The name's Luna.
24/Los Angeles/wannabe blogger & researcher
Just another freak in the Freak Kingdom.
A place for me to ramble about books I love... also probably the only blog I'll ever have that will keep its theme. I don't want my page to be a mess so I'm only going to shelve books starting with what I've read in the past year.
I'm not always eloquent, and I'm certainly not pretentious. I am just a huge nerd who lurks in used bookstores and likes to read and do research for fun.
Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.
Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, traditional ghost marriages are used to placate restless spirits. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.
After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lims' handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits, and monstrous bureaucracy- including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets- and the truth about her own family- before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
I just finished part one, and I'm enjoying this story a lot. The writing style is simple but pretty, and the story moves along at a good pace. I suppose some people would be annoyed that the language is somewhat too modern to be accurate to the 1890's, but I'm fine with it. The author does an excellent job of putting you in the time and place without beating you over the head with details or giving you an unnecessary history lesson. Every piece of knowledge gained is helpful to your enjoyment of the story. I'm also really enjoying the accuracy of the descriptions of Chinese religious ceremonies and customs- I took a class on Chinese Religions when I was at the university and it's a really great way to refresh my memory.
I like the main character a lot, even though it's a rather understated portrait. Li Lan is honest and relatable, and she is influenced both by her father's firm belief in logic and Amah, her superstitious nurse. Her character is also very realistic- being partially raised by a scholar, she's been given more education than the average woman and she questions the order of society, but she knows there is little she can do to change it. Her steps to take charge of her own life seem small, but they're massively important and she takes them with a modern sense of self-preservation. She wants to marry someone that she actually loves and respects, someone who will love and respect her- but she also wants to take care of her family, and she is determined to figure out a way to do both. She is very clever and down to earth, and I liked her skeptical comment on the large amounts of hell money that people burn for the dead:
"Hell must surely have seen inflation, given the recklessly high amounts of currency that were regularly burned. What of the poor ghosts who had died long before such large notes were printed?"
I think the idea for this story is amazing- it's a very strange custom based in reality, so it's both an interesting study of culture and a beautifully haunting story. I want to write more about it, but I'm having a hard time getting in the zone today so I'm just going to pull some passages/sentences that I really liked to wrap this up:
"The hope that rose in my throat almost choked me."
-I really liked this line because I've felt that feeling before. Especially when it comes to love, hope can save you or kill you, and sometimes it feels like a bit of both.
"There was an ominous heaviness, like the air roiling before a thunderstorm."
"The hours, days, and years that had bled away in his opium haze demanded a payment from my future."
-I just really liked the language of this sentence... bleeding time demanding retribution...
"I remembered copying a passage from Zhuang-Zi's dream of a butterfly. Zhuang-Zi, a Taoist sage, woke up from sleep and said that he didn't know whether he was a man who dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly who dreamed he was a man. Father had a rather lofty interpretation of Zhuang-Zi, preferring to concentrate on his philosophical ideas of man's place in the universe rather than the literal Taoist beliefs in immortality, shape-changing, and magic potions. He complained that the common people had corrupted these existential musings into all sorts of folk religion and mumbo jumbo. As a result I had never paid too much attention to their beliefs. Perhaps I should have."
-I agree with her dad.
I'll probably write more in detail about this one when I finish it, because I've been leaving little pencil stars and notes in the margins. I feel like I need to go way more into the whole spirit world thing, but my brain's just not working as well as I'd like it to right now.
Happy Friday, booknerds!