Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Today is the release date for Crystal Chan's debut novel, Bird. We're taking part in the blog tour and have a review, a guest post from Crystal as well as a giveaway for Aus/NZ residents.


Bird by Crystal Chan
Published Jan 29, 2014 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 paws

From the blurb: Nothing matters. Only Bird matters. And he flew away.Jewel never knew her brother Bird, who died the day she was born, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy; they say he attracted a malevolent spirit – a duppy – into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since.Now Jewel is twelve, and she is sure that Bird will haunt them forever – until the night she meets a strange boy in a tree. If she can find out who he is, perhaps she can discover her own identity too.

Bird is Crystal Chan’s debut novel. Set in Caledonia, Iowa, the story revolves around twelve year old Jewel Campbell. Jewel lives with her parents, her grandfather, and their grief. On the day of her birth, her five year old brother jumped off a cliff, believing her could fly. Her grandfather has never spoken since that day and Jewel has lived with the feeling that she is a sub-par replacement to the son her parents loved so dearly.

I was hooked as soon as Jewel started telling her story; she’s so lonely, honest, and desperate for love from her parents. She’s never celebrated her birthday, she lives with parents that pay so little attention to her that she regularly sneaks out of the house at night, going for walks and climbing trees. The only grandfather she knows is an angry, silent one. Her father has drummed into her the importance of protecting their house from duppies, and she can recall the rare occasions on which her mother truly smiled. Her life was so, so sad and I wanted to snap her parents out of their stupor and make them love her like she so deserved.

I found the writing beautiful and clever; I adored that when Jewel used similes they related to her love of geology eg. ‘John’s face went hard, like onyx’ and ‘She always looks for wrinkles or something on her smoky quartz skin’ – this added to the depth of Jewel’s character and showed how much thought went into creating her.

The family dynamic was explored closely; it was interesting to see the traits Jewel had inherited from her parents and the ways in which she dealt with her anxiety. The addition of her father and grandfather's Jamaican culture was unique and well researched, I loved the power that the music and food had over them, how they helped to forge new relationships. The mystery surrounding Bird’s death and the appearance of new-John was so intriguing and it all came together so well. After all the sadness I found the amount of hope at the end was just perfect.

After finishing this book I could not shake the sadness that permeated my heart, I felt wrung out from crying. Bird is beautifully captivating, absorbing, and utterly heartbreaking. I cannot recommend this book enough, to both YA readers and adults.

I know it’s only January but it’s not too early for me to say that this is one of my favourite books of 2014, and of all time.

And now for Crystal's beautiful guest post:

