Blog

Uncategorized

Book Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Image result for pachinko book

“The stories of Koreans in Japan should be told somehow when so much of their lives had been despised, denied, and erased” 

The book started with a couple who kept losing child after child until one survived. Except he was crippled. The village matchmaker was able to find him a wife but he passed away young, leaving behind his wife and teenage daughter who both ran a hostel. Sunja, the daughter is our protagonist and by the 1900’s she falls for an older man who gets her pregnant. He tells her he can’t marry her because he has a wife and kids back home in Japan but he can take care of her financially and come visit her in Korea. Sunja refuses to be a kept woman and rejects him.

One of the hostel guests, a principled sickly pastor, Isak takes it upon himself to marry Sunja and raise her child like his. They move to his hometown in Japan and join his brother and his wife, Yoseb and Kyunghee and become a family. The birth of Sunja’s son, Noa is the beginning of this fascinating, multi faceted, multi generational story.

I am already a sucker for Asian stories and for multi-generational stories. Put them together and you have me sold. This was a very well thought out book. Every character was well rounded and felt like a real life person. The book can be categorized as historical fiction because you get to learn a lot about the war and how Koreans were treated awfully, how they suffered just trying to make ends meet and how they were discriminated against.

“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”

I particularly liked how realistic this book was. It covered a whole lot of life experiences as we moved from one generation to another. I was particularly struck by Sunja because by all accounts she lived a hard life but just always tried to make the best of it. Probably because it was what she was groomed to expect. I kept holding out hope that she would have a happy ending but just like life, things kept on happening and Sunja kept on surviving. The book covers infertility, starvation, homosexuality, discrimination, infidelity, sacrifice, family, death and a whole host of other topics.

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

The discrimination was such a hard thing to digest because its never fun seeing people struggle. But it was a reminder of how unfair the world is and how even when you are at your worst point, life still goes on. Any group of marginalized people could relate to the Koreans trying to fit in in Japan, when no matter what they did, they were not accepted and just seen as bottom of the barrel.

The title of this book exemplifies how well crafted and clever this book is, because while a few of the characters worked in Pachinko parlors, the connection to the title was more symbolic. We find that Pachinko is a sort of game that could be conflated as gambling. There were loads of Pachinko parlors in Japan and even though there was a chance the odds may be fixed and whoever was playing would more than likely lose, people still kept on coming back with the hopes of winning. This hope was parallel to the Korean characters trying to build a life in Japan

Story is that it took the author 25 years to write this book. It’s a good thing that all the time and effort put into the book showed, but it also became a bit lengthy. After a while, I began to think it was time to wrap it up. Overall, if you are looking for a book that will transport you to another world, while also making you feel like you are learning something, this is the book that will do just that.

Taynement

Uncategorized

Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient

“You become increasingly comfortable with madness – and not just the madness of others, but your own. We’re all crazy, I believe, just in different ways.” 

One evening, Alicia Berenson shoots her husband in the face 5 times and then never speaks another word. Theo Faber followed the case in the media closely and being a criminal psychologist becomes obsessed with her and the case. He is determined to help Alicia Berenson talk and discover the real mystery surrounding that night and how a perfectly happy seeming couple came to that end. Theo applies for a job at the facility where Alicia is being held on grounds of insanity and his search for the truth leads us and him down a rabbit hole that threatens to consume him.

“As you will see, it’s an incredible story—of that there is no doubt. Whether you believe it or not is up to you.”

I can see why this book is receiving all the hype that it is. First of all, the premise is incredible and makes you want to pick up this book. Secondly, It is really difficult to put down once you start. I don’t think this book is fast paced but I do think it’s very compelling. This book is narrated in first person by Theo and he is such a compelling and incredibly unreliable narrator. This is the only psychological thriller that I have heard compared to Gone Girl that I can see why. This book starts off as your standard mystery book, you’re fascinated by Alicia, you too want to know why she hasn’t spoken since the night she allegedly took her husband’s life. Not to her lawyers, not her psychologists, not at the trial, not to proclaim her innocence or guilt, Alicia Berenson has never said a word since that night. As Theo digs further into that night, more and more suspects other than Alicia emerge, and you always think you’ve got it figured out but I promise you, you don’t.

