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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bold and adventurous exploration of two worlds
'The Ghost Bride', by Yangsze Choo, begins as though it were a piece of historical fiction. However, like the characters involved in the story, it soon begins to cross over between the worlds of the living and the dead, between history and fantasy. Yangsze has blended a well-researched background in the Chinese community of 1890s Malaya, with equally convincing portrayals...
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer

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3.0 out of 5 stars gorgeous scenery, somewhat one-dimensional characters
The ghost bride- Yangsze Choo

Ever since I was a child, the paranormal fascinated me. When my parents, sisters and I visited a place I had never been before, I always wanted to visit the graveyard there first (or so they tell me). It therefore isn’t surprising to know that I was thrilled to bits when I realised that there was a novel about an ancient...
Published 1 month ago by Geertje


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bold and adventurous exploration of two worlds, 9 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Kindle Edition)
'The Ghost Bride', by Yangsze Choo, begins as though it were a piece of historical fiction. However, like the characters involved in the story, it soon begins to cross over between the worlds of the living and the dead, between history and fantasy. Yangsze has blended a well-researched background in the Chinese community of 1890s Malaya, with equally convincing portrayals of parts of the world of the dead, as conceived by the people of that place and time.

As she explains in the author's note, these beliefs about the dead differed in certain respects from those held in mainland China, and did not comprise a consistent "theology". Rather like the ancient Egyptian ideas that I am more familiar with, there was a collection of disparate tales and images. These provide windows of insight into a vivid and credible world of experience, but not a systematic attempt to catalogue it. Indeed, I was struck by the many ways in which the Chinese images dovetailed with the much older Egyptian ones: no doubt there is a fascinating field of study there!

Back to the story. This combines elements of several different genres, all told in first person perspective. The main character is centrally involved with a detective mystery, a coming of age tale, a gently-sketched romance, and a spiritual hero quest. Of these, I personally found the whodunit aspect the least convincing, and it seemed to rely rather too much for my taste on coincidental discovery and good fortune rather than skill. But in contrast, the personal and spiritual explorations were riveting, and at times beautifully lyrical in their descriptions. I was completely captivated by the images and concepts presented. On first reading I soaked up the text in what seemed to be a thorough baptism by immersion - a second, more sober reading picked up aspects that I had rushed by at first!

In terms of influence, there seem to be a great many factors at work here in addition to the traditional Chinese sources. There are similarities with Dante's Divine Comedy in the reliance on various guides, and the overall schematic arrangement of the world of the dead - though in the Chinese conception, a person's place is negotiable rather than fixed. There are echoes of Faust and the bargain he made. Some descriptions remind me of passages in Tolkien's writing. But Yangsze reworks these elements in an imaginative and vivid manner to create something new, and the book does not at all suffer from these points of contact.

Yangsze admits in her blog to a love of food, and indeed there would be no prizes for guessing this from her book. Meals and snacks in both worlds are described in considerable detail and delight, with certain key differences between them that maintain a clear separation.

Readers who prefer "straight" historical fiction (or for that matter straight fantasy) might be perplexed by the cross-genre nature of this book. And as mentioned before, I feel that some aspects of the whodunit plot sit a little awkwardly. However, I loved 'The Ghost Bride', would very happily recommend it to others, and overall have no hesitation in giving it five stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enchanting read!, 2 April 2014
This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Kindle Edition)
The Ghost Bride is a magical story of self-discovery, love , family loyalties and otherworldly experiences. Before reading I had this book pegged as a historical, magical realism story. It is all of that and so much more. Yangsze Choo has created an bewitching world full of parallels and clever details. Li Lan's hints of retrospective thoughts about her actions serve to accentuate the feeling of being recited a fairytale.

I was swept away into the world of 19th century Malaya, where Tian Ching's mother and other tai tai hold court. Poorer families, like Li Lan's are often subject to their whims. Li Lan's bravery, and she is definitely brave; despite her tears and trepidation she seeks to fix her situation and help Er Lang to the best of her ability, makes her a very likeable protagonist. My favourite character was undeniably Er Lang. I hope Yangsze writes a sequel, as he is both charming and alluring. I would have liked to read more about him and how he came to suspect the judges as he did.

