Revisiting the World of Wealth With ‘China Rich Girlfriend’

<Be warned: This review contains spoilers. Go read the first book!>

Have you read the first book? Good. Let’s get started then.

Kevin Kwan did it again. His second book “China Rich Girlfriend” had me enthralled from start to finish, made some profound points and even added in a huge twist that I barely saw coming. In Kwan’s latest story, readers get to see what comes next for many of the same characters who appeared in “Crazy Rich Asians.” At the forefront of course are Nick and Rachel and my dreams were fulfilled (SPOILER ALERT) seeing them get married. Along with these two lovebirds we also get to follow up with Astrid and Michael after Michael’s business goes big. And did I mention Kitty Pong busts her way onto center stage at the beginning of this story? That’s right, minor character clawing her way into a major role! But honestly, would we expect less from Kitty? (She is quite the go-getter from what I remember in the first book and by the end of this one I wanted to high five her.)

We are also introduced to a new cast of characters from Hong Kong, where the main setting of this story takes places. These characters include Rachael’s actual father, his wife (who isn’t very happy about Rachael), their son Carlton, and his “she isn’t my girlfriend” girlfriend Colette.

As with his first book in this trilogy, Kwan makes sure to pull readers in with some gossip column-esque drama while simultaneously pointing out some interesting things about this unique socio-economic group. The best part is how well he weaves these meaningful messages into the actions of his characters.

The biggest statements I saw Kwan making in “China Rich Girlfriend” included the differences between how the older and newer generations spend their money, how money can poison people and actually make their lives harder than when they were poor, and how much work actually goes into being “socially acceptable” in these upper class crowds. As always the characters that bring out these ideas are placed in quite the contrast to Nick and Rachael, the grounding couple. Let me give you a brief overview of what I mean:

  • Nick and Rachael: Despite Nick being quite loaded, he has a down-to-earth personality even if he is a little air-headed about just how rich he is. This is complimented by Rachael who was raised like many people with a hard working parent who taught her to value what she has, not to be foolish with money, to value tradition and family etc. These are the characters most readers can relate to because they are like many of us: grounded, not ‘I’m flaunting everything I have’ rich, and just truly good people.
  • Astrid and Michael: Oh these two break my heart. In the first book we see Astrid and Michael torn apart because Michael feels upset by not making as much as his wife or her family. Here we see what happens when he gets money. Here’s a hint: It destroys the good parts of him. He turns into the worst kind of rich guy, obsessed with cars and weapons and making a good impression. And, shocker, it takes a toll on his marriage with Astrid.
  • Kitty Pong: Kitty used to be a soap opera star and an ‘adult film’ star who dated Nick’s cousin in the first book and then married up, hard. Kitty is the character that has to literally re-write her own history to be seen as socially acceptable in the higher class society. Throughout the book we see Kitty go from flashy, magazine cover fodder to someone who is able to be allowed into the best social clubs. Don’t worry though, Kitty is still working on her own goals behind the scenes and the way it ties together is amazing. However, her place in this story gives readers a new respect for how much actually goes into being a part of the upper crust crowd in this part of the world.
  • Colette and Carlton: This duo is made up of Carlton, Rachel’s half-brother, and his…girlfriend? Not girlfriend? It’s complicated and I’m calling her his lover. These two embody the new generation and their spending practices. They spend on whatever they what and often make quite the show of it with random shopping trips to Paris, air conditioned yards (no I’m not joking) and more. Carlton and Colette stand as the contrast to the older generation who is either much more careful about their spending or much quieter (examples include huge stocks of rip-off items or private shopping sprees that no one would ever know about).

All of this is wrapped up into very intriguing story-telling and a slightly different writing style than Kwan used before. In this second book readers see emails, magazine columns, text messages and more to give them a better view of what is going on and how the characters are interacting. It is an interesting change that added to the gossip column feel of the tale but also seemed to help keep the story as engaging and subtly meaningful as the first.

To wrap up, I want to give my kudos to Kwan for another job well-done. I can’t wait for the third book and seriously if you haven’t read the first go check it out. These stories are great summer reads!

Want to see my review of the first book? Go here →The fascinating world of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

Written by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.

Bae of Blood

Item under review: Blu-ray-Claudine-Auger/dp/B003Y3ZHUS/ref=tmm_mfc_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;qid=1465678637&amp;sr=8-2

If you want to begin your journey into the world of Italian Exploitation cinema, consider Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, Carnage, Last House on the Left Part II, and so, so many other alternate titles) your ground zero. Famously constructed around “13 characters, 13 murders” Bay of Blood also set the template for all slasher films that followed its trendsetting run thru Drive-ins in the early ‘70’s. Viewed today, it is still a potent experience, with considerable levels of gore and bloodletting. The genesis of the project was Bava and his screenwriters dreaming up murder sequences, and then constructing a plot to connect these set pieces. While this seems standard for horror films now, for its time this approach was revolutionary.

With a murder occurring every 5-8 minutes, Bay of Blood did more than any other film to set the temp for the modern slasher film.

Concerning the quest for various groups of nefarious characters trying to gain the inheritance of a desirable waterfront property (the titular Bay), no sympathetic characters emerge. Like an insane game of checkers, one group bumps off another after another, characters are introduced in smash cuts while bumping off already established characters. The victims are perpetrators and the perpetrators are victims. The real, true, villain is greed and man’s inhumanity to man.

Mario Bava was a master of economy. When the script required a forest to run through, and the location was barren, Bava glued branches to some stands and ran them in front of the camera to replicate a real forest. To accomplish long tracking shots and dollies, he used a child’s toy wagon that he personally stood in (he also doubled as the film’s director of photography in a further penny pinching move). To create the coveted waterfront Villa the characters are vying for, Bava personally painted a glass matte of one.

There are two blu-rays readily available for Bay of Blood: a domestic release from Kino Lorber and an import release from international genre label Arrow Video. For the purpose of this review, the Arrow release is the one sampled. It contains two crucial supplements to enhance your viewing experience. The first is the slightly longer Italian language version of the film. All scenes containing dialogue were shot two ways: the first was meant for the international dubbed releases of the film, and the second version was shot for the native Italian language release. Bay of Blood plays a bit better in its native language, dialogue is better, character details are more nuanced, and the dialogue exchanges feel less stilted.

For fans of the film, it is a fascinating alternative to the more common dub release (think the difference between watching a Kung Fu film dubbed vs. subtitled). The second crucial supplement is a commentary track featuring the foremost Bava biographer, Tim Lucas (who also runs the essential Video Watchdog magazine). Lucas does an encyclopedic job in tracking all the creative contributors to Bay of Blood, and their careers before and after this film. Lucas also clearly delineates the underlying themes and clarifies some at times confusing plotting.

Bay of Blood also has one of the most nihilistic, never repeated, final shots in film history. Once you’ve made your way through this one, you will know if the world of Italian exploitation is for you or not. The dividing line is drawn here.

Written by Michael Felix


“Is this movie in 3D?”

“No, but your face is!”

Follow me on twitter @cinefelix