Book Review

Book Review: A Thousand Miles to Freedom

“North Korea has become a true hell on hearth, forgotten by the rest of the world. Even South Koreans, who share the same blood heritage, seem to have forgotten about the plight of their northern counterparts. At times, I feel overwhelmed by this sense of helplessness, by the feeling that there is nothing I can do to help my brothers and sisters to the north.”

My local bookclub’s March read, A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea was not an easy read. It is indeed a quick read and the writing is fairly simple, but, it was a must read as a true story. The author Eunsun Kim, along with sister and her mother embark on a hellish journey that would take them nine years to complete. Once the citizens of North Korea start dying of starvation (Arduous March that took away lives of 240,000 to 3.5 million) including the author’s grandparents and her father, they escape from  their hometown Eunduk and their journey begins. They attempt to escape from North Korea a few times. When they successfully do escape and find themselves in China, they fall into the hands of human traffickers. They spend a few years basically as slaves until they are sent back to North Korea. They then escape and their journey begins again from North Korea to China, then to the isolated dry deserts of Mongolia. It took them a total of nine hard, hellish years to finally arrive in South Korea and start a new life.

IMG_7183.JPGMy heart was heavy with guilt while reading this memoir. Being Korean, sharing the same blood heritage, I guess it’s normal to feel guilty. Survivor’s guilt, we call it. I was also guilty for being so oblivious to my motherland’s neighboring country. Well, is North still considered my motherland? I’m not sure. While reading this book, I could not help but wonder how South Koreans feel about reuniting  (통일) with the North. I moved to Korea in 1998. South Korea was going through a disastrous financial crisis, so if asked about reuniting with the North, more leaned towards NO because they were afraid it would impact our economy even more. But in 2000, families that were torn apart reunited (for a brief moment). These heart-aching moments were broadcasted for many weeks. Seeing the now elderly citizens from both sides meet their families again, the entire country could not stop crying. I hope those moments tugged at our heart-strings. It’s been 80 years since the DMZ split Korea into two. And, the families / people that were torn apart from each other, they are aging and dying out. When no one that was directly affected by the split are the only ones that remain, will the younger generation even care?

I was not a fan of the writing (don’t know if it’s the writing or the translation) and I really hoped that the author would have provided details and descriptions of North Korea. I could not “see” her world, her journey through her eyes because she tells us how she feels rather than showing us the intricate details / events that made her feel the way she did. Also, she says that she loved her country, but left because she would soon die of starvation. Then later, she says she learned that North Korean leaders were evil (which is great she finally learned!) but without ever telling us of the turn of events that changed her view of her country. Though I did not like the writing, her journey is a true story and the story and her bravery itself deserves to be recognized. More than anything, this book brought awareness of my own “brothers and sisters.” And for that, I am grateful that my bookclub chose this very book!

 

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Book Review · Books

Book Review: Last Year in Havana

Synopsis from the book:

Havana, 1958: The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen year old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest- until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary

Miami, 2017:  Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage- and what it means to be Cuban.

IMG_6980.JPGThe book alternates between Elisa who quickly falls in love with a determined revolutionary who despises her wealthy family and its ties with the Batista government, and Marisol, who unravels secrets of her grandmother and also falls in love with a Cuban man who is unhappy with the strict Castro government. He desperately wishes to see his country change and fights for a better Cuba in his own way.

Last Year in Havana was the first book I read about Cuba and its history. I loved this book for many different reasons: the beautiful writing that provided vivid images of Cuba, strong female characters that fall in love with the wrong men, and how the book itself was extremely informative. Especially for someone that has limited knowledge of Cuba and its history. The limited knowledge I had of Cuba was of Fidel Castro since Cuba was the only Communist country in the West. I learned so much about the days before Castro’s reign, especially about Batista and his strong ties with the US that only benefited the few wealthy landowners with the largest sugar plantains, widening the gap of economic disparity between the rich and the poor.

“Batista promised to uphold the 1940 Constitution, to give us the rights we were promised, and then he reneged on that promise. Where is our freedom? Our liberty? How much of this country’s wealth goes to the city, to Havana? The capital is littered with American casinos and hotels, populated by movie stars and gangsters treating the country as it is their own personal playground while Cuban citizens in the provinces can’r read, don’t have access to basic necessities to meet their needs.”

