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The Ghost Bride

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A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists. 'One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride...' Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in t A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists. 'One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride...' 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.


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A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists. 'One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride...' Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in t A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists. 'One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride...' 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.

30 review for The Ghost Bride

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Before I start the book review, I’d like to bring you all to hell. The Chinese Ten Courts of Hell, that is. This particular hell is located at Haw Par Villa, Singapore. I first entered its dark depths in August 2006, and remember recoiling in horror when I saw a few bloody scenes you can view here. So what are the Ten Courts of Hell? According to Chinese mythology, souls must enter these courts to be judged for the sins they committed in the land of the living. Each court deals with different sins Before I start the book review, I’d like to bring you all to hell. The Chinese Ten Courts of Hell, that is. This particular hell is located at Haw Par Villa, Singapore. I first entered its dark depths in August 2006, and remember recoiling in horror when I saw a few bloody scenes you can view here. So what are the Ten Courts of Hell? According to Chinese mythology, souls must enter these courts to be judged for the sins they committed in the land of the living. Each court deals with different sins and punishments, and it’s only after an offending soul suffers for its crimes — examples of punishments include being thrown on spikes, boiled in oil, or sawed in half — that it can be reincarnated or sent to paradise. That first visit to the Ten Courts of Hell truly sparked my interest in anything and everything related to the Chinese afterlife. I started paying more attention to Qingming (the Tomb Sweeping Festival) and the idea of hungry ghosts, and was especially fascinated by the concept of ghost marriages after my aunty told me this sad and spooky story: back in the sixties, her classmate’s fiancé died in a car crash. Unable to accept his demise, the girl married her deceased lover after his funeral. I obsessed over that story for days, wondering how it was possible and whether my aunty’s classmate would be able to divorce her “husband” if she fell in love again. So, with my interest in all things spooky, you can imagine my excitement when I heard about THE GHOST BRIDE by Malaysian debut author Yangsze Choo (HarperCollins, August 2013). Set in Malacca, Malaya (what is now Melaka, Malaysia) in 1893 during British rule, the novel is about a young Straits Chinese girl named Li Lan who has lost her mother to mysterious circumstances and her father to his opium addiction. One day, her father asks if she would consider marrying Lim Tian Ching, the son of a wealthy family. There’s only one little problem — he’s as dead as my aunty’s classmate’s ghost husband. Li Lan is understandably horrified at the thought of tying herself to a dead man she barely knew, especially someone as repugnant as Lim Tian Ching. As he forces himself into her dreams, Li Lan is pulled deeper into the mystery of why this dead boy wants her and only her as his wife. To complicate things, she feels a growing attraction to the dead boy’s very-much-alive cousin, who is now the wealthy family’s heir. And if being haunted by one ghost isn’t bad enough, she soon finds herself trapped in their world. Time is running out as she desperately tries to uncover dark secrets and fight her way back to the land of the living. As a Malaysian, it felt like Choo was writing a personal story just for me. The sprinkling of Malay vocabulary felt like delicious candy in my mouth — I read them aloud — and though set more than a hundred years ago, I could picture it all in my head — the old Melaka streets, the Stadthuys in the town square (which I visited last September), the splendor of a grand Peranakan mansion. But Choo doesn’t leave Western readers in the dark — she gently explains things for those unfamiliar with this part of the world, and when the narrative moves to a location that is alien to everyone — the Plains of the Dead — Choo’s evocative descriptions still pulled me in and sent shivers down my back. I kept thinking of the Ten Courts of Hell pictured above. Though no part of the novel actually takes place in these courts, they are often alluded to by the lingering ghosts we encounter along the way, always with a sense of fear. As much as I loved the Malacca setting and the spooky world Choo built, characters are what make me fall in love with a book, and here Choo succeeds as well. I grew attached to Li Lan, a young girl still finding her way in life, and loved the people rallying around her such as her spunky Amah, and Old Wong with his special vision. I appreciated that there wasn’t really a clear divide between good and evil, because two of the “villains” were ultimately flawed characters I felt sorry for. THE GHOST BRIDE is great value for money — you get historical fiction, YA, fantasy, suspense, paranormal and multicultural fiction all in one! I am so glad there is a voice like Yangsze Choo’s out there, proving that writers of Malaysian descent can make it in the Western publishing world with genre-bending narratives.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies

