Girl in Translation. Kimberly Chang emigrated with her mother from Hong Kong to New York City under the sponsorship of her Aunt. Her Aunt doesn't end up as benevolent as it first may seem as she puts them up in a hovel: an untenable apartment that is infested with cockroaches and doesn't have any heat to get them through the bitter winters. To earn their keep even young Kimberly must work at the factory her relatives own. Yet even under these dire circumstances Kimberley thrives academically earning her way into a prestigious private school, which ultimately puts her on the path towards a better life. Amidst her struggles she meets another young factory worker, and they embark on an innocent love affair that turns out to be much more serious with life changing consequences. What makes this story even more compelling is that it seems like a thinly veiled memoir, as the author herself emigrated from Hong Kong, worked in a factory, and received stellar grades gaining her entree into an Ivy League University. Girl in Translation was this month's book club pick and the consensus was that the controversial ending made it lose a few points in our ratings.
The Tiger's Wife. After the death of her grandfather, Natalia begins a quest to discover the mystery surrounding his death. Interwoven with Natalia's present as a doctor working at an orphanage after the Balkan War, are folk tales her Grandfather told her as a child, which help her come to grips with the surrounding circumstances. Often reading more like short stories than a cohesive novel, some chapters left me riveted while others were tedious. What compelled me to pick up this book was the young author: in her mid-twenties, Tea Obreht, has earned the title of The New Yorker's one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty, and despite some of the slow chapters I can still see why she earned that title.
Mini-Shopaholic- The newest book in the Shopaholic Series. I have read almost every book Sophie Kinsellas has written, certainly all of her Shopaholic books. I was excited to pick this one up but Becky's shopping travails often fell flat in these economic times, as it read extra frivolous this go around. I did find myself getting immersed in it mid-way through, as I had to see how Becky would manage to get herself out of immeasurable obstacles to escape financial ruin again. Coming off reading Kinsella's Twenties Girl, which I enjoyed much more than expected and found surprisingly funny, Mini-Shopaholic is still a fun read but if choosing between the two I would definitely pick up Twenties Girl.
The Glass Castle- I read this at the insistence of a friend even though I always avoided it, because I thought the subject matter would be too depressing. I'm glad I finally listened, they say "truth is stranger than fiction" and it would be hard to imagine such a childhood that Jeanette Walls endured. A fascinating biography that I wish hadn't taken me so long to finally pick up.
Dreams of Joy-The long awaited sequel (at least by me) to Shanghai Girls. This book picks up where Shanghai Girls ended, with a guilt ridden Joy fleeing to Communist China during the Great Leap Forward. What I found most interesting is that most everything I have read about Communist China during this time period has been from the perspective of what it's like to live in the United States, but never have I heard about what it would be like for a US citizen to return to China. Joy's naivete was sometimes grating and I found myself waiting for the chapter's with her Mother/Aunt's perspective. While definitely paling in comparison to the first book, I still highly recommend Shanghai Girls and this sequel as very interesting historical fiction.