In the book Bird, Jewel lives in a multigenerational household with her parents and her paternal grandfather. In writing the book, I think a part of me was really curious about living with grandparents, or the idea of grandparents in general, because I never knew mine on either side of my family. On my mother’s side, my grandfather died when I was about six years old, and my grandmother contracted Alzheimer’s disease when I was ten; while she died in my late twenties, I only knew her through the Who are you again? questions and vacant stares.
The grandparents on my father’s side lived quite a bit longer, and actually my paternal grandmother is still alive, but they’re pretty unreachable to me, since they live across the world in China and don’t speak English.
That’s one of the things about being bi-racial; you can have family members flung across the world, and language can be a big barrier. My father decided not to teach us Cantonese, which is his Chinese dialect, and so when he’d hop on the phone to talk with his siblings or parents, the most we could do was say the general “Hi, how are you?” and leave it at that. And of course things were good, very good. Hi, how are you? Oh, good, very good. End of story.
Except it wasn’t. My grandparents loomed large in the folds of my psyche, made me wonder more and more about who I was, where I came from, what were the stories of my parents’ past, which were in a way mine. I wanted to know these things – all of them – and yet I was blocked on both ends by illness or by culture. I would beg my parents to tell me stories about what it was like growing up, or stories about their parents, but they shut down my questions like a big, velvet curtain at the end of a show. And so the mystery kept building.
Flash forward a good number of years, to when I was writing Bird. Grandpa is silent – he stopped speaking the day that his grandson, Bird, died – and to Jewel, he’s a living, breathing mystery. She knows nothing about him – and his silence is just as loud as the silence I experienced regarding my own lineage. Anyway, Jewel slowly comes to learn about some of Grandpa’s past, some of his secrets even, and ultimately, she comes to see him in all his humanity, in all his gentleness, in all of his pride.
When I was in college, I took Chinese to learn more about my Chinese roots. While I picked up on the language pretty quickly, I was very aware that my school was teaching Mandarin, the official Chinese dialect, and that my dad and dad’s family spoke Cantonese, Hong Kong’s local dialect. When I went to visit my Chinese relatives a couple years ago, I stuttered out some Mandarin to my grandmother, who could actually understand me, despite the difference in dialects. She said some simple words back in Cantonese, which I could also understand (barely). I was twenty-eight years old and for the first time in my life, thanks to years of schooling, was having a conversation with my grandmother.
It was an incredible feeling to be in that moment. Looking back at the novel Bird, I know that’s where Jewel’s joy and amazement came from when she and her grandfather started “talking” to each other. She says after a simple exchange with him: We were having a conversation. Honest to god, it was as if the sun was exploding. You think it’s never going to happen, but then one day, it does.
You’re right, Jewel: You go all your life thinking it’s never going to happen, and all the signs point to just that. But stay on your toes, keep listening to your heart. Because you never know: one day, it might.
Crystal Chan 

Giveaway time! As mentioned this giveaway is open only to residents of Australia and New Zealand.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the rest of the blog tour:

Tuesday 28 Jan
Extract on Gobblefunked

Thursday 30
Review by Kate at whY.A.not?

Friday 31
Review by Bec at First Impressions

Saturday 01 Feb
12 Curly Questions on Kids’ Book Review

Sunday 02
Review by Kelly at Diva Booknerd

Monday 03
Review by Melanie at YA Midnight Reads

Tuesday 04
Review by Naomi at inkcrush

Wednesday 05
Review and Q&A with Danielle at ALPHAReader

Thank you to the wonderful people at Text Publishing for the review copy.


Rebecca said...

So glad to hear you loved this, it makes me even more excited to read it! Thanks for the chance to win Bird, win or lose I plan to pick up a copy of this soon!

maya said...

I've been hearing about Bird lately and it sounds wonderful - I will definitely be finding myself a copy soon! Lovely guest post ;)

Cass (Words on Paper) said...

Already read your review off of Goodreads so I'll comment on the guest post. I can really relate to that feeling of being lost... I never knew my grandparents (on either side) because of location... and I also have the language and cultural barriers because my parents never encouraged me to retain the Cantonese language. I've resolved for years to re-learn the language; I'm finally going to do it, just need to find a teacher or a school or SOMETHING. But yes, that whole sense of identity... I can just relate to it because I don't know my grandparents at all, there's that massive cultural gap that's been hitting me for years as an ABC (Aussie born Chinese). And my parents won't tell me much about them either. Knowing this (referring to the guest post) makes me want to read BIRD even more, now.

Emily said...

I am hearing only good things about this one! I think I'll save it for when I'm in the mood for a beautiful, achey read. Great review + guest post!

theunfinishedbookshelf said...

Wow! A favourite for the year already - this sounds amazing, I am hearing nothing but good things so far! I will definitely be checking it out. Lovely review and I really enjoyed the guest post too :)

Sharon ObsessionwithBooks said...

A lovely review and wonderful guest post! This book sounds really emotional, it is new to me but I am definitely keen to check it out.

Thank-you for sharing & for the giveaway :-)

Diva Booknerd said...

I loved Bird as well. I really think this will be right up there with TFioS, it's just so utterly brilliant. Big call it being one of the books for 2014, but you're spot on. Awesome review.

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