    It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures, we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts. The star of this book is not Li Lan. It is not her book; the focal point is not the very mild romance, it is not the mystery. The overwhelming show-stealer is the setting, the background, the history, the superstition and traditional beliefs of turn-of-the-century Malaya. I am Asian myself and I maintain my love of Asian culture despite having immi It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures, we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts. The star of this book is not Li Lan. It is not her book; the focal point is not the very mild romance, it is not the mystery. The overwhelming show-stealer is the setting, the background, the history, the superstition and traditional beliefs of turn-of-the-century Malaya. I am Asian myself and I maintain my love of Asian culture despite having immigrated to the United States. I know a lot about the region and its history; for me, this book feels like going home. It is my equivalent of chicken soup (or rather, in the context of the book, herbal "chicken soup and cordyceps for stamina"). The setting is spectacularly beautiful, and so achingly familiar. This is Malaya, or as we know it now, Malaysia. The port city is Malacca. The year is 1893. The history of the area is so interesting, and is the very definition of intermingling. I loved the amalgamation of cultures, of beliefs, of nationalities. The vivid setting and the descriptions of the setting and atmosphere are nothing short of spectacular. Every aspect of life in Malaya is cultivated from a mixture of the numerous cultures that form the heterogeneous society of this vibrant port city. Women's clothing vary from the Chinese cheong sam to the lower-class sam foo, to traditional Chinese formal wear, to the Indonesian baju panjang and kebaya. The food are mouth-wateringly portrayed, from a different mix of nationalities and their respective cooking traditions, and there are so many instances of it! Even if you do not start out hungry, you will end up starving by the time you finish this book. They had all my favorite kinds of kuih—the soft steamed nyonya cakes made of glutinous rice flour stuffed with palm sugar or shredded coconut. There were delicate rolled biscuits called love letters and pineapple tarts pressed out of rich pastry. Bowls of toasted watermelon seeds were passed around, along with fanned slices of mango and papaya. The author is of Malaysian descent, and her portrayal of the country shows her in-depth knowledge of Malaysia and its wonderfully rich history. It also shows clearly and understandably, her love for it. I also grew to love the setting and the country as if it were my own. It is beautifully portrayed, with tremendous respect for all the cultures and social classes represented. For me, the true star of the book is its setting, both of it. The real world, and the ghostly one. The superstitions, myths, legends, all are wonderfully told and portrayed. I had seen some of the painted hell scrolls that depicted the gruesome fates awaiting sinners. There were people being boiled in oil or sawed in half by horse and ox-headed demons. Others were forced to climb mountains of knives or were pounded into powder by enormous mallets. Gossips had their tongues ripped out, hypocrites and tomb robbers were disemboweled. Unfilial children were frozen in ice. The worst was the lake of blood into which suicides and women who had died in childbirth or aborted their children were consigned. I was utterly immersed and fascinated by the setting, and it feels so satisfying to read about something about which I'm familiar. This book would be even more fascinating to someone without a deep understanding of the culture. There is so much to be learned, so much to be gleaned from within this beautifully written book. Li Lan is a beautiful 17 year old girl, hidden away during the most important years of her life. As a young woman of the upper class, from a good, old family, Li Lan should be out socializing and being seen and known by the other well-known "good" Chinese families in the area. Instead, she is languishing away in her family's grand, ancient, crumbling mansion, with a mentally absent, opium-addicted, wasted shadow of a father and only her loving, ancient Amah for company. It is a life of genteel poverty, and one from which Li Lan is not likely to escape anytime soon. My father’s withdrawal from the world meant that he had sought out no friends with sons and had arranged no match for me. For the first time I began to fully comprehend why Amah was continually angry with him on this subject. The contrast between the realization of his neglect and the fondness I had for my father was painful. I had few marriage prospects, and would be doomed to the half-life of spinsterhood. Without a husband, I would sink further into genteel poverty, bereft of even the comfort and respect of being a mother. Her father is not a despicable character, despite his faults. Formerly a wealthy merchant and a scholar, he now isolates himself from the world with the help of the opium pipe. Li Lan's father's story is a sad one, and even though he truly is a negligent father, I cannot despise him as a character. I find him tragic, but never reprehensible. One day, Li Lan's father casually mentions that the very wealthy Lim family is interested in Li Lan as a potential bride for their son. There's just one caveat. The son is dead. Li Lan would be his ghost bride: wedded to his spirit though he is dead and she very much living. ...my father said, “What, you don’t want to be a widow at almost eighteen? Spend your life in the Lim mansion wearing silk? But you probably wouldn’t be allowed any bright colors.” He broke into his melancholy smile. “Of course I didn’t accept. How would I dare? Though if you didn’t care for love or children, it might not be so bad. You would be housed and clothed all the days of your life.” Her father never pressures her into this decision. He knows his faults, he regrets it, but like an addict, he cannot change his ways. Regardless, he still loves his daughter, he respects her decision...his daughter is a constant reminder to him of his much-beloved wife, whom he has long lost. Li Lan gets invited to the Lim household, and sees the tempting glimpse of the lifestyle that she could have. She also sees and falls in love with someone whom she cannot have: the heir-to-be, the cousin of the deceased, Tian Bai. The more we find out about Tian Bai and Li Lan, the more tragic Li Lan's situation becomes. There is such terrible irony in the situation. More troublesome than the man Li Lan cannot have, is the dead man who wants her. Li Lan is haunted by the spirit of Tian Ching, her proposed ghost husband. He is a bumbling figure who becomes chillingly sadistic in how he comes to haunt Li Lan every night. I absolutely loved Li Lan's nightmares, and how they slowly come to overshadow Li Lan's life. The dreams are gorgeously portrayed, they felt more realistic to me than many of the dreams about which I've read in other books; they feel like dreams I've had, nightmares I've had that have scared me. They are just detailed enough and vague enough for me to feel, as a reader, that they could be real. I felt Li Lan's terror as Tian Chiang becomes a darker character, childlike in his aggression, in his singleminded attitude of wanting what he cannot have. Despite my terror, I felt a slow burning in my stomach. Why should I be married to this autocratic buffoon, alive or dead? “I don’t think so.” “What?” “I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I don’t want to marry you!” Lim Tian Ching’s eyes narrowed into slits. Despite my bold words, my heart quailed. “You don’t have a choice in this matter. I’ll ruin your father.” “Then I’ll become a nun.” “You don’t know the extent of my influence! I’ll haunt you; I’ll haunt your father; I’ll haunt that meddling amah of yours.” He was raging now. “The border officials are on my side, and they said I have a right to you!” “Well, you are dead! Dead, dead, dead!” I shrieked. His threats are not empty promises. Tian Chiang's influence seemingly reaches beyond the afterlife and Li Lan's dreams. He torments and terrorizes her to such an extent that her spirit dissipates...she is turned into a shadow, a living ghost. Forced into the parallel ghostly underworld, Li Lan has to solve a number of mysteries and make some questionable alliances in order to return to the world of the living. Here is where the book weakens. There is just so much going on within it. The plot moves along at a slow pace, a reasonable one, but there are so many mysteries and so many plot lines that it is difficult for me to keep things straight. For example, in the living world, we have: the mystery of Tian Chiang's death, the mystery surrounding Tian Bai, Li Lan's illness and its relation to the haunting, her father's secrecy, the mysterious behaviors of the people in the Lim family, the mysterious character that she encounters at the medium. In the underworld, we have still more mysteries, still more secret plots, still more family mysteries to be untangled. There are ghosts, demons, long-dead relatives, officials of the Courts of Hell, the mystery of bribery and the border officials. And that's not to mention where things intersect. Oy vey! There is a lot of plot going on here, and it oftentimes made my head spin. It was also really confusing in some parts, largely because so much of the book is based in a ghostly parallel world and within dreams. At times, it was hard for me to tell what is actually real, and what is taking place within a dream---which is also real, but just...in a dream. Confusing, yes. Some parts of the book seemed largely extraneous, some people and certain interactions did not contribute much to the plot movement, and it bored me at some points. The characters are very much present, and not unlikeable, but largely lacking in color and in life compared to the setting itself. Li Lan is a sympathetic character, and very much likeable; she is very sheltered, very innocent, but never acts stupid to the point where I was frustrated with her actions. I felt her frustrations at times, Malaya is not traditionally Chinese, and women are given a lot more freedom than those in mainland China. Despite the fact, Li Lan is still helpless and confined in so many ways, and I understood her frustration for the helplessness of her fate. What was happening out in the world of men? Had Tian Bai talked to his uncle again? What were we to do with our debts? How I wished I could go out and make inquiries by myself. If only I had a brother or a cousin to rely on. Despite the fact that my feet were not bound, I was confined to domestic quarters as though a rope tethered my ankle to our front door. Despite all this, I cannot really relate to her as a character, however sympathetic I am to her plight. She is a very small fish in a very large pond, and I can't help but feel that she lacks---life. No pun intended. The romance is very, very light here. However much she swoons over Tian Bai, it never feels like love. Tian Bai is a nice guy, he really is. He is, however, completely lacking in personality. I hate to say it, but he has no character that I can discern. He's the boy next door, who has yet to mature into someone interesting. Li Lan's love for him doesn't feel like love so much as a very sheltered schoolgirl's infatuation with the very first eligible boy she meets...and he truly is. It's not as if Li Lan has had a chance to interact with many guys before, really, none at all. Her obsession with him, her despair over their forbidden-love situation just makes me want to roll my eyes and scoff "Teenagers!" Warning: there is a love triangle within this book. It's wonderful! Spectacular! Nope. Please. You guys know me and my feelings about love triangles. It's forced, it feels unnatural, and it is so very predictable and strange, considering the situations in which Li Lan and the third wheel interact. From the very first moment Li Lan sets eyes on the mysterious stranger, I sighed to myself "Here we go again," and I was right. It wasn't really annoying, because the romance in this book is so light as to be almost nonexistent. As I said before, the star of the book is the setting, the romance and the characters are but the means to the end of the mystery. In summation: this is a beautifully written book, with a wonderfully built atmosphere, bogged down somewhat by rather bland side characters. The plot is interesting, but is too slow at times, and is rendered confusing by the inclusion of dream sequences. Still, it comes highly recommended by me for anyone seeking a fascinating read. It is certainly one of the best books I've read this year in terms of historical and cultural accuracy, and the pure beauty of the writing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Update: I FINALLY got around to watching the TV adaption on Netflix. If you're not watching it, what are you doing????? It's everything that is good about Asian dramas but with a supernatural twist and brilliant cinematography. I'm very picky about fantasy novels. All of my favorites have some unusual hook or quality that make them stand out from the rest. I knew as soon as I started THE GHOST BRIDE that it was going to be one of these st Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Update: I FINALLY got around to watching the TV adaption on Netflix. If you're not watching it, what are you doing????? It's everything that is good about Asian dramas but with a supernatural twist and brilliant cinematography. I'm very picky about fantasy novels. All of my favorites have some unusual hook or quality that make them stand out from the rest. I knew as soon as I started THE GHOST BRIDE that it was going to be one of these stories. Set in late 19th century Malaysia, it is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl named Li Lian, who lives with her opium-addled father and her caring nurse. She's about the age to be married, but the man she should marry is now bound to someone else, and the rich Lim family wants to secure her as a "ghost bride" for their departed son. Li Lian refuses, and that should be the end of it, but soon she starts seeing the dead son, Lim Tian Ching, in her dreams. As his presence becomes increasingly more menacing, Li Lian takes drastic action to escape him which ends up backfiring horribly. Suddenly, she's half here, half in the spirit world, and in her quest to get back to her body, she'll have to venture into the fringes of the Chinese Underworld, learning more than she ever wanted to know about the Lims' sordid history-- and her own. I freaking loved this book. One of my favorite movies is Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, which I rewatched recently, and I loved it for how affirming it is about life, death, and spiritualism. THE GHOST BRIDE is like the Malaysian version of that, only with more depth: there is vengeance from beyond the grave, love and romance that transcends mortal lifetimes, and magic and wonder, as well as the menacing courts of hell in which the departed must pay their dues, Dante's Inferno style, before journeying towards their final stop. It was dark, wondrous, and fascinating. It helps, of course, that Li Lian is a capable heroine with a lot of agency. She acts seventeen, making the foolish mistakes a seventeen-year-old would. We see her rush to meet her challenges head-on with the brashness of youth, and see her fall in and out of love with the whims of a young woman. It isn't until she ends up in the spiritual in-between that she realizes just how much she has taken her youth-- and her life-- for granted. Even though this isn't young adult, I think it would appeal to a young adult audience because so many of the themes are universal, in my opinion. I was a bit hesitant to read this at first because I was not quite as fond of THE NIGHT TIGER, which was interesting and rich in history but hard to follow. But this is a very different book from THE NIGHT TIGER, and the narrative is much neater. So if you didn't care for her other work, I would strongly urge you to read this one anyway, as they are very different beasts. I would dearly love to see this as an animated story. I think it would make an amazing movie and I hope some enterprising film agent buys up the rights because this is such a great story, and it deserves to be on the big screen. P.S. At least one of those stars is for Er Lang. I'd tell you more, but I don't want to drag on. 5 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Orsolya