“At the time I didn’t understand. But that’s how therapy works. A patient delegates his unacceptable feelings to his therapist; and she holds everything he is afraid to feel, and feels it for him. Then, ever so slowly, she feeds his feelings back to him.”

I personally didn’t see the answer to the mystery coming until almost 75% into the book and even then, I just had my suspicions, I never fully figured it out until the book was almost done. I can’t give you more than this because obviously, this book depends on the big twist, and I don’t want to say anything that’ll spoil that. This book was very well written, I was incredibly delighted by the language and the level of research that went into this book. This book is a slow burn that builds into an explosion. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Gave it 3 stars on goodreads.

 

Leggy

Self Help

Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Cover art

Leggy mentioned this book to me and told me I’d like it. I trust her recommendations so I joined the hold list at my library. I thought I had thoughts on Cheryl Strayed but I realized I might have been confusing her with Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love. I watched the movie, Wild based on Strayed’s book of the same name, that chronicled her grief after losing her mother. I watched her talk about her grief on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah while bawling my eyes out. So I think that made me think I had an opinion on her but I have never read a book by her and never read the column this book was based on; so it was going in with a blank slate.

“Dear Sugar” is based on a collection of an online advice column on The Rumpus. For the longest time, the identity of the author was anonymous until it was revealed that “Sugar” was actually Cheryl Strayed. I think every experience in life was covered in this collection in the form a letter that was written in. Relationships, addiction, the realization that one is a shitty mom/friend, dealing with illness, abuse, sick fetishes, infidelity, grief, trying to leave a marriage, jealousy, boundaries, weight/body issues. I could go on and on, but almost – if not everything, was covered.

What makes this book work is that you can tell Cheryl has lived a full, full life. I say this because the format in which this was done was that Cheryl would respond and provide advice by telling a story from her life experience that was relatable to the issue at hand. So yes, she lived a very full life because she had a story for every topics. The other important thing is that she actually learned from her experiences. Because it is one thing to have experiences and it is another to learn from them and grow.

I did this book on audio and Cheryl herself narrated it. The first few chapters had me like “ehn, I hear you but nothing groundbreaking”. I think I was fully in by Part IV of the book. Another good thing is that Cheryl mastered the art of being honest and giving it straight without being rude or judgmental. I had to read this in sections because reading a help letter one after the other was a bit much, so I had to space it out. I also found it aggravating how she kept interspersing tears of endearments to those who write in. She’d call them names like “honeybun”, “sweet pea”. I get the joke (because her name was Sugar) but it irked me and got annoying real quick.

The last letter where someone asked what she would write to her 20 something year old self, might have been my favorite because it embodies everything I believe life should be about. Throughout the whole book, Strayed encourages people to not be afraid of life and to always choose happiness above all things and not let fear in. At some point she says “Courage is a vital piece of any well lived life”.

Overall, I don’t expect every letter to resonate with whoever is reading but just like life, I do think something can be learned from each letter. I think the book as a whole serves as a gateway to self reflection that every person should be having with themselves. It gives perspective and reminds you of how life can be awful and amazing at the same time. It’s a strong recommend for me.

Taynement

Fiction

Book Review: A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

Image result for a woman is no man

“I was born without a voice, one cold, overcast day in Brooklyn, New York. No one ever spoke of my condition. I did not know I was mute until years later, when I’d opened my mouth to ask for what I wanted and realized no one could hear me.”

This is a story of multiple generations of women trying to survive the deeply patriarchal culture that they are born into as we watch history repeat itself multiple times. 18 year old Deya, born and raised in Brooklyn primarily by her grandparents, is about to finish high school and is starting to meet with suitors. Even though she wants to go to college before getting married, her grandparents give her no choice in the matter.

