Tag: Love Story

Paris for One and Other Stories, by Jojo Moyes

“Actually, I’ve had a large white wine. Which means I’m saying what I think.”
“Don’t you usually, then? Say what you think?”
“Never. Safer that way.”

cover105449-mediumJojo Moyes is a name I across all too frequently these days, after the massive success of her books Me Before You and After You. I’ve not read either of the two because at first I wasn’t too sure if I would be into them, given my experience with and opinions of popular romances (such as The Fault in Our Stars or The Notebook). Later, when I thought I might take a look, I learned the ending of the first book, so I didn’t think there was a point to going back. And you can’t read the second book if you haven’t read the first.

I’ve been in a reading slump for a while. This time last year, I had read over 12 books. This year, I’ve read 2 (and now 3). I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Scribbles, and while Yiyun Li’s writing is nearly flawless, there’s only so much you can like a book while disagreeing vehemently with the writer’s views. The other books I picked up (for instance, The Stand and Lifting the Veil) were not what I needed at that point in time.

Paris for One and Other Stories came as a breath of fresh air during those times. I stay away from chick-lits, but this is one that surprised me. Like they say, it is all about feeding your needs.

Paris for One is the story of a girl who never took risks – she was always described as safe, stable, trustworthy etc., never bold. On a whim, she decides to take a trip to Paris with her boyfriend. She is stood up by the boyfriend, and ends up alone in Paris. She changes her mind about leaving, and decides to enjoy the city on her own.

There are eleven short stories in this collection, all with uplifting, positive endings. My favourite is the first and the longest story – the one I’ve talked about above. Two close contenders for the top position are Margot and The Christmas List.

Margot is the story of Em, who meets the titular character – a boisterous American lady – at an airport and learns something important. The Christmas List is about a harrowed housewife who is fed up of her demanding husband and mother in law. A conversation with a cab driver convinces her that she needs to turn her life around.

If you’re going through a dull time, and need something to lift you up, I think this book would just be perfect. It certainly helped me! I wanted this review to be posted on Valentine’s Day, but unfortunately, I couldn’t finish the book in time. Nevertheless, here it is. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Amazon | Goodreads

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from Penguin UK-Michael Joseph/Netgalley. My review is honest and unbiased.

 

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A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo

“Doesn’t his tongue feel cold?”

1533682Someday when I look back, I might think of 2013 as the year of horrible reading choices and good music. 2016, on the other hand… This year, I have come across books purely by chance and have unexpectedly and thoroughly enjoyed them. Touchwood.
One of these books is A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo, that I found on the Amazon Used Bookstore. On the surface, ACCEDL isn’t a wholly remarkable plot – girl meets boy (man twenty years her senior, in this case), a whirlwind romance, [SPOILER, AVERT YOUR EYES] a realization that they have no future together, and an eventual, quiet and resigned heartbreak. [SPOILER ENDS; CALM DOWN]

What sets ACCEDL apart is the way it examines the West through the eyes of a Chinese girl who can barely speak the language, and how this culture clash causes problems in her relationship with her English lover. And what makes ACCEDL wholly unique is the way in which it’s written – in deliberately bad English.

Books with poor grammar are tedious to read. But ACCEDL works. Whether it works because the reader knows the terrible grammar is a deliberate plot device (yes, it does add to the plot) or in spite of it, I will never know. What I do know is that it was a delightful little read – perfectly paced, flavored just so. Each chapter begins with the definition of a new word that the protagonist, Zhuang (Z for the westerners), has learnt, and how she learnt it. Funny at times (“In France, their fish is poisson, their bread is pain, and their pancake is crepe. Pain and poison and crap. That’s what they have every day.”), profound at others (“Love’, this English word: like other English words it has tense. ‘Loved’ or ‘will love’ or ‘have loved’. All these tenses mean Love is time-limited thing. Not infinite. It only exist in particular period of time. In Chinese, love is ‘爱’ (ai). It has no tense. No past and future. Love in Chinese means a being, a situation, a circumstance. Love is existence, holding past and future.” ); the wit is balanced with poignancy. It is presented without unnecessary drama or loud colors, yet with a beauty specific to itself. As for the prose, it is a testament to the author’s skill that even with the poor grammar it is written in, it manages to evoke such vivid images and convey such precise thoughts. Consider the quote at the beginning of this post. Z meets a man who has lost several of his teeth. I was struck by how she thinks about his tongue feeling cold! It is funny, yet so clever.