In her fascinating addendum 'notes from the author' the author explains how she has expanded on and cleverly reinterpreted Chinese mythology about the afterlife. I was surprised to find out the corrupt officials of hell was not a modern reimagining, but one based in much folklore, while the plains of the dead with their paper offerings was something fabricated by the Yangsze herself.

With 4.5 stars, this book has made its way onto my favourites shelf and I will be purchasing a hard copy to treasure!
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3.0 out of 5 stars gorgeous scenery, somewhat one-dimensional characters, 24 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Paperback)
The ghost bride- Yangsze Choo

Ever since I was a child, the paranormal fascinated me. When my parents, sisters and I visited a place I had never been before, I always wanted to visit the graveyard there first (or so they tell me). It therefore isn’t surprising to know that I was thrilled to bits when I realised that there was a novel about an ancient Asian ritual that allowed the living to marry the dad. The ghost bride was right up my alley and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Did this novel by Yangsze Choo live up to my expectations?

One night, Li Lan’s father asks her whether she wants to become a ghost bride. They live in Malacca, a sleepy town in Malaya, which at the time this story takes place is a British colony. Her mother has died when she was still young and her father has squandered away the family’s fortune with his opium addiction. Li Lan has little prospects, but if she decides to marry the recently deceased heir of the wealthy Lim family, she will be provided for the rest of her life. Ghost marriages are sometimes completed to prevent the dead from haunting their families. Li Lan has to think about this offer, because she isn’t sure about not being able to remarry, especially after meeting the hot new heir to the Lim family, Tian Bai. Not long after this proposal, her soon-to-be suitor starts haunting her dreams, dragging Li Lan bit by bit into the Chinese afterlife. But just like the living world is no place for the dead, the afterlife is no place for a living girl to be...

This novel has a gorgeous setting. Yangsze Choo really paints a vibrant picture of Malaya, which at times felt real enough to emerge from the pages. The mix-match of cultures that collide in Malacca were extremely interesting, especially to a person who knows little about countries east of Europe. Not only the surroundings, but also the clothing, food and, of course, the burial rites are described in vivid detail. For a debuting author, Choo really knows how to write.

The writing might have been beautiful, the story itself at times wasn’t. The plot was alright, though somewhat predictable. I disliked the insta-love that Li Lan and Tian Bai had, which seemed to be more about lust and good looks than about love. Luckily, this is partly taken care of at the end of the novel. Li Lan seemed really naïve at times. I cannot blame her for all the things she did that turned out to be dumb moves and things she didn’t know, but it got a bit annoying.

All in all I did enjoy this novel, though I felt a bit disappointed, too. While the writing was gorgeous, the plot was at times predictable and the characters got on my nerves every now and then. If you want to learn more about Asian cultures: do read. If you absolutely despite insta-love and hate somewhat one-dimensional characters: stay away from this novel and hope you won’t even see it in the afterlife.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Rather slow going. It gets better as it goes on., 20 Nov 2014
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Paperback)
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HotKey books are an interesting new force in Teen/YA publishing. The books I've read from them tend to be quite edgy and generally have much more substance than other teen imprints. Having said that, I'm not sure what to make of this book. The Ghost Bride doesn't really read like a teen book, despite the fact that the heroine is seventeen. It may be that this is a historical/fantasy novel, and so the sense of age is not really as important, but it struck me that this is fairly adult. It's not because it has sex and violence in it, but because it is quite layered and complex and there isn't any leeway for a reader who can't plug straight into this world.

I really wanted to like the book. I like books about the orient. I enjoy historical books, and I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the fantasy genre. Having said that I found it rather easy to put down. The story didn't pull me in and it took me ages to read it. I think it was perhaps that actually, the heroine, Li Lan doesn't really have much of a voice of her own. She reacts to what others demand or think of her rather than what she wants to do herself.