    Imagine having to marry a deceased bridegroom. Yes, you read that correctly. Although uncommon, this was the practice among some folk-lore practicing Chinese and is the ill-fate of Li Lan , a young woman in 19th century Malyasia in “The Ghost Bride” by Yangzse Choo. Despite some beautiful imagery and scene settings, “The Ghost Bride” is painfully slow. Even though it has the calming zen-like presence common to most Asian historical fiction novels; the plot is halted, as well. Choo has the habit Imagine having to marry a deceased bridegroom. Yes, you read that correctly. Although uncommon, this was the practice among some folk-lore practicing Chinese and is the ill-fate of Li Lan , a young woman in 19th century Malyasia in “The Ghost Bride” by Yangzse Choo. Despite some beautiful imagery and scene settings, “The Ghost Bride” is painfully slow. Even though it has the calming zen-like presence common to most Asian historical fiction novels; the plot is halted, as well. Choo has the habit of telling Li Lan’s story versus allowing the reader to ‘live’ it which is unusual as the story is told in 1st-person narrative. Li Lan never comes alive and is one-dimensional, boring, and not available for attachment. This weakens the pace of the story and filters the characters. “The Ghost Bride” flows too much like a young adult fictional novel as Choo simplifies and overly romanticizes the plot (in a teen lust of way) while also constantly explaining things. Meaning, Choo interrupts dialogue to explain a Chinese term or tradition or even has the characters explain these to each other in a “As you know, Bob…” style common to annoying HF novels. This is not how people think or speak to each in ‘real life’ taking away from the reality of the story. Also annoying is Choo’s overuse of foreshadowing which isn’t subtle, to say the least. Although “The Ghost Bride” is rich in historical context in terms of the story settings; the characters act, think, and respond in a much too modern way in comparison to other Asian historical fiction novels. “The Ghost Bride” is noticeably modernized, reducing the possibility of memorable and moving characters and/or plots. The novel simply lacks that special “oomph”. Even though “The Ghost Bride” has some strong moments, it generally repeats the same events over and over (just in a new way) with pages passing in an uneventful manner. When something does happen, the reader can’t truly feel it. Sadly, the idea behind “The Ghost Bride” is strong but the execution is poor. In fact, instead of being filled with strong folklore, much of the context just seems silly and fantastical. Much of the novel takes place in a supernatural world embedded in a mystery which is less action-packed than the characters make it seem. Albeit creative, this ghost plot is equivalent to the fictional books smothering the marketplace filled with vampires and wolves adding to that YA feel. In a sense, nothing “really” happens in “The Ghost Bride”. This is also reflected onto Li Lan whose character never grows resulting in a flat and even non-existent character arc. “The Ghost Bride” increases in excitement upon reaching the climax which does add to its readability and reader tolerance but it still lacks depth and the elements which would attract an adult reader. I can’t stress enough how much the book follows a YA path. Sometimes it is even less than YA, as I envisioned it as a children’s book. Surprisingly, there are some unexpected occurrences toward the end of the novel which creates some interest and drama. However, this slips into an ending which is too simple and “happily ever after” especially for a novel which attempted to be so adventurous, throughout. “The Ghost Bride” is definitely more of a YA novel than for adults. If you enjoy teen-oriented pieces with supernatural or fantasy theme, then “The Ghost Bride” is perfect. Otherwise, it lacks depth, historical merit, and a moving story. “The Ghost Bride” is a prime example of an overly publicized book falling short of its grandiose claims. SKIP!

  5. 4 out of 5

    kari

    In a word: disappointing. This started out so positively, the first page had me hooked and then it went downhill, fell apart, became tedious and ended up a mess. I think the main problem I have is that Li Lan is such a nothing character, sorry to say. She isn't interesting and has no personality. She has been educated in a fashion, that's the sum total of who she is. And she is like a child, easily distracted and believing of anything anyone anywhere tells her. Someone says this person( a good per In a word: disappointing. This started out so positively, the first page had me hooked and then it went downhill, fell apart, became tedious and ended up a mess. I think the main problem I have is that Li Lan is such a nothing character, sorry to say. She isn't interesting and has no personality. She has been educated in a fashion, that's the sum total of who she is. And she is like a child, easily distracted and believing of anything anyone anywhere tells her. Someone says this person( a good person) is a murderer, she believes it. Someone says this person(another good person)has run off to be a concubine and she believes it. Over and over. She doesn't ever figure anything out for herself. Someone always tells her what she needs to know. She manages to find a spirit/ghost to tell her what she needs to know about the spirit world, who leads her to the Plains of the Dead where she meets yet another person who tells her how things are. She never solves the mystery. The killer finally shows up and says "I did it" and exits. The mystery of who is misbehaving in the afterlife is also told and not shown. We don't even get an idea of what will actually happen when the truth is revealed, other than the perpetrators will be dealt with. Okay then. Obviously, from what I've said, there is almost total telling and little to no showing the plot. Yes, Li Lan floats about here and there and there and here and does a whole lot of nothing. And waits for rescue after stupidly getting herself into trouble. Let me repeat that, she waits and calls out for rescue. This isn't a heroine. She is also easily distracted by the newest pretty shiny thing to cross her path. The ending is poorly done (view spoiler)[with a supernatural romance coming out of nowhere and a selfish girl who, even though she has witnessed firsthand what her almost death did to her loved ones, is willing to throw them and her life aside to run after the new shiny thing. And how convenient that he doesn't keep mistresses so he will marry her. I might have almost been able to believe that the change in her made this her choice if I had seen a change in her. Er Lang tells her that he has changed her, but there is no evidence of it to convince me that this is true and, since this girl has a habit of believing whatever is said to her, I need to see for myself that she has been altered. Not well done. Tian Bai has not done the first thing wrong, but she has decided to be cold to him because he had the audacity to be attracted to her when she wasn't her, he has the nerve to have been attracted to a more adult version of her and not the little girl. Pardon me for being icked out that this stupid girl would dislike a man who finds a grown woman more alluring than a woman who prefers to look like a child. I felt that was just so badly done, pushing forward some illogical reason for readers to think it is okay that she doesn't want the man she wept and woe is me'd over. This didn't make me find her more appealing as a character. BY the end of this book, I simply couldn't stand her. Her reason for her choice is: page 354 "In the darkness of a thousand withered souls, it was Er Lang's hand that I sought, and his voice that I longed to hear." Um, since Tian Bai wasn't capable of going into the land of the dead and she knew of only one being whom she could summon for help, this does NOT ring true. She didn't choose him over all others, he was the only choice available which hardly makes it a choice at all. (hide spoiler)] Didn't like.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adina (taking a break from literary fiction)

