The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Li Lan is the only daughter of a genteel yet bankrupt family. With few marriage prospects available, she is surprised when her father comes to her with a strange proposal. The only son of the powerful and wealthy Lim family has recently died under questionable circumstances. The Lim family wants Li Lan to become a ghost bride; a rarely practiced but very real ceremony used to placate a restless spirit. Were Li Lan to agree to the union, she would have a secure place in the Lim household for the rest of her days.

After a single visit to the Lim mansion, Li Lan finds haunted by her ghostly suitor in her dreams and by thoughts of the new heir to the Lim family during her waking hours. After an unfortunate accident, she is drawn in to the strange parallel world of the Chinese afterlife. With its ghost cities, vengeful spirits, and ghostly bureaucracy, Li Lan struggles to find her way home before it is too late and she is trapped forever.

The Ghost Bride is a stunningly beautiful book. With its descriptions of this world and the next, Choo evokes so many emotions with her words. In one chapter we are riding beside Li Lan across the Plains of the Dead, the fear churning in our guts as well as in hers. In another chapter we watch and feel the same fear as Li Lan sees the man she believes she loves wooed by another.

In many ways The Ghost Bride reminds me of the animated movie Spirited Away. In both the supernatural and the mundane walk side by side, sometimes overlapping but almost always separated by a thin barrier. In both a young woman crosses from one to the other and must find her way back to the place she knows. And in both, the main heroine is helped by another character wearing a human face.

The Ghost Bride is a tale that can be enjoyed by many. As Li Lan is only 17 in the beginning of the book, it can hold an appeal to younger and older readers alike. Readers who enjoy fantasy and excitement on every page will likely enjoy this one as well. I highly recommend it to all.

Crimson Peak: The Official Movie Novelization by Nancy Holder

When Edith Cushing’s heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, she is soon swept away from her home and across the sea. She is brought to a crumbling mansion atop a mountain of blood red clay. A place filled with secrets that will leave her haunted forever.

Crimson Peak is the official novelization of the 2015 movie by Guillermo del Toro. Touted as a gothic romance, the book echoes the dark sentiments set forth by the movie. It is quite obvious this book was written with the final version of the movie in mind as it follows the movie closely. Too often a novelization of a movie is written with an early version of the script or even as the movie is being filmed and can diverge from the final product. Such is not the case here.

The book follows the movie near exactly, with the addition of the house itself as a character. This adds a bit of tension to the story and also makes sense in a way in that the years of horror that have occurred have left a psychic impression. We are also given glimpses in to the character’s thoughts and even their childhoods; two things that cannot be adequately expressed through film.

 

As much as I enjoyed the movie, I enjoyed the book just as much. Perhaps more. Fans of del Toro and his work will want to check this book (and movie) out.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life and then her dreams started. Blood soaked images began to fill her every thought, causing her to forego sleep in an effort to keep the visions at bay. In an effort to purge her mind of such disturbing thoughts, Yeong-hye denounces the idea of eating meat; going so far as to throw every morsel in the family home away.

In South Korea, societal mores are to be strictly obeyed and Yeong-hye’s decision to not eat meat is seen as shocking. Her one small act of rebellion grows and snowballs in on itself creating larger and larger waves in her extended family and causing Yeong-hye to disappear further and further in to the fantasy world she has created.

Head on over to sites like Good Reads or even Amazon and you will see numerous reviews as well as discussions over The Vegetarian. It seems that every one who reads this book takes something different away from it. While I certainly think that is a good thing, it can also make writing a review difficult. What I saw and took away from reading it might not be what another person sees.

With that, I will tell you what I saw when I read The Vegetarian.

For me, The Vegetarian is about taking control and the repercussions that can often happen. In a society such as the one that Yeong-hye lives in, there seem to be roles set out for nearly every individual. To deviate from them might be considered but the action is never carried out.

While the dreams that set Yeong-hye on her path are never fully explained, it is their effect that is felt through the rest of the pages. Her decision to restrict her diet further and further is her way of bucking the system and lashing out at the world.

The Vegetarian is a very difficult read. At times I found myself having to put the book down and walk away just from the emotions is brought up in me. Readers who have or have had an eating disorder will likely not want to read this one. All others, be mindful that this is a hard read and you might find yourself unhappy with the ending.