Cleeton’s writing transported me to Cuba, a country heavy with political turmoil. A sweet country filled with sugar fields. A stunning country with white sandy beaches and sparkling blue-green oceans twinkling under the bright sunlight. Through her writing, I tasted the salty air, heard the waves crash in a soothing and steady rhythm. I walked the beautiful streets of Cuba, surrounded by worn and dusty colorful Spanish architecture, whiffing the scents of Cuban food. It was interesting to read about the polarizing political views of Cuba, under the Batista and then Fidel Castro. Though I found the ending to Marisol’s story a little too good to be true, and some parts of the dialogue (from Pablo and Luis) a little too text-bookish, overall, I loved this book. It was reading a fun history book! (I love history!) Cuba’s past and present came alive for me all throughout the book.

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“Havana is like a woman who was grand once and has fallen on hard times, yet hints of her former brilliance remain, traces of an era since passed, a photograph faded by time and circumstance, its edges crumbling to dust.”

I cannot wait to read more about Cuba and its history. Thank you Salt Water Reads for choosing this beautiful piece of historical fiction! Check out the co-creators of Salt Water Reads : Stacey and Kourtney!

Last Year in Havana was one of the first books written by a Hispanic author I’ve read in a long time and I long for more. This link helps but do you have any other suggestions?

Books

Favorite Diverse Books

Along with a few bookstagram friends, I started an online bookclub called Words Between Worlds (IG @words.between.worlds)! I’m going to dedicate an entire post for our bookclub soon! 🙂

I’ve always been an advocate for diverse literature, not only because I’m ethnically a minority, but also because I have a congenital heart condition. I’ve always felt different and out of place. More than anything, I just wanted others to gain perspective of what it was like to be a minority in the United States and to be different. Our book club is for those that not only want to read diverse literature but for those that are wanting to truly learn of rich cultures and different backgrounds. We hope our members will share their own stories and personal experiences and always have the will to learn and understand others. I’m extremely excited for this journey and hope you will follow along our literary journey. You can join us on Goodreads! 

When we launched /went live, many asked me to share  few of my favorite books written by authors of color. And I’m so proud all but one were written by women of color! So, ta-d! Here it is.  These stories, they gutted me. They destroyed me. They humbled me, they all taught me valuable lessons. These books will make you cry. They will move your heart. All of them are incredibly powerful books that you should read.

If you are not sure which one to start with, I would recommend Homegoing, it was my favorite book of 2017.  I truly think it’d open your eyes and help you gain perspective.

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  • The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Do you see a favorite of yours? I know I do not have one written by a Hispanic author, so I’m all ears for good recommendations.

 

Books

February 2018 TBR

I know I’m a week late, ‘but I decided I’m going to start documenting my monthly TBRs. I had to remind myself of the reason I read. Yes, reading is fun. But, I mostly read to learn.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends ; they are the most accessible and wisest counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles Williams

“Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” – Anne Lamott

It’s easy to get caught up in numbers. However, rather than focusing on the amount of books I read, I want to take my time, immerse myself in books and read to learn. Absorb. Quality of quantity, right?

Book clubs, book discussions have been so helpful and I’ve committed myself to a few per month.  I hope to read a couple of newly released books and also a few that have been out for longer. As always, my goal is to focus on diverse literature. However, many brought it to my attention that I seldom read written by Caucasians, which is true. While my main goal is to read books written by authors of colors and women authors, I decided not to such a snob and it is okay to read books written by white authors, once in awhile.

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  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
  • Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
  • Suite Francaise by Irene
  • Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

What books do you hope to read in February?

Book Review · Books · Thoughts

Book Review: Snow Falling on Cedars

A Bookstagram friend of mine @direads was kind enough to send me a copy of Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Then a few of us decided to do a buddy read. When I learned it was about a Japanese-American being (wrongly) accused of a murder mostly due to his ethnicity, I agreed in a heartbeat. A post- World War 2 story that centers around Asians, albeit non-Koreans, I said YES!