    12.01: On offer Today for 1,99. Enjoyed this a lot although I did not have many hopes. I bought the book because i found it as book deal on kindle. I am really happy that I the book read since I learned a lot about old Malaya's culture and history. Also, it was fascinating how the author introduced the reader into the world of the Chinese-Malayan myths about the afterlife. What I liked the most about this book is how beautifully the author describes the sights and culture of Malaya. I remember r 12.01: On offer Today for 1,99. Enjoyed this a lot although I did not have many hopes. I bought the book because i found it as book deal on kindle. I am really happy that I the book read since I learned a lot about old Malaya's culture and history. Also, it was fascinating how the author introduced the reader into the world of the Chinese-Malayan myths about the afterlife. What I liked the most about this book is how beautifully the author describes the sights and culture of Malaya. I remember reading about some food the main character was eating at the party and it made me seriously crave for what she was eating. I do not think this happened in other books I read. She made me see, smell and feel, just like i was there inside the book. The action flows fast enough not to get bored and there is also a love story. However, the magic of the book is in the worlds the author creates, both of the living and the dead.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Library ebook.... It seems two or three times a year I must read a tale that journeys me into the Asian afterlife...the Asian History...the culture....and the family at hand. I enjoy other Asian books by authors Lisa See, Janie Chang, Alice Poon, Tan Twan Eng, and others. This is my first novel by Yangsze Choo. She grew up in Malaysia...and is a 4th generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. She received her undergraduate degree at Harvard....and I’m thrilled to learn she is living here in the Bay Library ebook.... It seems two or three times a year I must read a tale that journeys me into the Asian afterlife...the Asian History...the culture....and the family at hand. I enjoy other Asian books by authors Lisa See, Janie Chang, Alice Poon, Tan Twan Eng, and others. This is my first novel by Yangsze Choo. She grew up in Malaysia...and is a 4th generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. She received her undergraduate degree at Harvard....and I’m thrilled to learn she is living here in the Bay Area ( with her family and several chickens). I have an advance copy of her new book “The Night Tiger”, which I also look forward to reading soon. Back to “The Ghost Bride”....... The wealthy Lim family approached Li Lan’s father about a ghost marriage. Li Lin was 18. Her mother died when she was a child. The Lim family was one of the wealthiest in their town of Malacca.....( later known as Malaysia). Malacca was a port, one of the oldest trading settlements in the east. In the past few hundred years it had passed through Portuguese, Dutch, and finally British rule.....during the 1800’s. Recently the Lim’s family son died...a young man named Lim Tian Ching. It wasn’t a ‘normal’ practice to marry the LIVING to the DEAD. It was rare.....but usually held in order to placate a spirit. Li Lan’s father was addicted to opium. He was withdrawn and bankrupt. She spends a lot of her time with her nursemaid Amah ( almost like an ‘acting’ mother)...but what I found interesting was that Li Lan’s father and Amah had very different ways of thinking. Amah was a shrewd & superstitious woman. She didn’t find the old customs and traditions a joke like her father did. So...at times Li Lan didn’t know what ‘she’ believed. Li Lan seemed very frail to me - not strong. I liked her but she didn’t have much inner strength of who she was for a long time. She cried constantly- at ‘every’ juncture. Cried ... and cried... and cried! ..... when Lim Tian Ching began haunting her ......when she learned of Tian Bai’s arrange marriage... ......and when she was disembodied and wandering the streets of Malacca. Li Lan ‘becomes’ a stronger heroine .....but not until she overdosed on some medicine that puts her in a coma that takes her into the spirit underworld. She becomes a ghost herself. ( I know sounds corny)....but it’s here where we begin to see her strength and bravery. She meets deity Er Lang.....and together they uncover corruption—- a twisty gripping intense story kicks in. Love is found in all the unexpected places to boot! The atmosphere in this novel is captivating and lovely. Some scenes are ghostly creepy. Being transported into a dreamworld adds that magical fantasy element. This was an intriguing tale based on ancient Chinese myths. In the back of the book the author explains some of the Chinese myths....which for me adds to the appreciation of the entire mystical experience between the living and the dead. Utterly original.....beautiful prose...and the story had me wanting to know what was going to happen next.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Beautifully written book with a beautiful cover. It captured my attention from page 1 and it was very hard to put down. There was a not a single page that I did not want to read. The long and short of it is that Li Lan, the daughter of opium addicted and bankrupt man (her Mother passed away when she was a child). Her father receives an offer by a wealthy and powerful family. The Lim family want her to become a ghost bride for their recently deceased son,Lim Tian Ching. . After a visit to the Lim Beautifully written book with a beautiful cover. It captured my attention from page 1 and it was very hard to put down. There was a not a single page that I did not want to read. The long and short of it is that Li Lan, the daughter of opium addicted and bankrupt man (her Mother passed away when she was a child). Her father receives an offer by a wealthy and powerful family. The Lim family want her to become a ghost bride for their recently deceased son,Lim Tian Ching. . After a visit to the Lim family home, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be husband, but also by her desire/crush/interest for the Lim's handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is haunted by Lim Tian Ching. - a suitor who disturbs her in many ways. After visiting a medium and feeling she has no options she "accidentally" takes to much "potion" and slips into a coma. This is really where the magic begins and the story becomes more and more interesting. She is drawn into the Chinese afterlife, full of ghost cities, deceased ancestors, hungry ghosts, demons, magic, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits, and, surprisingly, bureaucracy. In this Chinese afterlife she meets Er Lang, a type of official who becomes/acts as her guardian spirit. With Er Lang she learns that there is more to death (and life) than she ever imagined. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets and in the process learns about her own ancestors and their family history. Such a fantastic book. Highly recommend. See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com

  9. 5 out of 5

    Haze

    I am a Chinese Malaysian, born about a hundred years after the period this story takes place, and even I, jaded as I am about the state Malaysian is in now, find The Ghost Bride fascinating. It's interesting to remember how people lived back then, before Malaysia was Malaysia, when it was still Malaya and under the British rule, how the various immigrants and cultures intersect. What I enjoyed most is imagining how this story could've very well been my own family's story. Not the ghost bride par I am a Chinese Malaysian, born about a hundred years after the period this story takes place, and even I, jaded as I am about the state Malaysian is in now, find The Ghost Bride fascinating. It's interesting to remember how people lived back then, before Malaysia was Malaysia, when it was still Malaya and under the British rule, how the various immigrants and cultures intersect. What I enjoyed most is imagining how this story could've very well been my own family's story. Not the ghost bride part, of course. It is a rare occurrence in itself, but I believe by the time my own grandfather migrated to Malaysia, the practice of marrying a living person to a dead one had all but disappeared. I have heard of a recent case of a marriage between a dead Chinese couple though. No, what I could imagine was the family intrigue, the head of the house with his many wives and concubines, the many children spawned between the wives and concubines, the family politics as the wives and children all try to win their husband/father's favor. The competition between the wives to produce a male heir, the hatred and jealousy between each wife and their children. My own grandfather had three wives and a concubine. My father, the youngest son of the Second Wife, had 7 siblings by his own mother. I am not sure of how many children my grandfather had with his First and Third Wives, but there were many. His concubine produced one son. Although I have heard many stories about my father's childhood, this book really brought to life my imagination of how my grandfather and his family lived, and I assure you, it was a lot more dramatic and quite frankly, uglier, than the family dynamics in the book. My uncle's second wife actually chased my mother around the house with a kitchen knife. However, let's get back to the book; I loved the whole Ghost Bride theme, Yangsze Choo's depiction of the Chinese's beliefs about the different levels of Hell and burning offerings to the dead ancestors. I love how Choo brought the ghost dimension, the Plains of the Dead, and all the other ghostly denizens to life (no pun intended). It felt a little bit like Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and is written just as well as Neverwhere was, perhaps even better. But I might be biased. However, Neverwhere is one of my favorite Gaiman books, and this is me giving really high praise to The Ghost Bride. I can't recommend this book enough. It's amazing and I loved it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicole~

    I see dead people.... Li Lan, the motherless Chinese maiden, whose opium-addicted father has betrothed her to the deceased son of a wealthy family, accidentally finds herself roaming the Plains of the Dead - a terrifying afterworld where ghosts wait around to be judged, punished or reborn to new lives. Within the ghost world, she embarks on a supernatural adventure, filled with highly imaginative, colorful characters including horned demons, corrupt judges and shape-shifting otherwordly beings. I see dead people.... Li Lan, the motherless Chinese maiden, whose opium-addicted father has betrothed her to the deceased son of a wealthy family, accidentally finds herself roaming the Plains of the Dead - a terrifying afterworld where ghosts wait around to be judged, punished or reborn to new lives. Within the ghost world, she embarks on a supernatural adventure, filled with highly imaginative, colorful characters including horned demons, corrupt judges and shape-shifting otherwordly beings. What is it about this ghost world that seemed to create uncanny parallels with the living? Indeed! Yangsze Choo has created hauntingly fantastic worlds of the living and dead. All the elements that have fascinated me in Chinese folklore and mythology are in this novel- traditional Chinese rituals, superstitions, the ominous afterlife, fabled creatures and the portended judgement day. A spellbinding tale that is, at once, mysterious, suspenseful, romantic and otherworldly intriguing.Recommended for the readers who like that type of thing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Margot

