good job with the translation of this book.  Also one of my biggest worries with this book was that things would be left unresolved by the novel’s conclusion, thus I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up being fine with how the novel ended. It was neither neatly tied up nor was there a lot of loose ends by the novel’s conclusion. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was my first Murakami novel, and it definitely won’t be my last. In fact, I hope to pick up Norwegian Wood sometime this year.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Books that are more quiet and somber, and that focus more on a character’s journey of self discovery rather than solving the major mysteries. Also, if you are a fan of Murakami’s other works and are used to/don’t mind endings that are slightly open-ended.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy by Grace Buchele Mineta

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Though, a native Texan Grace has lived all over the world. Currently she works as a freelancer in Japan where she currently lives with her husband, Ryosuke. My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy, is the second book of comics that she has published and now her third book, Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo is now also available.

Where Does it Take Place?
Mostly in Tokyo and various parts of Japan that Grace and her husband travel to.

JPStill

What’s it About:
This is Grace’s second comic book, and once again we get more adventures of her and her husband living in Tokyo as broken newly weds. Follow Grace, her husband Ryosuke and Marvin (Grace’s over-active imagination who appears to her as a talking rabbit), as they experience both the joys and hardships of living abroad.

My Thoughts:
Ordinarily, I don’t really feature self-published books though once in a blue moon I make an exception. I’ve been a fan of Grace’s blog and comics for a while in fact I was one of her original Kickstarter backers.

Grace’s storytelling style is both accessible and entertaining, and I love reading the comic strips that show the unique and compelling perspective of a young American woman who is married to Japanese salary man and how they live their lives being broken newlyweds. Grace and her husband are incredibly adorable and if you get the chance you should check out a few of her YouTube videos featuring the two of them. They are definitely a couple that I would love to meet and befriend in real life.

Being somebody who is extremely interested in learning more regarding the Japanese culture, as I hope to visit one day the essays Grace includes throughout the book were one of my favourite parts of this book. Even the essays that weren’t directly concerning life in Japan, I still enjoyed reading. In particular, found them incredibly relatable especially the one concerning deciding to settle for doing things until they were “good enough” for you and not being a perfectionist. As always, the comics were quite amusing and I loved the one on takoyaki as it is definitely relatable since I’m just as obsessed with takoyaki and can totally picture myself eating it all day also. My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy is another adorable portrayal of Grace’s life and as always I adore the light-hearted manner she takes when it comes to tackling serious topics akin to depression, anxiety, discrimination.

jpstill1
One of my favourite comics, that shows just how adorable Grace and her husband are. From page 12 of My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Comics and reading about what’s it to being in an interracial relationship.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | Re Jane by Patricia Park

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Patricia Park was born and raised in Queens, New York. Re Jane is her first novel. She has also published numerous essays in several major outlets such as the New York Times, and the Guardian.

Where Does it Take Place?
Re Jane starts off in Flushing, Queens and Seoul, Korea and Jane tries to flee from her actions in New York.

rejane

What’s it About:
A modern retelling with a unique twist to the classic novel, Jane Eyre. We meet Jane Re, a half-American, half-Korean young woman who has grown up in Flushing, Queens for her whole life. An orphan, she lives with her uncle’s family and works in their grocery store. However, wanting to so desperately escape she ends up taking a job as an au pair for a couple of Brooklyn English professors who have adopted a Chinese daughter.

My Thoughts:
While I had some minor issues with Jane Eyre when I read it back in high school I really enjoyed Re Jane. Despite being a sort of retelling of Jane Eyre, Re Jane definitely stands on its own as a strong début novel. I loved the twists that were added to this story to make the book stand out on its own. In particular, I love how Jane in this book was a recent graduate who had only one job offer but due to a corporate scandal the company could no longer afford to hire anyone new. For recent graduates and even post grads, I think many of us can relate to this even now as it is certainly difficult to find employment. I also loved how I could relate to Jane’s naivety and inexperience when it came to life, as I too had a strict, sheltered upbringing just like she had. Overall, I loved what this book had to say about finding what you want and learning to appreciate what you have.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Books of characters in that emerging adulthood stage of life. As Jane is a recent university graduate, it leads to some interesting storytelling. Also if you are into diverse books, this is a good choice as Park infuses elements of the classic novel, Jane Eyre with the immigrant experiences of Korean-Americans. Even if you have not read or have read but didn’t enjoy Jane Eyre, you should definitely pick up Re Jane.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Khaled Hosseini is the authour of the best-selling books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. And the Mountains Echoed is his third novel to date. Currently a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and he also founded the Khaled Hosseini Foundation which helps by giving humanitarian assistance to people in Afghanistan.

Where Does it Take Place?
The story starts in Afghanistan but moves around to various places from Paris, France to Pakistan to the USA.