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Snow Falling on Cedars takes place shortly after WW2 in San Pedro island (a fictional island that is to be near the state of Washington coast. The main plot is about Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese-American who is accused of killing a fellow fisherman Carl Heine who is of German descent. The book follows the trial of this so-called murder which happens shortly after WW2, thus when most Americans still feel anti-Japanese. Covering this murder case is Ishmael Chambers, our main protagonist who fought against the Japanese and lost an arm. Ishmael is a bit biased when covering this case due to his hatred towards the Japanese. We learn the hatred he has towards Japanese people was mainly because his teenage lover Hatsue (Japanese) ended their relationship. Though Hatsue had mutual feelings for Ishmael, she ended it knowing the world would not accept them, especially herself, as she is Japanese. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Hatsue and her family are forced to enter an internment camp. However, we learn Ishmael never fell out of love with Hatsue. It’s also important to know that Hatsue is the wife the offender, Kabuo Miyamoto, the murderer of Carl Heine.

If you had to ask me to define Snow Falling on Cedars with one word, it would be prejudice. Prejudice is prevalent on San Peidor island. Prejudice due to differences in ethnicity, whites vs. Japanese, seems to be the core of the story.  Japanese-Americans become the victims of prejudice after Pearl Harbor which creates racial tension on a mostly quiet and peaceful island. Although, prejudice between different ethnicity is the core of the story, it is not just limited to race. Fishermen and farmers dislike Ishmael Chambers because he is an intellect.  I found it interesting that they do not trust him because he makes his living through words and not his hands. Their differences create biased views which then creates pride (superiority) which creates prejudices which then creates contempt. I learned that just as much as LOVE can be taught, HATE can also be taught.

“The counsel for the state has proceeded on the assumption that you will be open to an argument based on prejudice. He has asked you to look closely at the face of the defendant, presuming that because the accused man is of Japanese descent you will see an enemy there. After all, it is not so long since our country was at war with the Empire of the Rising Sun and its formidable, well-trained soldiers. You all remember the newsreels and war films. You all recall the horrors of those years; Mr. Hooks is counting on that. He is counting on you to act on passions best left to a war of ten years ago. He is counting on you to remember this war and to see Kabuo Miyamoto as somehow connected with it. And ladies and gentlemen, let us recall that Kabuo Miyamoto is connected with it. He is a much-decorated first lieutenant of the United States Army who fought for this country – the United States – in the European theater. If you see in his face a lack of emotion, if you see in him a silent pride, it is the pride and hollowness of a veteran of war who has returned home to this. He has returned to find himself the victim of prejudice – in the country he fought to defend.’

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Overall what do I think of the book as a whole? Though I LOVED the main plot and the characters, and  I took away valuable lessons from it, it was extremely difficult to get into! The writing was too descriptive and there were too many details making the book unnecessarily long. I imagine if I had met the author in real life, he would be a talker. (For example, I did not find it necessary to learn of all the odd jobs Ishmael once held.) ? Also, there are too many backstories, it is easy to get lost. The main characters are Ishmael, Kabuo, and Hatsue. But we learn and must read of too many side characters and their own individual stories. It’s easy to get side-tracked. I think the author could’ve proven his point using half the words he used. “Prejudice is wrong.” Because I found this book to be too wordy, I later opted for the audio book version, which was much better than the physical book. Due to the subject matter, moral of the story, and the lessons that can be learned from this book, I still give it a 4, if “read” through the audio version.

If you have read this book, let me know your thoughts!

Questions:

  1. Carl Heine was of German descent. His mother was from Germany. So, why did the San Peidro community have less hatred towards him and his family? Germany as well as Japan were both considered enemies after WW2, and both fought for America. So, why were they treated differently? Did it really boil down to being white or non-white?

“I’m an American, Kabuo cut in. Just like you or anybody. Am I calling you a Nazi, you big Nazi bastard? I killed men who looked just like you – pig-fed German bastards. I’ve got their blood on my soul, Car, and it doesn’t wash off very easily. So don’t you talk to me about Japs, you big Nazi son of a bi*ch.” – Kabuo Miyamoto

2. The sexual scenes especially extremely detailed and explicit. One of the reasons why Snow Falling on Cedars used be either a banned book or a challenged book in schools. One of our fellow buddy reader (@the_word_nerdess) asked if sexual content is more graphic when written by male authors opposed to female authors?