    This was a beautifully written and touching novel. Fans of Peony in Love or Hayao Miyazaki's film Spirited Away will not be disappointed. The heroine of this story grows from a demure and spoiled girl into a confident and courageous woman. The world that Yangsze Choo creates is fantastic, more so because they reflect actual beliefs about the afterlife. This book has romance, terror, adventure and even some humor thrown in too. Ghost Bride earned every one of its stars This was a beautifully written and touching novel. Fans of Peony in Love or Hayao Miyazaki's film Spirited Away will not be disappointed. The heroine of this story grows from a demure and spoiled girl into a confident and courageous woman. The world that Yangsze Choo creates is fantastic, more so because they reflect actual beliefs about the afterlife. This book has romance, terror, adventure and even some humor thrown in too. Ghost Bride earned every one of its stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

    “The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them.” The Ghost bride's strength lies in its vivid settings, served by a lush imagery. It shines with its palpable atmosphere, with the fascinating descriptions of Malaysian culture and traditions. I fell in love with the evocative and compelling qualities of  Yangsze Choo's writing. Moreover, as I've mentioned in my weekly check-in, her narration is fantastic and suits the book perfectly - listening to Li Lan's “The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them.” The Ghost bride's strength lies in its vivid settings, served by a lush imagery. It shines with its palpable atmosphere, with the fascinating descriptions of Malaysian culture and traditions. I fell in love with the evocative and compelling qualities of  Yangsze Choo's writing. Moreover, as I've mentioned in my weekly check-in, her narration is fantastic and suits the book perfectly - listening to Li Lan's story enhanced its out-of-the-world feel, and I adored that.  So. What is The Ghost Bride about? Set in Malaysia, at a time when British imperialism extended its claws over half the world, The Ghost Bride follows Li Lan, a seventeen years-old whose genteel family stands on the verge of bankruptcy. One day, Li Lan's debts-ridden father informs her that Tian Chiang, heir of the wealthy and powerful Lim family, has proposed. Only problem? He's a tool, and oh! He's dead. Li Lan is horrified, of course, even more so when he starts - literally - haunting her dreams, his tantrums becoming scarier and scarier. It doesn't help that she has convinced herself that she's in love with his cousin, and heir-to-be, who is very much alive (she doesn't. It's a childish infatuation, at best : her vision of love is overdramatic and immature but it never annoyed me - how can we be anything else than lenient and understanding, given her situation?). Tian Bai, the recipient of her "love", is perfectly nice, I suppose. Yet because he's so very bland, I could never care for him. I didn't mind, though. But I'll come back to this. Riddled by nightmares and horror, Li Lan is desperate to get rid of her unwelcome suitor, even though her acceptance would mean her father's cancellation of debt. And who can blame her? Faced with mysteries and not knowing whom she can turn to and whom she can trust, she embarks in a dangerous journey, from her city of Malacca to the realms of the dead, where she'll have to navigate between ferocious foes and unexpected allies. What about the pacing? Almost all the reviews - even positive ones - I read complained about the middle and the slow pace but, I don't know, I never felt bored or even impatient. I'm pretty sure that's because the narrator's voice lulled me. Granted, there was a moment - the third wife, if you know, you know - when I felt a tiny bit confused about who was who BUT 1) it lasted a hot minute and 2) I was flowing. How could I mind, really? HOWEVER. As I said, I've never felt bored and genuinely enjoyed the middle part as well but wow, the last part was something else entirely, I understand why readers have been raving about it. It!! Was!! Awesome!!! I couldn't listen fast enough, feeling so much - As Li Lan, I was SO angry, I was SEETHING *shivers* I was SO INVESTED, and the ending made me so happy, OKAY? ... And the romance? Before I finish, I wanted to add a few words about the romance aspect of the novel and Li Lan's love interest(s) in particular - yes, there's a plural there. If I can understand the sentiment - truly, I do - for once I didn't share this particular complaint. First, Tian Bai and Li Lan. Their "romance" plays such a tiny place in the book, all things considered. Sure, Li Lan thinks about him, but their scenes are very rare, and you know, what I loved the most about her is the way she evolves throughout the story. When the situation demands it, she grows, and I was 100% here for that - there's something so satisfying in a coming of age story, don't you think? There's a love-triangle of sorts, but for once I genuinely enjoyed it, especially because *cough* I very much enjoyed Er Lang's character and all of their scenes together *cough*.... and that's all I'll say about it. Bottom line : The Ghost Bride is not a perfect book, maybe, but it was perfect for me. I've talked about my "professional" rating system in my review for Sorcery of Thorns *cough* don't mention it *cough* and it was again a great help here, but there's something else I took into account when I decided on my rating : will I reread this book? Absolutely. I will, oh so gladly. Had I not listen to it, perhaps I wouldn't have rounded-up my rating, but the stellar performance of the author in the audiobook made it impossible for me not to. In the end, I'm writing reviews to shout into the wind the names of the books that touch me, enchant me, in the hope that someone will listen. Can you hear me now? CW - fatphobia, sexual harassment, death For more of my reviews, please visit :

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink

    Oh, oh my. The ending left me breathless. I loved this so much. However, I did struggle with the middle portion of this book, but it didn't take away my love for the characters or the story. I think I missed some key information, and I felt like I was wandering around in the dark more so than Li Lan herself. Okay, so I'm going to keep this short and without a personal recap or summary. Let me tell you what I loved: the writing (lovely), the mystery + mythology, ER LANG AND ALL HIS SCENES, and pret Oh, oh my. The ending left me breathless. I loved this so much. However, I did struggle with the middle portion of this book, but it didn't take away my love for the characters or the story. I think I missed some key information, and I felt like I was wandering around in the dark more so than Li Lan herself. Okay, so I'm going to keep this short and without a personal recap or summary. Let me tell you what I loved: the writing (lovely), the mystery + mythology, ER LANG AND ALL HIS SCENES, and pretty much the entire beginning, where Li Lan is thrust into the mystery of Tian Ching, what happened to him, and how she's going to get rid of his ghost. Unlike the tv show (not impressed, Netflix), Li Lan herself goes into a kind of coma and must figure out how to return to her living body. That's where I got lost. I couldn't figure out what all her goals were and why some of the stragglers we meet along the way mattered. I just wasn't following. BUT. Er Lang entered, and I'd already heard so much about him, so I had to keep reading. And oh, I am so glad I did. Once her goals became clearer and the mystery with Er Lang deepened, I was hooked. I loved everything about their interactions and banter. SoooOOooo if you love mystery, romance, beautiful prose and EXTREMELY satisfying endings, please pick up this gorgeous book. Legit, the last line gave me the best kind of chills. The best kind. Ps. Visit me on Instagram @reverieandink!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alice Poon

    An enthralling story about the afterlife in Chinese myths, with unexpected twists and turns, though in some places it dragged a little and in others the sensibilities a tad too modern. The writing was vivid and evocative. I'm giving this novel 4.3 stars. An enthralling story about the afterlife in Chinese myths, with unexpected twists and turns, though in some places it dragged a little and in others the sensibilities a tad too modern. The writing was vivid and evocative. I'm giving this novel 4.3 stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Exceedingly enjoyable fantasy novel set in the Chinese community of historical Malaya, where Li Lin's down-on-his-luck father proposes she become a ghost bride, ie marry a dead guy so he can have a wife in the afterlife. This spools out into a murder mystery, plus a fantasy rooted in Chinese myth and folklore and funereal beliefs, plus a romance that doesn't go where you initially think, but definitely goes to the right place. Our heroine is a bit wet at first but shines up her spine as the book Exceedingly enjoyable fantasy novel set in the Chinese community of historical Malaya, where Li Lin's down-on-his-luck father proposes she become a ghost bride, ie marry a dead guy so he can have a wife in the afterlife. This spools out into a murder mystery, plus a fantasy rooted in Chinese myth and folklore and funereal beliefs, plus a romance that doesn't go where you initially think, but definitely goes to the right place. Our heroine is a bit wet at first but shines up her spine as the book develops, and the setting is vivid and really creepy at points. Very good fun.