Isra, Deya’s mother, also had no choice in the matter when she got married as a teenager in Palestine and moved to America to be with her husband, Adam. Finally, there is Fareeda, Isra’s mother in law, who knows and accepts her role in this culture. She thinks this is a man’s world and all the hardship and abusive she suffered in her own husband’s hands are just parts of being a woman, so she looks the other way when her son begins to act just like her husband.

“A real choice doesn’t have conditions. A real choice is free.”

I really loved this story. A lot of people of color and immigrants know that you do not air your dirty laundry in public. You do not want to confirm the West’s single story about the Middle East or Africa so you, deny, deny, deny! But this book lays bare all the stereotypes and gives them human emotions. It centers around the people that matter and does not care about the white gaze at all. As someone who was born and raised in Nigeria, this book could have easily been a Nigerian story. We see women who have been treated terribly in marriages, abused because they couldn’t give birth to a male child and just for being a woman, turn around and inflict the same conditions on the next generation.

Isra is unable to give her husband, Adam, a male child and is subjected to abuse from her mother in law who inflicts verbal abuse on her every time she gives birth to yet another girl. Adam in turn takes out all his anger on her by being physically abusive while Fareeda chides her for not hiding her husband’s shame and parading her wounds for all to see.

“…my fears while writing this novel—fears of further stereotyping and marginalizing my culture as well as adding to our “otherness” by bringing our domestic abuse and inherited family trauma to light. But these very fears are what shame our women into silence and, ultimately, what keep us from advancing as a society and culture.” – [The author, Etaf Rum on her fears while writing this book]

I do think a lot of people need to read this story and realize that this is just one perspective. I read a lot of reviews on goodreads that were mad that this book was written and worried about how it further stereotypes the Middle East, as being backwards and oppressive.

I think that as long as this story is a story of even one person then it deserves to be told. It is up to us as the reader not to use this book as a blanket read of everything about the culture, or as proof to further our stereotypes and biases. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recognized every woman in it as someone I have known in real life and there are a lot of people still living this life. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

Fiction

We Chit Chat : Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Image result for speak no evil book

“I’m still me, I want to say to him, your son, but that would hardly help if I am currently everything wrong with the world.” 

Taynement: On to our third author of the year.

Leggy: I know. This was a pretty short read.

Taynement: Yes, it was but I think he did a lot with a short book and more authors could take a page from his book. Pun intended.

Leggy: I actually think he did way too much for such a short book. At some point, I got whiplash like am I reading a different book?

Taynement: Interesting. I disagree. I think he integrated a lot of themes with perfect balance.

Leggy: I really didn’t like the shift in focus to police brutality. It’s rare you get a book from an African author about being a gay, second generation African in America. I would have appreciated the book so much more if he had focused on that.

Taynement: I liked that he didn’t dwell too much on the different themes save for  the focal theme of Niru being Nigerian and gay and trying to deal with that.

Leggy: I enjoyed the first half of the book but after the incident, I skimmed the rest of it.

Taynement: Really liked that angle. He touched on the Nigerians but didn’t dwell. Even when they went to visit Nigeria, he described Nigeria so well and the way his father’s behaviors changed was so apt. Even touching on how Nigerians revere pastors and how they deal with homosexuality. I wasn’t expecting the incident and right after, all I felt was rage. I really hated Meredith. But again the way I interpreted it was a touch on how you might think you’re Nigerian in America but at the end of the day, all they see is your skin color.

Leggy: I think this is why I didn’t like that part of the book. I was waaay too angry while reading it. I couldn’t understand how anybody would react the way Meredith and her family did after the incident. Okay, what is done is done, that part wasn’t your fault but you let this young man’s reputation be dragged through the mud without any interference.