  • Title: Snow Falling on Cedars
  • Author: David Guterson
  • Publisher: Vintage Books
  • Rate:
    • 3.4/5 (Book)
    • 4/5 (Audiobook)
  • Buy on Amazon :$9.80
Book Review · Thoughts

Book Review: As Bright as Heaven

My January BOTM  pick was “As Bright As Heaven” by Susan Meissner. I mostly chose it because my dear friend Stacey is a judge for Book of the Month and it was her selection! Once I saw her name, I chose the book in a heartbeat. You can check out her blog and review of the book here!  Now, like many of you, I already committed to reading many books in the month of Jan. (I’m still trying to finish one off, and it’s February! Oops). So, I got to this book towards the end of January and just finished today.

Synopsis (from cover of the book) : In 1918, Philadelphia is a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men go off to fight in the Great War, there are opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town come Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with the hope that they could now give their three daughters – Evelyn, Maggie, an Willa – a chance at a better life. Their dreams are short-lived. Just months after they arrive, the Spanish flu reaches the shores of North America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, Pauline and her family find themselves in a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby, orphaned by the disease, who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges that surround them they learn what they cannot live without – and what they are willing to do about it. As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a month and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making that will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

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I started reading this book about the Spanish influenza. The next day, I found out I had the flu. So, this book is a bit special to me. As Bright as Heaven is about the Bright family who move away from their hometown after a devastating loss to Philadelphia for a better life. The patriarch of the family Thomas joins his uncle Fred and becomes an undertaker in a funeral home (which I thought was a very interesting premise). The Bright family starts adjusting their new life when they are hit with the Spanish flu. Since their family runs a funeral home, they deal with a flood of bodies and even lose loved ones around them.

The book is told from four different perspectives – Pauline, the mother, and the three extremely daughters. The writing is so beautiful and the author captures each character in such a unique way that brings out their individual personalities. The Bright family endures a lot of loss and heartache. However, they find an orphaned baby and he becomes the one bright source of hope and happiness in their lives.

“I don’t know what would have become of us- of me- had we not had Alex during those first years when we were learning to live again. It was Alex who gave us reasons to get up in the morning, to sing silly songs and play games, to forget how the flu and the war had twisted every notion we had about the sacredness of life.”- Willa

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Though it was an extremely sad book, I was very humbled by it. I think the flu hit me hard this year. Maybe because of my heart condition, I’m not sure. But I haven’t been this sick in awhile. And usually when I am sick, I like to make it known (perks of being married to a doctor)!  However, this book truly humbled me. In the beginning, a character dies because of a weak heart. (Not a spoiler! You find out in the first few pages.) Having a heart condition myself, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I was born when I was, and even more grateful that I was born in the United States where I was able to receive the surgeries I needed to survive. Once I was done with this book, I Googled the Spanish flu and learned it reduced the human population by 3-5% by taking the lives of an estimated 20-50 million people! I was extremely grateful for modern medicine.

There is a LOT of DEATH in this book. I loved it so much, but forewarning, a lot of death. The book starts in 1918 and ends around 1926. Therefore, in the background, we not only learn about the Spanish flu, but also see the heartaches and trials that came with the Great War, and we learn about the Prohibition. Though the book ended on a more hopeful note, I couldn’t help think how these characters were a few years short from facing the Great Depression. Then a few years later, World War 2. And I was deeply saddened by this. I know we Millennials have our own troubles. But, I couldn’t help but feel a bit ashamed for all the whining and complaining I do. We have much to be grateful for. And, I’m glad As Bright as Heaven reminded me of that.

” We are like butterflies, delicate and wonderful, here on earth for only a brilliant moment and then away we fly. Death is appointed merely to close the door to our suffering and open the wide gate to Paradise. If we were made of stone and iron, we would be impervious to disease and injury and disaster, but then we could not give or receive love, could we? We’d be unable to feel anything at all, and surely incapable of spreading our wings and flying.” – Pauline

Q. What are some books that have humbled you? I’d love to know!

  • Title: As Bright As Heaven
  • Author: Susan Meissner
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • Rate: 5/5
  • Buy on Amazon : $17.10

 

Books · Thoughts · Uncategorized

Why Representation in Literature Matters

I grew up as the daughter of immigrants in a small white town in northern Utah that, according to Wikipedia, was 94% White in 1990. Though most of my childhood memories are happy ones that include luscious green grass, Aggie ice-cream (Aggie Blue Mint is the best!), Gossner’s cheese factory, and Pepperidge farm house cookies, I do remember feeling different from my peers. We lived in an apartment. We did not speak English at home. I looked, well, non-white. As different as I felt from them, I’m sure my neighbors and peers felt uneasy as well and did not know how to interact with my family. Although I didn’t blame them, it didn’t help me feel any less out of place.