  16. 5 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    The first chapters of The Ghost Bride had me hooked. I have always enjoyed reading about Asian families, Asian history and culture. The audio is narrated quite beautifully by the author, and it was very calming to listen to her as the atmosphere and characters were formed. Then the dream sequences began and an endless journey into an underground spirit world. I came off that hook I was attached to real fast, as new character after new character was introduced and the storyline went off into fant The first chapters of The Ghost Bride had me hooked. I have always enjoyed reading about Asian families, Asian history and culture. The audio is narrated quite beautifully by the author, and it was very calming to listen to her as the atmosphere and characters were formed. Then the dream sequences began and an endless journey into an underground spirit world. I came off that hook I was attached to real fast, as new character after new character was introduced and the storyline went off into fantasies and confusing subplots that I wanted no part of.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    “The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them.” So What’s It About? Li Lan is the daughter of a poor opium-addicted scholar in the British colony of Malaya. She has woefully limited prospects until a strange offer comes: the wealthy Lim family wants her to be a ghost bride for the family’s son who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Soon Li Lan starts to become haunted by the odious dead son, making nightly trips to the Chinese afterlife. When she becomes “The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them.” So What’s It About? Li Lan is the daughter of a poor opium-addicted scholar in the British colony of Malaya. She has woefully limited prospects until a strange offer comes: the wealthy Lim family wants her to be a ghost bride for the family’s son who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Soon Li Lan starts to become haunted by the odious dead son, making nightly trips to the Chinese afterlife. When she becomes trapped there it will take all of her willpower and resourcefulness to survive and return to life. CW for sexual violence What I Thought (note: I’m getting rid of a separate section to talk about a book’s feminism because that was stupid) I started this year’s Spookening with The Ghost Bride and the first thing that I have to say is that while I’ll probably be complaining a lot in this review I do have to say that I think this is simply a very, very well-written and enjoyable book. It was an absolute pleasure to read and even as I found the critical part of my mind noticing things that could have been different I still appreciated every minute of reading it. I think the real star of the show is the beautifully written and inventive depiction of the Chinese afterlife. The different spirits are all incredibly interesting and I loved spending snippets of time coming to know their stories as well as seeing the strange qualities and properties of the afterlife. Li Lan has a lot of learning to do when she enters the afterlife and I learned right along with her, coming to understand the fickle rules that ghosts must abide by and the strange and ethereal nature of the world of ghosts. The world of the living is just as well written as I also loved Choo’s attention to historical detail. Colonial Malaya is meticulously realized and beautifully described with rich touches: “Steamed pomfret, the silvery sides of the fish veiled in soy sauce and shallot oil. Fried pigeons. Tender strips of jellyfish quivered under a sprinkling of sesame seeds; and I was delighted to see my favorite kerabu, a dish of fiddlehead ferns dressed with shallots, chilies, and tiny dried shrimp in coconut milk.“ I will say, however, that I’m not particularly fond of Li Lan as a protagonist, simply because she just doesn’t do much by herself. In the start of the story she learns to take care of herself in the spirit world and I really appreciated how resourceful she was. I wish the story would continue that way but as it progresses she seems o rely more and more on other people to tell her what to do and get her out of scrape after scrape. Er Lang rescues her 5 times by my count at the end of the book and even though she spends the book trying to discover who the murderer is she only ever has a vague suspicion. She simply approaches the person she vaguely suspects and is like “Hey…did you do it?” and then the murderer inexplicably confesses to her. I think my irritation with Er Lang’s continual rescues also has to do with how generally annoying I found him to be. There’s something of a love triangle in this book and ultimately Li Lan realizes that her feelings for Tian Bai are simply a kind of impetuous puppy love because she doesn’t really know him but my problem with this is that she ends up with Er Lang instead, but I don’t really feel like she knows him any better. It just turns out that he’s stunningly attractive and also we learn that he’s really great with his tongue so #goals. Not to dismiss the importance of tongue action but it’s kind of hard for me to care about that when he’s saying patronizing things like this constantly: “Self-control is a quality I’ve always admired. Especially in a woman.” “For a young woman, you seem to have a rare gift for silence.” “You really are naive. It’s rather sweet, in a way.” So yeah, it’s one of those romances. Of course Er Lang looks like a straight up woke king in comparison to all the lecherous men in the afterlife who are constantly drooling and pawing after Li Lan and talking about putting her to work in the bedroom, which…yeah. It’d definitely be interesting to explore the story’s backdrop subjection of women a little bit more but as it was I felt like it was kind of just There. One way that Choo might have done this could have been to flesh out the stories of the other women Li Lan meets but nearly of them beyond her mother and Amah are simply condemned because they’re beautiful women who are largely characterized by that beauty and their sexuality. You have the woman who Li Lan thinks is her mother, the Third Concubine and Fan who all fit this mold. On one hand they’re clearly not good people at all and that’s fine, but I do question the decision to make all of them vapid, nasty and cruel women who also happen to be beautiful and characterized heavily in terms of their sexuality. I particularly felt for the Third Concubine – this young girl was discarded like trash by the man she loved and forced to be a stranger’s concubine while she watched the man who deserted her fall in love and be blissfully happy with another woman. Nothing could justify what she did to Li Lan’s mother but at the same time I wish that her story had been explored in more detail because it could have been incredibly powerful and interesting. Even thought I didn't really care for the central romance I'll confess that I thought the ending was perfectly lovely. I know there's a Netflix adaptation of this book and I enjoyed it more than enough to look forward to watching it too!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    4.5★ "The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them." Now, I wouldn't have thought this was my sort of read at all, but it shows how wrong you can be. More than what I was expecting as I knew there would be the fantastic and paranormal,this was also a (somewhat tepid) romance and a murder mystery. Ms Choo's use of evocative language is assured - quite amazing that this book was a debut. Ms Choo allows us to pick delicately through Li Lan's 4.5★ "The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them." Now, I wouldn't have thought this was my sort of read at all, but it shows how wrong you can be. More than what I was expecting as I knew there would be the fantastic and paranormal,this was also a (somewhat tepid) romance and a murder mystery. Ms Choo's use of evocative language is assured - quite amazing that this book was a debut. Ms Choo allows us to pick delicately through Li Lan's complicated beliefs - every bit as complicated as life in nineteenth century Malaya would be. I just accepted everything I was shown. Quite wonderful. I'm only knocking half a star off, because in the middle it dragged a bit & because I guessed the two twists quite easily. https://wordpress.com/view/carolshess...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    While this started promisingly and evocatively, it quickly devolved into an overly drawn-out, languorous, tepid fable, and I progressively ceased to care about any of its characters or about what would happen to them. The first-person voice is incredibly devoid of spark or personality, and while aspects of the settings (both 19th-century Malaya and the spirit world) are interesting, I need far more than trappings to compel me to care about what’s occurring in those settings. I had high hopes for While this started promisingly and evocatively, it quickly devolved into an overly drawn-out, languorous, tepid fable, and I progressively ceased to care about any of its characters or about what would happen to them. The first-person voice is incredibly devoid of spark or personality, and while aspects of the settings (both 19th-century Malaya and the spirit world) are interesting, I need far more than trappings to compel me to care about what’s occurring in those settings. I had high hopes for this, but am ending up quite disappointed by it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    Interesting and imaginative fantasy about Li Lan, a 17-year-old girl living in Malaya (Malaysia) in 1893. Her mother has died and she lives with her opium-addicted father, her nursemaid Amah and several servants. Her father is deep in debt and proposes offering Li Lan to the wealthy Lim family as a "ghost bride" to their recently deceased only son, Lim Tian Ching. Li Lan is horrified at the idea of being a bride to a dead groom and refuses. The next day, an invitation comes from the Lim family, Interesting and imaginative fantasy about Li Lan, a 17-year-old girl living in Malaya (Malaysia) in 1893. Her mother has died and she lives with her opium-addicted father, her nursemaid Amah and several servants. Her father is deep in debt and proposes offering Li Lan to the wealthy Lim family as a "ghost bride" to their recently deceased only son, Lim Tian Ching. Li Lan is horrified at the idea of being a bride to a dead groom and refuses. The next day, an invitation comes from the Lim family, requesting Li Lan’s presence at a mahjong party. Such an honor cannot be refused, so Li Lan attends. While wandering around the Lim family’s mansion, she meets handsome Tian Bai, Lim Tian Ching’s cousin and heir to the Lim fortune, and falls in love with him. That night her dreams begin – dreams in which a vain and pompous Lim Tian Ching begins to court her in the surreal world of the dead. The disturbing dreams persist and Amah takes Li Lan to a medium, who offers her a strange mixture of powders to mix in water and drink before sleeping. The powders offer temporary relief from the dreams, but one night Li Lan dreams again that Lim Tian Ching comes to her. This time he tells Li Lan that Tian Bai is his murderer. Li Lan awakens to further bad news – Tian Bai is to be married. Distraught, Li Lan takes a generous amount of the mysterious powders to help her sleep – and slips into a coma and the afterworld. The afterworld is where the majority of the story takes place – and this is where this book shines. The Chinese notions of the afterlife are woven with the author’s own supernatural inventions. There are hungry ghosts, dragons, demons, spirits and also quite a bureaucracy in the afterlife. The atmosphere created by the author is the real star here. I thought it was fascinating. Recommend if you like historical fiction mixed with fantasy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    I really enjoyed this strange, off-kilter magical realist tale of the role of women in traditional cultures: Necessary, but might as well be dead for all the respect they're paid. Until they're necessary. Then, once the problem is solved, status quo ante. Unless you're Li Lan.... Big plus for the gloriously weird Chinese afterlife painted by Choo's ghost bride, Li Lan. Her, well, matter-of-factness in the face of goins-on that'd make me feel I was insane was pitch-perfect and the sheer gonzo "rig I really enjoyed this strange, off-kilter magical realist tale of the role of women in traditional cultures: Necessary, but might as well be dead for all the respect they're paid. Until they're necessary. Then, once the problem is solved, status quo ante. Unless you're Li Lan.... Big plus for the gloriously weird Chinese afterlife painted by Choo's ghost bride, Li Lan. Her, well, matter-of-factness in the face of goins-on that'd make me feel I was insane was pitch-perfect and the sheer gonzo "right, this is what I'm doing and this is where we are so just deal with it suckas" prose...modulated madness...is heaven to read. All those traps of OTT verbiage that frequently sink books presenting "exotic" cultures to non-native audiences are simply ignored. One thing I'm not too big on is the patness of the ending. The Big Reveal was curiously flat for me, lacking as it did a sense of organic development from Li Lan's adventures. But it's clearly not a deal breaker, look at those four shiny stars. Thank you to the publisher for providing me a review copy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gabi

