Thursday, January 5, 2017

Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend. The review!

I found it's hard to pick a sentence to open the review of these two glorious Kevin Kwan's novel. Because it contains a lot of stuff which I really need to rave and I have far too much impression about it.
First of all, I know I'm very late to the party. Kwan's debut novel "Crazy Rich Asians" and its sequel "China Rich Girlfriend" are not exactly new and hot novel on the market. Gue sebenarnya sudah mengantongi novel pertamanya lumayan lama, mungkin sekitar delapan bulan novel itu selalu nangkring di urutan teratas to-read gue. Tapi entah kenapa gue nggak berhasil-berhasil mengumpulan niat untuk mulai membacanya―yang kemudian amat sangat gue sesali sekarang. Gue mulai penasaran pengen baca ketika salah satu penulis favorit gue heboh soal Crazy Rich Asians di Twitter (I guess she's late to the party too. LOL!) dan kehebohan dia sukses ngomporin gue, heboh banget memang kaya apa sih?
So finally ten months after I buy it, I read it. And my oh my...... I'm hooked!
Tidak ada premise berat di dalam novel-novel ini, inti ceritanya biasa saja. Yang luar biasa? The author's narrative, the witty dialogues, and the super smooth plot. Terutama, the super smooth plot.
Bukan pekerjaan yang mudah menulis dengan luwes sebuah cerita dengan jumlah karakter segudang. Dan di novel ini total jumlah karakternya, hats off, adalah terbanyak yang pernah gue baca. Granted, obv, since Kwan open his first chapter of the novel with a mess of extra complicated family tree. Confession time: I failed to understand the family tree at first―and I tried to read it for about four freakin' times.
So yeah, I decided to just leave it at that and dive straight into the story.

The first few pages are as confusing as the family tree. Nama demi nama terus-terusan muncul disana-sini, tanpa keterangan yang jelas itu sebenarnya siapa dan apa kepentingannya dalam cerita. Di tahap itu gue sudah mulai heran, ini kenapa tokohnya banyak amat?? But Kwan's magical narrative doesn't let me to stop reading. Masuk ke chapter berikutnya barulah ceritanya mulai tergambar dengan jelas dalam imajinasi gue.
It is indeed a story of a bunch of crazy rich Asians (most of them are Singaporean, Hongkongers, and Shanghainese―with a touch of extreme allergy towards mainland China peeps) dengan level tajir mereka yang sungguh sulit dinalar dengan akal sehat. Sure enough made me feel like a peasant in an instant.

Rachel Chu, tokoh utama dan pusat dari semua kekacauan di sepanjang novel adalah seorang ABC (American Born Chinese) or so I thought, because she's not. Dan juga adalah salah satu yang kastanya paling rendah dibanding tokoh lainnya... or so I thought, because she's not. I know right, the twist is so damn spot on.
Nicholas Young, tokoh utama lainnya, adalah kekasih dari Rachel Chu. Dua-duanya tinggal di New York, dua-duanya adalah professor. Yang tidak Rachel tahu adalah embel-embel Young di belakang nama Nicholas ternyata akan menjadi biang kerok dari semua kejadian tidak terduga yang akan terjadi dalam hidupnya.
In New York, Nicholas living his life as a typical, humble college professor. Although extremely good looking and well mannered, making Rachel a one lucky girl having him as a boyfriend. But little they know that Rachel Chu actually hit on an ultimate jackpot, not even that kind of jackpot people can have in their wildest dream.
To put it easily, keluarga Nicholas di Singapore adalah klan tertua dan terkaya on the island. Also very secretive, not even Forbes knows a lot about them. If Singapore were a monarch, their family would be the kings and queens. So of course, ketika akhirnya Nicholas membawa Rachel ke Singapore untuk menghadiri pernikahan sahabat dekatnya (whom, no suprises, also come from one of the richest family there) all hell breaks loose, the pandemonium happens. How could a Young descendant be in relationship―let alone getting married with a no-name like Rachel Chu, a commoner?
So there goes Rachel Chu on a sudden roller-coaster ride that is her life. Dari hidup yang tenang dan biasa-biasa saja dengan Nicholas di New York, the minute she stepped in Singapore everything changes. Fancy people, fancy houses, fancy food, fancy cars, fancy party, fancy fashion. All the couture-wearing friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, dads, and moms she had to met are enough to make Rachel said whatthefuckinghellhappeninghere, what kind of circus I'm getting myself into?
And sure enough, Rachel and Nicholas then got their relationship cruelly tested... by the curious comments of so many people―I'm sorry, Rachel who? Also by Nicholas' past, a threesome between best friends, are you crazy? And by a meddlesome mother that is Nicholas' which end up to an exposition of Rachel Chu's original roots.
No, Rachel is not an ABC. Rachel is daughter of a criminal! *Cue the dramatic back sound here*
Or so it is until Kelly (Rachel's mom) come to the rescue by finally opening about her dark past. Tentang ia yang dulu terjebak dalam rumah tangga yang tidak sehat, an impotent and mentally unstable husband―the criminal, yang disebut-sebut sebagai ayah kandung Rachel. Tentang bagaimana seorang laki-laki lainnya menyelamatkan dia dari kekerasan yang dilakukan oleh suaminya. Tentang cerita romantisnya saat ia mulai jatuh cinta pada laki-laki itu, yang kemudian memberikannya satu-satunya harta berharga dalam hidupnya, anak perempuannya. Dan tentang bagaimana ia nekat menyelamatkan Rachel dari tirani keluarga suaminya dan membawa Rachel pergi jauh ke Amerika untuk memulai hidup baru mereka.
I literally buried my head on my pillow and screamed out loud after I read this particular chapter on the novel! THE TWIST. I CAN NOT.
With that, all ends well. Rachel and Nicholas―begrudgingly, with zero care of his family ultimatum about how they'll disinherit him if he still choose Rachel, once again flee to New York, back to their normal life away from the drama and it brought us to the end of Crazy Rich Asians.
Of course, what I write here is not even covered a half of the story. I told you, this novel is a masterpiece of jumbled mess.