I have always been an avid reader. I read everything including the Sweet Valley High series like any other girl of the 1980s and 1990s. The Wakefield twins were my idols, but there was never a time I could relate to them. White, rich, beautiful, and popular with other white friends. I soon grew out of my obsession with the Wakefield twins because they seemed too perfect to the point of being unrealistic. They were everything I was NOT. I wanted to read books and see myself more often, and I desperately wanted my peers to learn about ME so they could relate to my somewhat complicated life.

One Saturday morning, my mom took me to the library. I remember browsing around and picked up The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea. I threw that book into my bookbag along with a few others from that series, not thinking much of it. But, The Baby-Sitters Club series changed my life and is still one of my favorite series to this day. For what felt like the first time, I noticed there were other girls out there just like me! I remember my twelve-year-old self wishing my peers would read books about immigrants or different ethnic groups so they would learn how to interact with me and respect me and my culture. Not only did The Baby-Sitters Club have an Asian-American character, Claudia, the series later introduced an African-American character named Jessie and diversified the series even more. But, there was another character in this series that made it special to me.

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Countless times I’ve been told I’m a walking miracle because I was born with multiple heart problems. Out of the several, I was born with, I have something called Single Ventricular Disease, which affects me the most. Since my heart must work overtime to pump blood, my oxygen levels are low which turns me blue, and I have difficulty breathing from time to time. Since my health condition isn’t visible, people often underestimate the toll it takes on me, and these limitations have made me feel out of place, and then I met Stacy from The Baby-Sitters Club. Stacy had Type I Diabetes, and in one story she wet the bed at a sleepover due to her health condition, and this occurrence makes her the laughing stock of her school. This one thing about Stacy impacted so many other parts of her life making forming friendships that much harder. Stacy’s story resonated with me so much because, like me, things beyond her control dictated so much about her quality of life. It’s hard to understand someone from the outside looking in, but I think books are a gateway to learning about others, gaining new perspectives, and learning how our differences should not make us withhold respect.

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I currently reside in Texas, and moving here from Utah has pushed me to expand my reading habits even more. I want to read books as diverse and colorful as the people who represent the community I now live in as well as those who are underrepresented. This means the inclusion of members of the LGBTQ community, all gender identities, people of color, and those who suffer from both physical and mental illnesses. It means to read their stories to learn of the everyday challenges they face and gain perspective of their lives and understand that though we are all different, we are all equal and deserving of all that is good.

Diana Eng is a blogger and lover of reading, teaching, writing, learning, and chocolate! She has spent most of her life in Utah and South Korea but currently resides in Dallas, TX with her best friend and husband of 5 1/2 years. You can find more of Diana on her book blog, Owl’s Little Library, as well as on Instagram.

 

Written by Diana Eng

Edited by My Lit Box (thank you!)

 

My original post can also be found on My Lit Box’s blog! There are also other great posts so check them out too!

Book Review · Books

Recap of 2017: Book Flops

It pains me to write this post, but don’t worry, I will be writing a post about my favorite books next. Negative reviews about books. WHAT? But, some books (see below) left a bad taste in my mouth. So, let’s take a look of my least favorite books I read in 2017:

#5. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: An extremely hyped up book that was a huge disappointment. I love how the author addressed a mental health issue. It’s something we all need to learn about and become aware of. However, although the author explored great topics, the flow of Turtles was extremely disjointed. I can’t really explain the plot because I don’t know what it was truly about. OCD/ anxiety disorder? Missing dad and his sons? Teenage love? The book as a whole felt jumbled up which ruined the flow. The writer goes all over the place with the themes in a really random order that completely threw me off. And the characters were not as developed as I’d hoped.  I know I am one of the very few that disliked this book. So, please let me know why YOU liked Turtles.

