Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

9 comments




Book Review

BOOK REVIEW

Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction / Cultural
502 pages
Published by Grand Central Publishing
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating


BOOK BLURB:

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant--and that her lover is married--she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters--strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis--survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.

MY THOUGHTS:

This was, quite simply, one the most memorable books I have ever read (right up there with The Kite Runner)!

It's an extraordinary novel about perception, prejudice and above all, the resiliency of women and the loyalty of their family.  Even though this is a Korean-Japanese historical fiction, make no mistake, the emotional impact is universal... 

The story spans over 7 decades and it tells the epic saga of a Korean family in Japan.  The author managed to provide us with such a rich cultural experience.  I had no idea that Ethnic Koreans born in Japan were not Japanese citizens and were under constant threat of deportation (I don't know what the current state in Japan is), so the book was also a reminder that discrimination and prejudice are present everywhere (Ugh!). 

Even the book's opening line is profound enough as to warn you to be prepared for the masterpiece you're about to read:
“History has failed us, but no matter.” 

The character development is flawless in his book.  The psychology of each character is detailed in such a way that it drew me closer to understanding their angst and suffering.  It's also very interesting how the author touched so many different topics: disability, pregnancy, shame, suicide, hope, organized crime, wealth...that were somehow linked to the main theme, which was search of identity and acceptance.

“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage” 

Can we talk about the title now?  
Pachinko is the name of a very popular arcade game in Japan.  By comparison, life is a game of chance, and just like a pinball machine, it can spin you out of control and randomly drop you in different situations...

“Sunja-ya, a woman’s life is endless work and suffering. There is suffering and then more suffering. It’s better to expect it, you know. You’re becoming a woman now, so you should be told this. For a woman, the man you marry will determine the quality of your life completely. A good man is a decent life, and a bad man is a cursed life—but no matter what, always expect suffering, and just keep working hard. No one will take care of a poor woman—just ourselves.”

This book is also on the #SOMAbookclub list for 2019.  

While reading this book, I had both the paperback book and the audiobook from the library, which I used to go back and forth.  Do you ever do that?
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Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Friday, February 8, 2019

6 comments


Book Review

BOOK REVIEW

Release Date: August 14, 2012
Genre: Fiction/Humor
330 Pages
Published by Little, Brown and Company
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating



BOOK BLURB

Bernadette Fox has vanished.

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces--which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades.

Where'd You Go Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter's love for her mother.

MY THOUGHTS

Captivating and whip-smart!
A remarkably funny novel with a clever mixture of cultural jabs, social inadequacy and over-the-top private school politics. 

Even the writing style here is unconventional, in the form of e-mails, letters, FBI classified documents and a famous TED Talk.  I have to confess that at first I thought this style would be boring and I’d lose interest, but, Semple manages to weave all this information together, while keeping it funny and adding one tumultuous event after another.

The story is told by Bee, as she tries to piece together the puzzle that her mom has left behind.  Her dad is an Executive at Microsoft and works crazy hours.  Bee and Bernadette have a loving relationship.  What people see in Bernadette as inclusive and anti-social, Bee thinks it’s normal.  When Bernadette disappears, Bee decides to find her at all costs.

I liked Bee. She was my favorite character.  A sassy, smart teenager that actually understood her mom, even with all the eccentric/weird acts.

I also found it fascinating how the author was able to give us a few characters that started one way (one sympathetic/another hateful) and then changed completely throughout the book.  Some might say that’s not realistic but I think that in reality, people change their opinions and minds all the time, so the fact that a few of the characters here changed, made the book more relatable to me.

Bee’s obsession with Antarctica was also cute and eccentric in her own way (she is her mother’s daughter after all).

But who is Bernadette and why did she disappear?
…You’ll need to read the book to find out. The movie comes out in March, so hurry up!

Oh, and after you read it, let me know if you’re a Subaru or a Mercedes…
🚗

“People like you must create. If you don't create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”

“I can pinpoint that as the single happiest moment of my life, because I realized then that Mom would always have my back.
It made me feel giant. I raced back down the concrete ramp, faster than I ever had before, so fast I should have fallen, but I didn't fall, because Mom was in the world.”



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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Monday, February 4, 2019

8 comments

Book Review

Release Date: First published in November, 1939
Genre: Mystery
300 Pages (paperback)
Published by Harper Collins
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating

BOOK BLURB:

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

One of the most famous and beloved mysteries from the queen of suspense, Agatha Christie!  More than 100 million copies sold and now a Lifetime TV movie.

"Ten . . ."
Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious "U.N. Owen."

"Nine . . ."
At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.

"Eight . . ."
Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . one by one they begin to die.

"Seven . . ."
Who among them is the killer and will any of them survive?


MY THOUGHTS:

An invitation.  A nursery rhyme.  10 Strangers with nothing in common, except...

My first Christie's novel and now I understand why she is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling fiction writer!

Anyway, remember playing the game Clue? Well, this book starts a bit like that, where the reader tries to figure out whodunit from the little bits and pieces the author provides us with.

The plot is suspenseful, easy to follow, yet, it's neither graphic nor bloody, so it's safe to say it won't give you nightmares. It's also clever and a quick read.  The more you learn about each of the 10 strangers, the more you think that the murderer could be any one of them.   

And the ending made me consider the possibility of re-reading it...maybe I missed a few clues?

Can't wait for my #SOMAbookclub discussion this month, but first, I will watch the BBC miniseries!




"One of us in this very room is in fact the murderer". - Agatha Christie
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