True love. How much can it survive? Can it survive having your beloved marry your sister instead? What quality will it be after everything? And how important is tradition if it ruins someone’s life? Esquivel tackles these questions in Like Water for Chocolate. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book set in Mexico, and I certainly don’t know much about Mexican history. This book made me want to investigate that further, which is what great literature should do. It’s magic realism, and there was a very interesting balance between the two. It is also very different than the magic realism of Sarah Addison Allen, which is my only other experience with this genre. It’s much deeper and more serious. I can’t say that I liked the ending, but I did like the book as a whole. It’s a quick and satisfying read.
I love this twist on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Julie and Romeo own rival flower shops in town. Their families have hated each other for as long as either of them can remember, but no one seems to know why. Then they meet (or re-meet) at a local conference, and fall in love. How will their grown children, who have been learning to hate the other family as they did that growing, react to this? Not well, as you can probably guess. The story was well-told, with plenty of humor and plenty of suspense. Of course it doesn’t end as Shakespeare’s does, but you are kept guessing to the last moment if they will end up together or not. There was some unnecessary swearing (okay, all swearing is unnecessary, but I really didn’t see the point of it in this book at all), but that was the only major disappointment in this creative and amusing book.
Certain books open your eyes to the world around you, and that’s exactly what this book did for me. By reading The Mao Case, I discovered that I know next to nothing about China, either present-day or historically. This book is one in a series about Inspector Chen, who is a detective in Shanghai. The case he is tackling this time involves a suspected secret about Chairman Mao. It is his task to discover this potentially embarrassing secret so that the news never breaks. I’m not a big mystery reader, so I really can’t judge it on that. The writing style seemed a little stilted, but I’m guessing that’s more a cultural difference than anything. I probably won’t read any of the other Inspector Chen books, but that’s solely because mystery isn’t really my thing. I am grateful, however, for the realization that this book brought – my knowledge of China is sorely lacking, and I plan to start making up for that as soon as possible. This book opened my eyes to another country, another people, another culture. What more can we ask of a book?
My name is Julie, and I own a lot of books. As in, they are stacked on the floor because I've run out of room on the shelves. And those shelves? There are so many books on them that they smile -- not sag; smile. This blog will cover book reviews and all manner of other bookish things.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.