On to the next novel, the sequel "China Rich Girlfriend" feels more light and tabloid material compared to its predecessor. Still focusing mostly on Rachel and Nicholas, now engaged and counting the days to their marriage ceremony. But once more, Nicholas' mother strike again. Right now she hijacked the wedding area and bring along another tickling bomb with her; this time is about Rachel's birth father. Of course Rachel Chu is not a commoner, not even a little bit. If anything, her father is actually the biggest political figure in China and naturally, one of the richest too. So that's bring Rachel and Nicholas to Shanghai. Not only for a honeymoon, but also on a mission to meet Rachel's dad, step-mother, and step-brother.
A new drama unfold as Rachel finally meet her brother, Carlton Bao. Hands down my favorite character of the novel, Carlton my love~! Rachel and Carlton, they practically looks twin... so no point to doubt their blood relation whatsoever. The problem is that Carlton's mom refused to acknowledged Rachel as a part of their family, Rachel was not welcomed.
Yet apart from that, what's best on China Rich Girlfriend is the story of Carlton Bao and his paramour, Colette Bing―THE China rich girlfriend. Again, Kwan is toying with our emotion. Colette did not feel like a character we would want to hate with a burning passion. Quite contradictory, she seems to sincerely likes Rachel and loves Carlton. But damn, the table turn when almost at the end the novel realize that Colette is actually the one who try to poisoned Rachel to dead―simply because she's afraid that Carlton inheritance will be gone 50:50 with Rachel in the picture. Now we all can hate Colette with a burning passion in peace.
And with that, again... all ends well. Not. I need closure! We need the next installment of this novel that said will be publish this year, sometimes around May and titled "Rich People Problems" fast! And yes, you can count on my another heartfelt review about it here in my blog later. ;D

Tarik-ulur Kwan di dua novel ini cukup membuat gue bolak-balik gemas dan gregetan. Satu saat gue yakin banget kalau gue bisa memprediksi kelanjutan ceritanya, satu saat gue dibuat sebal karena kayanya prediksi gue salah, tapi di satu saat tidak lama kemudian ternyata gue benar―tapi dengan jalan cerita yang nggak diduga-duga.
Selain plot yang Rachel-and-Nicholas-center, the novels also offer a smaller side story outside them. Cerita tentang Astrid Leong, Nicholas' cousin who's struggling with her marriage is probably the next biggest story in the novel and also as interesting. And other many stories that will bring us into a whirlwind journey about the life of crazy rich Asians.

Sebagai penutup, I only have three words about these novels; GO. READ. IT. It's a solid, excellent four and a half star read. Granted!

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Year in Books

Tadi pagi gue baru saja menyimak sebuah diskusi seru di salah satu group yang gue follow di Goodreads, topiknya adalah topik yang selalu panas dibahas kalangan goodreaders seperti gue di awal tahun: reading challenge.
Untuk gue pribadi sih, reading challenge adalah salah satu fitur favorit gue di Goodreads. Itu dan salah satu tracker lainnya, My Year in Books. Dua-duanya memiliki fungsi dan tujuan serupa, bedanya cuma yang satu melacak apa yang sedang kita baca dan yang satunya lagi melacak apa yang sudah kita baca setahun belakangan.