Taynement: Reminder of the havoc white women wreak. There was a part in the book when Niru’s dad, half angry-half pleading says “All you people do, wherever you are in this world, is just bring death and destruction, you bring nothing good, nothing good”

Leggy: I just couldn’t understand what kind of parents would do that. Also, reading this book from Meredith’s point of view filled me with so much rage.

Taynement: Exactly. Her parents were the worst and I wished bad things for Meredith but, I think we digress. Moving back to Niru, it’s an interesting look at Nigerian parenting. Niru was a model child that was even headed to Harvard and yet his gayness overshadowed everything. It also showed your basic Nigerian marriage dynamic.  I felt his mum was weak and she could have stood up for him more.

Leggy: When his father said it was better if he had murdered someone, and then the irony of the incident. Well, he kind of got exactly what he asked for. You could tell his mother didn’t think it was that bad, being gay that is, but she didn’t have the guts to stand up for him all through.

Taynement: Can I just say that I wondered a little about how his older brother OJ was written. I actually thought he was dead. Niru kept referring to him like he was a memory.

Leggy: Never got the idea that he was dead. Just think he is basically such a god in their eyes that it made him sound like a memory more than an actual person. He should have called his brother when the whole thing blew up in his face. Also his friendship with Meredith was weird to me. I felt it wasn’t a real friendship on Meredith side because it was built on her infatuation of him. Is it a real friendship if you spend the entire time lusting after said person? Or maybe I just hate her.

Taynement: Fair enough. She’s not a likable person. She has that typical white girl entitlement air about her but as Niru said “Without her life is quiet, with her it is often unbearably loud”

Leggy: Also, it’s quite interesting how so ashamed Niru’s dad was of his gayness that he couldn’t call a conference and say his son is gay. Even with the accusation, he was still too ashamed to admit that. They had proof that he was gay. He had a Tinder account. He had gone on a date. But they chose silence over that option.

Taynement: That’s so deep and so sad and I give Iweala all the credit for delving into this topic and as an acknowledgement nerd, I read it and he felt the need to clarify that he isn’t gay. He also mentioned how this story evolved from a short story of his about a teenage boy outed to his Nigerian parents. He originally did not set out to write about a gay character. He wanted to write about the immigrant experience but he ended up here coming form a community that is conservative about issues of identity and orientation.

Leggy: Of course he had to clarify that he is not a gay guy considering how crazy Nigeria as a society is. Also shows how no matter your credentials and money and background, you’re still black, black, black! His Harvard didn’t matter at the end. His parents living on the right part of town didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but the color of his skin.

Taynement: Yes, I mentioned that earlier, still black at the end of the day. Overall, I thought it was a good book and I would recommend it. I did not like the ending.

Leggy: I did not like the ending either, I just felt like Meredith does not deserve closure or anything good.

Taynement: Lmao. I feel like you focused more on Meredith than Niru or rather she had more of an effect on you.

Leggy: She definitely had more of an effect on me. The whole situation was just too crazy for me. And she kept acting like she was helpless and had no agency at 18. Overall, I would recommend this book too. Gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

Memoirs

Book Review: This Will Only Hurt A Little

Image result for this will only hurt a little

Busy Philipps is an actress that is probably known more for other things than her acting roles. In recent years, she has become more popular from her Instagram stories and being so open about her life. I wasn’t privy to this knowledge and was surprised when she got a book deal. I was like who wants to hear about her life? The book was everywhere so I decided to get in on the action.

Busy obeyed the golden rule of memoirs and was very open. Like super, duper open. We get a detailed account of her life starting from her childhood, which unfortunately is always my least favorite part of celeb memoirs, I just can’t find myself wanting to care about it and would rather get to the juicy stuff. Busy shares her family dynamic and how her sister was so mean to her. She gets into the dirty when she talks about losing her virginity at 14 and having an abortion at 16.