    3.5 Stars I finished the book some days ago and since then was pondering If I should round up or down. There is a lot I loved in this narration. The Chinese and Malaysian myths and culture were wonderful to read. I especially loved the idea of the settings of the afterlife dependend on the burned offerings. The explanations thereof in the afterword were very much appreciated. The characterisation of Li Lan, the mc, was convincingly done. It was nice to see a character depicted true to her backgrou 3.5 Stars I finished the book some days ago and since then was pondering If I should round up or down. There is a lot I loved in this narration. The Chinese and Malaysian myths and culture were wonderful to read. I especially loved the idea of the settings of the afterlife dependend on the burned offerings. The explanations thereof in the afterword were very much appreciated. The characterisation of Li Lan, the mc, was convincingly done. It was nice to see a character depicted true to her background of upbringing and heritage. This made her very relatable. The flow of the narration was dragging in parts, but not in such a prominent way that it disturbed my enjoyment. Where I had problems was with the romance part of it. In general I'm no fan of romances, but I especially dislike them when they are done in a clichéd way like it was done here. The mythological/ghost/afterlife part was absolutely splendid. The romance part was downright 'meh' and too prominent to be overlooked, which would result in the average 3 stars. BUT I did listen to the audiobook narrated by the author herself and her voice is simply wonderful, liquid silk with expressive intonation. This is easily worth a star on its own. Yangsze Choo is an author to look out for. I already bought the next novel.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    This is probably not a book I should have read, I think it is brilliantly written and it is certainly about a little explored subject. The tone is almost dreamy, which is expected because so much of the book takes place in dreams. Which leads me to my problem with the book, I love learning about new cultures, so Malaysia as the country was enticing. It was just too much fantasy for me, too much of the dreaming and the dead. Just not my cup of tea, but I know others have loved and will love this This is probably not a book I should have read, I think it is brilliantly written and it is certainly about a little explored subject. The tone is almost dreamy, which is expected because so much of the book takes place in dreams. Which leads me to my problem with the book, I love learning about new cultures, so Malaysia as the country was enticing. It was just too much fantasy for me, too much of the dreaming and the dead. Just not my cup of tea, but I know others have loved and will love this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Li Lian

    Having grown up in Singapore, with a mother from Malaysia, I was thrilled to read a book set in Malacca, a town I visited many times in my childhood. Yangsze Choo has done a fantastic job of creating the mood and place of Malacca. She has clearly done her homework! Her novel is a great read, full of adventure and twists and turns, I could barely put it down once I started into it. I loved the detailed descriptions of the clothing and food. It made me nostalgic for yummy Malaysian food! I see a seq Having grown up in Singapore, with a mother from Malaysia, I was thrilled to read a book set in Malacca, a town I visited many times in my childhood. Yangsze Choo has done a fantastic job of creating the mood and place of Malacca. She has clearly done her homework! Her novel is a great read, full of adventure and twists and turns, I could barely put it down once I started into it. I loved the detailed descriptions of the clothing and food. It made me nostalgic for yummy Malaysian food! I see a sequel in the making.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    5/5stars This was AWESOME. someone described this to me as "Three Souls meets Spirited Away" and I can't agree more. This book is an incredibly entertaining, incredibly endearing, incredibly fast-paced and interesting book about a girl who is proposed to become a ghost bride - aka; the bride of a person who has died. When she rejects the marriage, the ghost of the boy whose family proposed to her begins to haunt her and she has to go into the spirit world to find out hidden secrets and learn more 5/5stars This was AWESOME. someone described this to me as "Three Souls meets Spirited Away" and I can't agree more. This book is an incredibly entertaining, incredibly endearing, incredibly fast-paced and interesting book about a girl who is proposed to become a ghost bride - aka; the bride of a person who has died. When she rejects the marriage, the ghost of the boy whose family proposed to her begins to haunt her and she has to go into the spirit world to find out hidden secrets and learn more about whats going on. WOW I love things about the spirit world?? its SO cool also this showed me so much culture in such a concise, not info-dumpy way to show how other cultures handle their dead and what they think happens to people after they die. it was FASCINATING. The writing was WONDERFUL, so engaging, so beautiful but so simple, I absolutely loved it. The characters are so interesting, have such strong voices and I loved all the relationships, platonic and not, that we get throughout the story. The story is also SO interesting that Yangsze Choo was able to make such a whimsical, fantastical story from such a small, old idea in Chinese/Malaysian culture. Absolutely loved this, HIGHLY recommend if you like a lot of the same books as me!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy | Foxy Blogs