Hampir setiap awal tahun juga kayanya gue pasti selalu menulis soal Goodreads di blog. Thanks to their tracker, kegiatan membaca adalah salah satu yang paling kelihatan perkembangan maju dan mundurnya dalam hidup gue. While the other aspects on my life are pretty much far too absurd for me to tracked.

Kembali lagi ke soal reading challenge dan kenapa topik itu selalu jadi perdebatan para goodreaders setiap awal tahun, pada dasarnya karena jika berkaitan dengan reading challenge ada dua jenis manusia di Goodreads; yang pertama adalah yang anti dengan reading challenge. Alasannya sederhana dan masuk akal, ikutan reading challenge membuat mereka merasa terikat dan merasa wajib untuk mengejar target bacaan yang mereka buat sendiri, it's kinda stressful they said. Yang kedua adalah mereka yang thoroughly enjoy the reading challenge. What's the harm in setting a particular reading goal after all?
Gue, obviously, adalah golongan penggemar reading challenge. I never feel any pressure about it, not even a little bit.
If anything, gue malah merasa banyak terbantu dan terpacu karena jadi punya gambaran apa yang harus gue tuju di akhir tahun nanti. Mengingatkan diri gue sendiri juga bahwa membaca itu tidak cukup dijadikan hobi dan pengisi waktu luang, tapi harus dijadikan aktivitas. A food for my brain.

Sayangnya tahun lalu bukan tahun yang baik dalam hal membaca buat gue. Gue sangat, sangat, sangat kurang asupan bacaan setahun kemarin. Bukan perkara tidak punya bahan bacaan, I always updating my reading list regularly. Masalah gue adalah I failed miserably in dealing with my time management. Working a full-time jobㅡsometimes overtime has been really messing up my routines.
Mungkin tahun ini gue harus belajar nggak sok selalu kelelahan setelah pulang kerja dan sok-sokan juga acting drop dead tired tiap malam, ujung-ujungnya lebih memilih tidur-tiduran dibanding mengerjakan sesuatu yang lebih bermanfaat. I know I'm not that tired, I'm just spoiling myself.

According to Goodreads' My Year in Books, this year I read 13 books with 3.717 pages in total. It's a sad record, I know. I can't even fulfilled my goal to read at least 15 books. LOL.

But I did indeed read some great books. Easy to read books, granted... but still great. My most favorites are Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss and Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians.
And this year I raised the bar, my 2017 reading challenge: 25 books! Of course this still a relatively small and sad target comparing to other's. I mean there's someone on my Goodreads dash that give herself a 200 books challenge. Holy-molly, how can you read that many books in a year??? I'm amazed already.

Last but not least, I hope you too will able to read one or two awesome books this year... or just read, read anything. It's good for you! Here's for the next 365 days fill with great books and good reads!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year Obligation Post

I still not quite believe that today we're already hit another January 1st. The new year is here, 2017 is here. And also here I am, feeling obligated to write something to open the yearwith no idea what to write actually.
That's it, 2016 was a year of lacking of ideas for me. It's almost made me sad that somewhat doing something creative became very hard thing to do, while usually I always have one or two things waiting to write. But being myself, of course I refuse to caved... giving up on writing is not something that exist in my dictionary. So for a while, I paused my writing activity, although I do still try to draft something... just because I'm itching to write. Instead, I spend a lot of time relaxing and absorbing new ideas here and there―despite my insane working schedule, of course. I read a lots of great books, I watch many brilliant movies, series, and animes, I listen to countless amazing songs, I even try to connect with people who draw arts and ended up hating myself because OMG I want to be able to draw too, but I can't???

So that's pretty much my 2016 in a nutshell. I go to work 9-5, when I come home I try to do something stimulating for my brain to bait those long lost writing ideas, and by weekends I usually do my chores and/or spending my time with my family and friends and cat. Then without I realize 2017 is suddenly here. I'm actually shook!

Keinginan ambisius gue di tahun baru yang berani gue bicarakan keras-keras disini cuma tiga:
1. I want to be able to write at least two blog posts per month
2. I want to read/watch at least one good stuff per week
3. I want to try to put my life into its right order
Sisanya? Hmm... sisanya adalah keinginan berbentuk doa, yang bisa kejadian atau nggaknya gue tau benar adanya bukan di tangan gue. Semoga tahun 2017 adalah tahun yang sederhana, yang bahagia, dan yang lebih baik dari tahun sebelumnya tentu saja.

And to those who read this post I hope for nothing but the best things to happen to you this upcoming year. I hope your heart will always be happy and content, no less. HAPPY 2017!