She progresses to when she decides to be an actress, her first few years in college, her first big break with Freaks and Geeks where she was not a fan of James Franco and considered him to be a douche. She speaks about the set of Dawson’s Creek, becoming friends with Michelle Williams, her failed relationships. Meeting her husband and their difficulties, her weight struggles in Hollywood and struggling with being a parent and much more.

As is the rule, I audio’d this one and I liked the layout and pacing of the book but man, getting through her vocal fry and valley girl accent was a chore. She was also so hysterical for most of it and came off as entitled. Or was it bratty? She did give the disclaimer that her version of stories were her memories and it could quite possibly be wrong.

While she comes off as privileged, I did like how she acknowledged she had a sparkly personality which she explained as people always wanting to do stuff for you and things working out for her. But in another breath, she was open about how hard it was for her and her husband when the jobs dried up and they couldn’t afford a nanny before she got the Cougar Town gig. She wasn’t very kind to a lot of Hollywood figures in the book which was bold of her considering most people don’t speak up on this.

Overall, I think I liked the book but now in hindsight, I am thinking “did I?” because I am not sure I would recommend it? If Busy is someone that has been on your radar then I think it would be worth your time because she doesn’t skimp on details at all. That much I’ll give her.

Taynement

Fantasy

Book Review : Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Image result for black leopard red wolf

“Truth is truth and nothing you can do about it even if you hide it, or kill it, or even tell it. It was truth before you open your mouth and say, that there is a true thing.” 

Tracker is highly sought after, for his skills as a hunter. He finds people with his intense sense of smell. He is called upon to find a mysterious boy who disappeared from his mother’s house three years earlier. He finds himself in a group of very odd people with very unique powers all on a quest to find this boy that none of them know much about. When they start getting attacked from all sides, Tracker wonders exactly who the boy is and where the quest is actually going to lead him to.

“Life is love and I have no love left. Love has drained itself from me, and run to a river like this one.” 

This book was a highly anticipated release, it was sold to the audience as the African Game of Thrones. Let me disabuse you of that notion now. This book is NOTHING like Game of Thrones. I have read the Game of Thrones series and again, it is nothing like it. First of all, this is only for hard core fantasy fans and even if you’re one, you’re going to suffer through this. It is less of a straightforward first person narration and more of a stream of consciousness. Tracker narrates the stories himself and it takes so long to get to the meat of the matter. He goes on so many tangents that I won’t be surprised if a lot of people don’t finish this one.

“He is my friend.” “Nobody ever gets betrayed by their enemy.” 

Also, don’t do this book on audio. The narrator has a very thick accent that’s a cross between what Hollywood thinks Africans sound like and a Jamaican accent. You get used to it after a while but this is not a book you can have in the background while doing other things. You really have to listen attentively to understand what is being said. If I had a drinking game for every time the writer said “fuck” or “cock”, I would have been drunk before I hit 10% of the book. It has a lot of sex and if you’re a prude, this is just not the book for you.

“Better to be with the ancestors than to live bonded to somebody else, who might be kind, who might be cruel, who might even make you master to many slaves of your own, but was still master over you.” 

I liked some of the world building in this book. As Tracker follows the boy’s scent from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers, the descriptions of the societies in these cities and the creatures they come across in these forests are fantastic. There were moments I got a glimpse into what this book could have been, if the writer had taken it a different route. I think the premise of this book was great but the execution, not so much.

I found this book to be a maze and you will get lost and confused a lot, I can only advise you to just plow through it if you feel compelled to get through this book. I don’t think this book is for a lot of people and personally, I wouldn’t even know how to sell it.

I think I’m still going to read the next installment in this series because I’m really curious about where the author intends to take this book to. I gave it 2 stars on Good Reads. If you really want to read this one, I think you should persevere through the first 100 pages until the adventure starts off before you decide to give up cos those pages might be just for you.

Have you heard of this book? Are you planning to give it a go? Let me know in the comments.

Leggy.