The story of a naive, homesick girl who finds love, and also learns to live on her own. Do grab a copy and let me know how you like it!

Goodreads | Amazon

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

If you have ever reeleanor-and-park-rainbow-rowell-rain-and-a-book-sreesha-divakaranad this page where I’ve listed my genre preferences, then you know I hate romances and I am very, very choosy about YA.

I’ve scoffed at Erich Segal’s Love Story and called it highly overrated.

I’ve found so many flaws with The Fault In Our Stars that the very reference to the book and any praise for it is something I haughtily wave aside.

I’ve looked at shelves bearing Nicholas Sparks’ books with a half-contemptuous-half-pitiful “Oh, honey…” expression.

Maybe I am too cynical for my own good. But am I? Because interestingly,

I am also the person who sobbed into her pillow after reading Eleanor & Park.

Oh GOD. What is this book? Which is this bit of an episode from the characters’ lives that reduced me to such ugly crumpliness?! What are these things floating in my mind, all these, what are these – these emotions!!!

Clearly this is an unfamiliar territory for me. Believe me when I say this – I am trying to look at this book objectively and review it as such, but there’s just too much water in my eyes for me to do that.

Genre: YA, Romance

Summary: Before I give you the summary, let me say, this book moves at a very unhurried pace, so each little scene, each little thing hits you like a minitruckload of “feels”. If I do give you a summary, however spoiler-free it may be, it will ruin it for you. So this is all I am going to say: Eleanor is the new girl in town – a tad overweight, with strange clothes several sizes too big for her, lots of unruly red hair – with whom no one wants to share a seat on the school bus. An irritated Park, a half-Korean kid from the neighbourhood, orders her to sit down next to him. Park reads comic books and listens to music. One day he notices that Eleanor has been looking over his shoulder and reading the comics with him (she calls it “eavesreading”). They don’t talk a word, but Park lets her read – waiting a bit longer than usual to turn the page so as to let her finish. Until one day…

Well, that’s all you’re gonna get from me.

Have you ever experienced this – you feel like there’s so much emotion in you that you feel you’re heart is being squeezed and the pain shoots right through your chest to the centre of your palm? It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a glorious feeling. Along with that, the fluttering butterflies in the stomach. I was reading, and every time that pain shot through, all I wanted was some kinda icepick to stab my palm, because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I read this book in secret, because I knew I could collapse into tears any minute and I did not want to call any attention to myself – no one in the family is a reader, and, really, “sobbing because of a scene” was not something I saw myself explaining.

The book explores various themes, such as body image issues (Eleanor’s weight), identity issues (Park’s mother is Korean and he feels like a misfit), abuse, bullying, domestic violence, but the central theme is first love. The characters are well written, but a wee bit too one-dimensional. There’s not a lot of explanation about the characters’ pasts, and the author has spent a little too much time on the romance that she has not entirely done justice to the other themes, in my opinion. The writing style is simplistic, very YA-relateable. I would not call this groundbreaking literature, but for what it is, it works well. I personally liked the first half more than the second, and I wish the ending was not so open-ended. Maybe there’s a sequel coming up? I hope so. I loved the comic book references in the book, especially part where Park looks at Eleanor smiling and thinks she looks like Joker from Batman, then thinks she wouldn’t see it as a compliment, but that’s how he meant it. That was… cute!

A heart warming and heart wrenching tale at the same time, on a rating scale, I would give it between 3.5-4 out of 5.

You can get the book here. And some tissues here.

And remember, this book forces you to remember parts of you that you have forgotten.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s something in my eye.