#4. Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang: Summary of the book: “Centered on a community of immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life at the poverty line in 1990s New York City, Zhang’s collection examines the many ways that family and history can weigh us down and also lift us up.”

I wanted to like this book– a collection of linked short stories about Chinese immigrants (from the children’s perspective) in NYC. However, these stories are extremely dark, intense, and twisted. I read about half of it until I was deeply disturbed after reading about sexual violence towards children and a female teacher. The words used to explain these scenes were almost degrading and derogatory, so, I took it to Half Priced Books (and received a generous amount, woohoo!) This book is a prime example of why there are still so many negative stereotypes against Asians.

 

#3. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: Summary of the book (from the actual book):  “In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.”

If the story had focused Eve, the spy during WW1, this book had the potential to be AMAZING. I LOVED Eve’s story so much. She was an unsung hero during WW1 and I found her story to be so heartbreaking. However, I disliked Charlie’s character so much the book as a whole felt as a disappointment. Charlie was irresponsible, immature, and risque. I applaud her for standing up for herself and keeping the baby she will have out of wedlock, but, she continuously calls herself “easy, slut” out of pity, yet makes the same choices by practically throwing herself onto the first man she meets. Second, I did not understand the emotional connection she had towards her cousin Rose. If Rose were her sister, maybe? I started skipping Charlie’s chapters only to stop when I realized I couldn’t read Eve’s story without reading about Charlie since their stories are intertwined. I wanted to like this book, but Charlie’s character completely ruined my experience with this book.

#2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith: I had really high expectations for this book. I LOVE Chimamanda Adichie and Smith is often compared to Adichie. I know both write about similar topics, but I found Smith’s writing too complex for no reason. I can’t really put my finger on why I didn’t like this book except for the fact that the characters and the plot did not draw me in. There was little to no character development so they fell flat, and the book begins with some sort of tension between the two families without the explanation. Therefore, I put it down after 1/3 of the book and have no desire to go back to it.

#1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Goff: I do not like the word hate, but I HATED this book. Surprisingly, I did finish it. Usually, if I don’t like a book, I’ll stop reading. (Offended? I know! Sorry!) Our dear President Obama said this was his favorite book of 2015. So, I went ahead and picked up a beautiful copy in England, only to be tortured by a book about marriage at its worst. Told from two different point of views – Lotto (Fates) and Mathilde (Furies). Both characters were so selfish, unrealistic, and disturbing. The author tears away at marriage from all different angles, and describes sex in overly grotesque ways (why use the word f**king when describing something so beautiful and sacred?). I did not understand the plot, too slow-paced, and there were not enough twists or turns to make it an enjoyable book. When I read a book, I always ask myself, “what is the author trying to prove?” Goff tries to prove that she is anti-marriage —  all men are sex-addicts that cheat, and all women have daddy-issues with insecurities. Although the writing was beautiful, and I enjoyed the Greek mythology elements, it was not enough to redeem this book.

Question: What were some of your 2017 book flops?

 

Book Review · Books

Book Review: The World In Half

My most recent read, The World In Half  by Cristina Henriquez was a heartwarming novel I read over Christmas break.

“I believe the earth has a memory. That everything that’s ever happened throughout the time has left its trace in fine, featherweight particles that fell and sank back into the earth like dust. […] Humans forget everything eventually. Memories march out. They march away. But the universe keeps it all – in a rock, in the ocean floor, in the inner reaches of a mountain, in the fault lines in the crust – millions of years packed into the dirt. The universe holds on.” – The World in Half

Miraflores Reid attends the University of Chicago and studies Geology with a minor in Spanish. She lives with her mother, who unfortunately has early onset Alzheimer’s disease whose health is rapidly declining. Mira has never met her father, who is Panamanian. She’s always assumed her father broke her mother’s heart and willingly is not a part of her life. That is until she finds a small stack of letters from her father, Gatun, while she goes through her mother’s belongings. Upon reading the letters, Mira learns that her father not only loved her mother, but was also determined to join her mother in the States to raise their child together. Once Mira finishes the letters, she instantly decides to visit Panama to find the other half of the human that she’s made of. She lies to her mother by telling her she was invited on a trip to the Cascades Volcano Observatory (by her Science Department) in Vancouver, Washington for three weeks and instead flies off to Panama with little to no plans with the exception of the name and location of her hotel, Hotel Centro. Once Mira is in Panama, she befriends the doorman Hernan and his nephew, Danilo. With the help of Danilo, they search for Mira’s father.  Mira also searches for her identity and tries to bridge her two worlds into one.