16115612

What’s it About:
It’s the year 1952, and the reader is introduced to a pair of very young siblings Abdullah and his younger sister, Pari. Something tragic then happens that changes the course of both of their lives forever. The rest of the novel then follows the stories of not only Abdullah and Pari but many other characters that are or have become connected to them. No one is completely good or evil, but everyone has their flaws and regrets.

My Thoughts:
As this was my first book by Khaled Hosseini (my sister has been trying to push The Kiterunner on me for years though), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately I adored this book, the writing and characters truly held me captive. And I liked how this book was both heartbreaking but also uplifting at times, which made it all the more beautiful. Also the conclusion of And the Mountains Echoed was just so poignant and on point.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Books  set in war-torn countries that are about family, sacrifice, love and loss.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. She currently lives in the States with her husband and their three children as well as their African Grey parrot. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was her debut novel, and her second novel, When the Moon Is Low is out late this year.

Pearl-That-Broke-Its-Shell

Where Does it Take Place?
Set in Kabul, readers get to travel back to some of the smaller rural villages as both women move around for different reasons. This also gives readers great insight into how life is vastly different for the women living in the big cities in Afghanistan compared with the women who live in rural villages, where it’s harder to monitor and regulate how things work and how women are treated.

What’s it About:
The Pearl That Broke It’s Shell is a story about two women from different generations who lives in Afghanistan. Shekiba who disguises herself as a boy once her parents and brothers pass away in order to protect herself from her father’s very traditional, and disapproving family. She is also Rahima’s great, great grandmother. In present day, we meet Rahima who is one of many girls in her family. As her family has no sons, and dad is sick and can’t be man of the house, her aunt comes up with the idea to disguise herself as a boy by telling Rahima the story of her great aunt, Shekiba.

My Thoughts:
I love reading about the experiences of women in South Asian countries, and when I heard about The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi I just knew that I had to read it. And I’m glad that I got the opportunity to read and review this important book on my blog.

While many of us may be somewhat aware of situation and often the mistreatment for many girls in Afghanistan, I wonder if many people also knew of the concept of bacha posh? I for one did not know about it. Bacha posh, is basically when young girls who haven’t reached puberty yet are allowed to dress up as boys which allows them a great deal of freedom that isn’t normally afforded to them as girls. I thought this was an interesting concept, and it was even more fascinating seeing two women taking part in bacha posh and how their experiences differed as they did it during different times and for different reasons.

Of the two women in the book, I found that Shekiba’s journey fascinated me more. I felt more invested in her character as she gets to experience many different things that were uncommon for women during her time. Though it’s unfortunate as to what happens to her, I think it illustrates the harsh reality for women during her time. So while I disagreed with her choice, and found it difficult to understand how she thought that would be the solution I kind of get her desire for more freedom. On the other hand, I was less interested in Rahima’s journey though she does go through her own set of hardships and tragedy. Nevertheless, I adored her relationship with with her Aunt Shaima. Shaima is the one who tells Rahima the story of her Great Aunt Shekiba and thus forms a connection between the two women. The Pearl that Broke Its Shell though is filled with much obstacles and hardships for both the women it’s about, is ultimately an uplifting story about earning your happy ending.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Historical and literary fiction about the experiences of women living in countries where there is great inequality and they are viewed as “less than” men. Also if you love inspiring stories about women who find strength to live their restricted lives as much on their own terms as possible in the times and country they were born into.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | Ticket to Childhood by Nguyễn Nhật Ánh

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Nguyễn Nhật Ánh is a well-known Vietnamese authour of stories for children, teenagers and adults. Ticket to Childhood or Cho tôi xin một vé đi tuổi thơ, as it was originally called is perhaps his best known and best selling work.

ticketchild

Where Does it Take Place?
Vietnam! Love the fact that its set in Vietnam because not that many books take place in Vietnam or about Vietnamese people that have been translated into English.

What’s it About:
Mui, a writer relates the story of his childhood and his adventures with his friends, Hai, Ti and  Tun in Vietnam. These tales are then simultaneously compared with how each of the characters turned out as adults.

My Thoughts:
Even if you weren’t born in Vietnam, which  I suspect many of you weren’t there is something that almost everyone can relate to. The carefree and innocent adventures that Mui and his friends have makes me a bit nostalgic for my childhood as well even though it wasn’t too long ago that I was a kid. So even though the book was not what I’d expected based off of what I could understand from the Vietnamese audiobook, it was still a magical read. This modern fairytale of sorts is a book that I’d recommend for those who fancy themselves as young at heart. Nguyễn Nhật Ánh is a gifted storyteller who is able to turn the most ordinary lives of children into something that is precious, extraordinary and truly magical. And even though the book is short in length, I think its perfect length for the story the authour is trying to tell.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Books that will take you back to a much simpler time and remind you of what it was like to be a kid.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.