    I happened up The Ghost Bride while at the library the other day. The gorgeous cover caught my eye. My daughter gave me a mini lesson about Chinese culture and what a ghost bride is. -------- Li Lan is a teen girl whose mother passed away a long time ago. Her father has been offered a deal where his money troubles would go away IF his daughter, Li Lan, would marry the Lim family’s deceased son. The Lim's are wealthy and they want their restless deceased son's passage to the afterlife to be a cal I happened up The Ghost Bride while at the library the other day. The gorgeous cover caught my eye. My daughter gave me a mini lesson about Chinese culture and what a ghost bride is. -------- Li Lan is a teen girl whose mother passed away a long time ago. Her father has been offered a deal where his money troubles would go away IF his daughter, Li Lan, would marry the Lim family’s deceased son. The Lim's are wealthy and they want their restless deceased son's passage to the afterlife to be a calm one. The spirit marriage of the living to the deceased would be beneficial for everyone. Except Li Lan doesn't want this arrangement and to make matters worse Lim Tian Ching (the deceased son of the wealthy Lims) is haunting Li Lan in her dreams. "If I married Lim Tian Ching in a spirit wedding, it would satisfy almost everyone, I thought. Amah would have a better old age; my father's debts would be canceled. .... while I was visited nightly by a ghost. I couldn't bear it." Li Lan falls ill and while her body is sick she crosses over into the world her potential husband haunts her from. In this, afterlife she sets out on a mission to find out why the Lim family is insistent she marry their dead son. Along the way, she crosses paths with many spiritual beings. Her world is twisted upside down from all discoveries she makes as she tries to reenter her unconscious body. THE GHOST BRIDE is a standalone book. It’s the author's debut novel - published in 2013. I had both the book and audio from the library. The author narrators the audio and I really enjoyed listening to it. I was excited to find out that Netflix is making this into six-episode drama. You can see a Netflix preview below. Netflix preview Follow Foxy Blogs at: Foxy Blogs ♥ Twitter ♥ Instagram ♥ Facebook

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    The title of the book captured my attention immediately. I just had to read it. Li Lan, the eighteen-year-old narrator stemmed from a Chinese family who settled in Malaya in the 1800s. Although there were various other influences in their lives from the multitude of cultures present at the time, including the British influences, her family, as most Chinese families, still maintained their own belief systems. Hence it resulted in her being subjected to one of the traditions of providing prosperity The title of the book captured my attention immediately. I just had to read it. Li Lan, the eighteen-year-old narrator stemmed from a Chinese family who settled in Malaya in the 1800s. Although there were various other influences in their lives from the multitude of cultures present at the time, including the British influences, her family, as most Chinese families, still maintained their own belief systems. Hence it resulted in her being subjected to one of the traditions of providing prosperity and catering to all the needs of the deceased in the afterlife. When her formerly affluent father landed in dire straits, losing his inherited wealth, he asked her to become the ghost bride to the deceased son of the Lim family. Through the meddling of his mother, a grieving woman, Lim Tian Ching accessed Li Lan's dreams, haunting and harassing her to become his wife. When she refused, ghost started to fly. Literary! Through different avenues and assistants, she managed to meet up with more deceased members of both her and her supposedly new family-in-law, resulting in one fast-paced exhilarating journey through different worlds with different tutors in the form of different characters that died and were waiting to be called to Judgement Day. They would ultimately teach her enough so that she can meet love on her own terms in the end. And what a surprise it was. ****** I haven't read a book like this before and did not want to be trapped in a spiritual world much longer than the first few chapters, as it made me uncomfortable, but the writing was so good, that I just could not stop reading after I started! In the process I learnt so much more about all the different Malay cultures - I even looked up how to roast water melon seeds the right way. The book is a complete testament to Chinese food, languages, beliefs, and cultural practices. Informative, thrilling, and evocative. Mmm, I did not believe in ghosts before, but now I wonder.... ;-)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jody McGrath

    Li Lan is a young woman from a family that was once prestigious but is in decline in Malaya, 1893. Unbeknownst to her, she had been betrothed to the second heir of the very rich Lin Family, Tian Bai. But when the first heir dies, the family wants Tian Bai to marry for status and they ask Li Lan's father if she will marry their dead son and become his ghost bride. This is a seldom used custom where a living person is married to a dead person and assumes the role of their widow for the rest of the Li Lan is a young woman from a family that was once prestigious but is in decline in Malaya, 1893. Unbeknownst to her, she had been betrothed to the second heir of the very rich Lin Family, Tian Bai. But when the first heir dies, the family wants Tian Bai to marry for status and they ask Li Lan's father if she will marry their dead son and become his ghost bride. This is a seldom used custom where a living person is married to a dead person and assumes the role of their widow for the rest of their lives. After refusing, the spirit of the Dead son starts to haunt Li Lan, setting her on a journey she might not recover from. This book was very interesting. I was unaware of all of these customs and traditions and beliefs. At times I was a little confused because I didn't have any previous knowledge, but Choo does a fantastic job of explaining most things in a way that anyone could understand. My only complaint was that the book ended too soon. I wanted to know what happened next! A great read and I learned a lot about other's culture.

  29. 4 out of 5

    YouKneeK

    The Ghost Bride was pretty different from anything I’ve read lately. I can’t remember the last time I read any sort of ghost story. There were things I both liked and disliked about it, but the fun of reading a ghost story pushed it more to the “like” side. The main character is a seventeen-year-old girl named Li Lan, and the book starts off with her father asking her half-jokingly if she wants to be a ghost bride – to marry a boy who recently died. A ghost marriage is a real Chinese tradition, a The Ghost Bride was pretty different from anything I’ve read lately. I can’t remember the last time I read any sort of ghost story. There were things I both liked and disliked about it, but the fun of reading a ghost story pushed it more to the “like” side. The main character is a seventeen-year-old girl named Li Lan, and the book starts off with her father asking her half-jokingly if she wants to be a ghost bride – to marry a boy who recently died. A ghost marriage is a real Chinese tradition, and this is sort of based on that. Li Lan of course has dreams of falling in love and having a real marriage and has no interest in this proposal. However, the “ghost” aspect of the proposed ghost marriage is a bit more literal than anybody realizes at first and the dead boy in question is more willful than the average dead person. It may not be as simple as saying no. One aspect of this story that I really liked was the Chinese mythology, particularly surrounding the afterlife. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know, such as the idea of burning things for the dead so they could have those things in the afterlife. There’s a brief but somewhat interesting section at the end of the book, at least in my edition, where the author talks a little bit more about what parts of the story were based on real mythology and what parts were artistic license. I wasn’t crazy for the main character, though. She was too wimpy and weepy for me. She often neglected to take or delayed taking what seemed like obvious steps and her successes seemed to rely over-much on luck and on ending up in the right place at the right time. I know much of her behavior was probably realistic based on the sheltered life she had led, and I think the author tries to give us the sense that Li Lan is stepping out of her comfort zone and being more assertive because she knows she has to, but her character type is one that I typically find frustrating and there was nothing that really made her rise above that for me. There was also an annoying fairy-tale-like trend that beautiful/handsome characters were usually good while ugly characters were usually bad. Romance is also pretty much a constant thread running through the story in various forms, although I expected that would probably be the case based on the title. That was a little tiresome at times, but I’ve definitely read worse. In general, I did enjoy the story quite a bit. I think I probably enjoyed it more than I might have if I read ghost stories more often and/or if I was more familiar with Chinese mythology. The story was a bit predictable because things were telegraphed far enough ahead to prevent much surprise as the story took various turns. However, the story didn’t go where I had expected it to go when I first started reading it and I probably would have been more surprised by some aspects of it if not for the foreshadowing. I feel comfortable giving this a 3.5 star rating, but it was really difficult to decide which way to round for Goodreads. I enjoyed this quite a bit more than a 3-star read, but 4 stars also seems too high. In the end, I decided to be generous and round up to 4 because I did mostly enjoy reading it, I learned some new things, and it reminded me that ghost stories can be fun reads.

  30. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    ‘If we’re going to have a wedding, maybe we should have an exorcism first.’ ‘Are you mad?’ she said. ‘That’s the last thing anybody wants to hear before a wedding!’ Finally, finally, I got to read Ghost Bride. It's been on my kindle for such a long time, I nearly forgot about it. I had tried to get into the book previously but never found a way into the story. This time the Malaysian setting, the excursion into the Chinese spirit world and the unlikely murder mystery grabbed me almost from the st ‘If we’re going to have a wedding, maybe we should have an exorcism first.’ ‘Are you mad?’ she said. ‘That’s the last thing anybody wants to hear before a wedding!’ Finally, finally, I got to read Ghost Bride. It's been on my kindle for such a long time, I nearly forgot about it. I had tried to get into the book previously but never found a way into the story. This time the Malaysian setting, the excursion into the Chinese spirit world and the unlikely murder mystery grabbed me almost from the start. Unfortunately, the book started to flag at the end of the first third and the love triangle in the last third had me roll my eyes so often, I nearly skimmed to the end. What can I say, I can't stand love triangles and in this particularly one, I just wanted to shout at our heroine: "The dragon. Always choose the dragon."

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