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I did find some parts of the novel too far-fetched:

  • Mira lying to her mother about her three week trip. Even though her mother does have Alzheimer’s, no parent out there is going to send you off to a trip unless you provide proof and list of contacts.
  • I’ve been a college student – young and reckless, but, I would NEVER EVER fly off to a country I’ve never been in with little to no plans like Mira did. And, we do live in the 21st century (novel was published in 2009), so she could have done a bit of research of her father. She solely relies on the hotel phone book and by asking people that once worked at the Panama Canal.
  • Hernan and Danilo- again, I was young and reckless. But, staying with two MEN in an unknown country, NO. And, she just happens to fall in love with one during her brief stay in Panama (like her mother once did)? Though Mira does end up making a different decision than her mother once did, so I applaud her from learning from her mother’s mistake.

The Panama Canal, where Mira’s father once worked, splits the world in half, the Pacific ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, and is often used as a metaphor of Mira’s own life. I loved this metaphor of the Panama Canal as it is something we can all relate to as we face and triumph through our own trials and tribulations. What I found most interesting and heartbreaking was how one’s decision (Mira’s mother) made a rippling effect across continents. I can’t say I understand Catrina (Mira’s mom), but I found her past to be a reminder to myself of how one’s choices have the potential to define another person’s life. Though The World in Half was filled with implausibilities, it was overall heartwarming. I also found this novel informative and learned lots about the Panama Canal. It was the perfect novel to read over Christmas break as it brought clarity to the priorities in my own life.

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

*Question: In the book, Danilo, who is Panamanian states that there are eight continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, Antartica, North America, South America, and Central America. Isn’t it funny how we learn differently depending on the place of education? In Korea, I learned that we had six because Europe and Asia were one continent – Eurasia. What did YOU learn?

Book Review

Book Review: These Violent Delights

“Don’t you find it interesting that these types of crimes against women- whether it’s violence, sexual assault, rape — are the kinds where we force the victim to make a case about their own innocence before even investigating?” – These Violent Delights  by Victoria Namkung

What a timely book! This book is about Caryn, a young intern journalist that goes public with an unfortunate event that happened during her years at Windmere (private all girls HS) when a very well-respected married English teacher approaches her in a very inappropriate sexual way. Once the article is published, more women come forward with similar experiences they had with the same teacher. Caryn, with the help of a well-renounced journalist, starts investigating and soon teams up with other victims to bring justice. IMG_1984.JPG

Though this book is relatively short, it is not an easy book to read since it deals with a heavy topic. When I pick up a novel, I love it when I can relate to the characters or the plot. However, with this book, I felt sick to my stomach knowing so many, too many, girls could relate to being taken advantage of.

Dr. Copeland, a well-liked and respected English teacher only preys on girls that are already in a vulnerable state. He instigates not only inappropriate but also illegal relationships with these girls (that are minors) in a really sly, creepy, manipulative way by feeding them the attention and compliments they need. He pretends to care about them, proclaims that he loves them, and even declares to leave his wife. That is, only until the girl stops showing interest, or, until his sexual desires are fully satisfied.

I, as well as you, know many women that have been in this unfortunate situation. They are afraid and ashamed to speak up, may even blame themselves. Some might even think it wasn’t significant enough to mention. These Violent Delights came out in such a timely manner, especially with the current turn of events (i.e., Harvey Weinstein). When countless actresses went public with the sexual allegations towards Harvey Weinstein, these women, all these beautiful, successful women were broken. It says a lot about our society when these women said they could not go public with the allegations because they were afraid no one would believe them, and by saying “no,” it could affect their career. I cannot recommend this book enough. Because even though it is heartbreaking and painful to read, people need to know how women suffer afterwards. More importantly, people need to understand that it has the potential of destroying one’s life.

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Q. What are your thoughts / opinions on the recent sexual allegations (in Hollywood)?