About half way through the book she finds her voice, and that's when I found the book much more interesting and was able to read the second half in two sittings, rather than the two weeks prior to that it took me to read the first half.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed!, 30 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Kindle Edition)
I was so excited about reading this book, that I raced through the book I was currently reading in order to start it.
I was lead to believe that if I liked Arthur goldens Memoirs of a Geisha than I would also love this.
It started so well, it is beautifully written, and I was intrigued about the story and how it would develop. However I found the middle section of the book frustrating and far too long winded and unnecessarily descriptive.
I actually found myself shouting at the main character Li Lan!
I can't say it was a bad book it was ok but not as good as it wAs hyped.
I was left racing through this book in order just to get it over with!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book, 27 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Kindle Edition)
From the minute I started reading I was hooked and just couldn't put it down. The best bits are all the small details of Chinese superstition and the way the author sucks you in to another world with a story of the Chinese afterlife. I really hope that the author indulges us in a sequel haven't enjoyed a book this much in a while brilliant .
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4.0 out of 5 stars absorbing, 2 July 2014
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This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Kindle Edition)
The story takes you on its journey through the real and spiritual world of an old but relevant Chinese culture, the plots only flaw is that much of story is blind luck yet it is Still absorbing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful ghostly tale..., 10 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Paperback)
It didn't take me long to barrel my way through this captivating tale of love, mystery and fantasy cast between reality and a supernatural realm. The book took many surprising turns from start to finish, much of which I found very engaging as I was carried along Li Lan's journey into the unknown. What might have started out as something of a very straightforward tale, quickly plunges you into something otherworldly and layered in intrigue. At first, I found early in the story that it shared some slight similarities with another novel, 'Peony in Love' by Lisa See - but of course, the situations born of Li Lan's struggle is a far different tale not solely based on love, and instead follows Li Lan's development as a woman as she learns about freedom, death and truth. Nothing is ever so neatly packaged in this story, and it was nice to see there was a lot of thought and depth given to characters, situations and the world beyond the living. What you might expect to happen, doesn't always follow through. Li Lan's character showed the vulnerabilities of a sheltered young woman venturing out into the big, wide world alone, as well as her keen intelligence and strength of will to push forward even though adversity - though she does get some helping hands along the way, whose presence strengthen her journey of independance.

Would I recommend this book? Highly. If you love Asian culture stories of times gone by and/or supernatural tales, this is a suitably enjoyable tale to get your teeth into.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bought to review, 31 May 2014
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Emmabemma (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Paperback)
I bought this to review for a new literary magazine and absolutely loved its Eastern magicalism. Well written, with an unusual romance, I would really recommend this, especially as a summer read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual fantasy story, 22 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Kindle Edition)
The Ghost Bride is a historical fantasy novel set in a Malaya ruled by the British Empire. Li Lan is a member of the Chinese community there, the daughter of a once prosperous and respected man, who has become bankrupt following the death of his wife. Life seems to hold few opportunities for Li Lan until she learns of an offer to become a ghost bride, the wife of the dead son of the wealthy Lim family. At first she is horrified, but the more she learns about the family and the circumstances surrounding the death of Lim Tian Ching, the more she is drawn into the mystery of the household. Soon she finds herself exploring the spirit world of Malaya, guided by the enigmatic Er Lang, in a quest to find out what really happened and why she has been selected as a ghost bride, before she is trapped forever in the shadowy after-life.

I started The Ghost Bride expecting it to be mainly historical fiction, so the amount of fantasy in the novel surprised me. But in a good way. Choo has taken Chinese beliefs about the afterlife and used them to create a fascinating, fully formed fantasy world that is the unreserved star of the show. I just loved the blending of fantasy with traditional beliefs, it lent an authenticity to the whole book. I'm always on the look out for fantasy that isn't set in medieval Europe, and with this book I stumbled across a great example of it accidentally.

Another thing I enjoyed about The Ghost Bride was the character of Li Lan herself. She starts off as quite shy and easily led by both her family and the Lim family, but as the book progresses we get to see some strong character development, culminating in an episode towards the end where she's in quite a sticky situation. Rather than hope for someone to come and save her, she's determined to sort things out herself, which I really liked. It would have been easy for Choo to write a passive female, especially considering that Er Lang is technically supernatural, so I liked that she made Li Lan stick up for herself as the book went on.

This book does contain a love triangle, but thankfully the romance elements are very light and take a back-seat to the adventure and the exploration of the afterlife itself. I found The Ghost Bride easy to read but yet unlike anything else I've read, a book that I'm sure will stick with me for some time. Recommended for anyone who likes fantasy but is after something a bit different.
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The Ghost Bride
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (Paperback - 1 Aug 2013)
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