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review 2018-03-15 17:29
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko - Min Jin Lee

It took me almost four months to read Pachinko. As I read, I began wondering about my slow pace. My fall semesters are busier, yes, but I still manage to finish most books in what's a timely manner for me. It certainly wasn't because I found the book hard to read in terms of comprehension or engagement. As I got closer to the end, I realized: it was because I was so invested in the characters and storytelling I had to take time to process the intense feelings the novel evoked. There are also regular gaps in time that take place between chapters where characters' situations change significantly; I needed mental space before diving into the story again. I can't think of another novel that required this sort of reading from me.

 

In addition to Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh, Pachinko has served to establish that "family sagas" can engage me, or at least when another culture is involved. Through the family portrayed here, I learned more about Korea, but it never feels like a history lesson. Everything comes from the characters. The novel also provokes thought about national and racial identity.

 

There were moments I dreaded, as with the return of a less sympathetic character, though not in a way that made me dislike the novel or its author. There were moments that shocked me to the point of gasping. There are many scenes that easily and vividly come to mind when I recall my reading, which I finished more than a month ago.

 

I would love to teach this novel. I have the feeling I may reread it some day, regardless. For me, that's a rarity, a compliment, and a sign of deep gratitude. 

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review 2018-03-07 18:38
Review: "Gagged" (The Clipped Saga, #3) by Devon McCormack
Gagged - Devon McCormack

 

~ 2.5 stars ~

 

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review 2018-03-03 21:44
Between Sinners and Saints (Audiobook)
Between Sinners and Saints - Marie Sexton

Why did I wait so long to read this?

 

Well, because I found out there was a Mormon character and I always worry about that being done wrong. And while Levi's family isn't a carbon copy of my own or other Mormon families I know, I can still see this family dynamic existing in real life. It's almost too easy to see it. Even the church presidents spews the "love the sinner but not the sin" nonsense that Levi's family does here. Sadly, the Church isn't contend with just that. The book really gives a fully detailed and nuanced view of the various Binders and how they feel about Levi being gay. It's never questioned that they love Levi, some of them just don't know how to love him unconditionally like the Church also teaches us to do. His family runs the full spectrum of strictly following Church doctrine to believing it's high time the Church get off their high horse and catch up with the times.

 

Still, I can see how some readers not familiar with Mormonism or Mormons might hate Levi's family, and that's okay too.

 

Ok, onto the good stuff. Levi starts out a selfish windbag who's only concern is where to stick his dick. Working for a gay night club in Miami gives him plenty of hookups but little else. He doesn't realize how hollow his life is until he meets Jamie. Jamie is a massage therapist who Levi goes to for help with his surfer's hip and Levi, in true douche bag fashion, tries to seduce Jamie. Jamie though has a lot of trauma in his past and he quickly throws Levi out on his keister where Levi belongs. When Levi finally realizes what an asshole he's been, he has a turn around and he and Jamie become friends.

 

This is a nice slow burn, as Jamie and Levi get to know each other, and Jamie learns that he can in fact trust Levi. Levi in turns learns how to put someone else's needs above his own. It's the start of the change to a better life for both of them.

 

The romance takes it's time and doesn't rush things, and I didn't feel like Jamie's sexual awakening in the latter half of the book was too easy. It's anything but easy for him, and it's Levi's patience and understanding that goes a long way to helping Jamie become comfortable with his own body and letting himself be vulnerable.

 

The narrator, John Solo, does a fantastic job with the story and characters. He really brings the story to life, and his voices for the various characters are all well done and feel perfect for each one.

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review 2018-03-02 04:48
The Diary of A Young Girl is exactly that and much more
The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition - Mirjam Pressler,Susan Massotty,Otto Frank,Anne Frank

I reread this for the Catch-up Book Club on Goodreads, and I'm glad I did. The last time I read Anne's diary I was younger than she was while writing it, and again, I'm annoyed at myself for being such a dumb kid. Also, it's changed since my initial read. There's more and we get more background in the newest editions.

I hate using stars to "rate" a journal that itself says how boring, juvenile, tawdry, silly and personal it is repeatedly, but I'm going to if only to keep the rating I gave it earlier and reinforce it.

As an older reader I felt for Anne's parents early in the book. She is oblivious to the many goings-on in preparation to go into hiding. She's living a child's life with her new birthday diary, while her parents have moved the family more than once to avoid Hitler only to get stuck in Holland. Nonetheless, they prepare for hiding by taking things piece by piece to the annex and preparing as much as possible before being forced to flee. I was impressed by her father Otto's ability to allow her as much carefree childhood as he could during what must have been incredibly terrifying days.

Anne's earliest entries show she's a child with a keen understanding that many people only show masks to the rest of us. This observation repeats itself through the journal, and her torment with others being less genuine than she would like is, in itself, heart wrenching. An historical document, a life in hiding with its mundanity and extraordinary qualities equally prevalent, this diary shows both extreme fear and incredible boredom. She goes from child to philosopher repeatedly.

Interested in a huge variety of things, Anne keeps herself busy writing not just in her diary but also short stories, genealogical studies, poetry, etc. She's got thoughts and ideals on feminism, love, God, war and peace, the culpability of regular people, families, self, discrimination, motherhood, pain, poverty, medical science, finance, the war machine, religion... This is not an idle idiot scrawling nonsense. She is very capable of growth, and we see it within the diary. She allows for her own earlier "childish" writing, yet leaves it included with some additional notes. While she was supposedly editing this for after the war, she remarks more than once that this diary is just for her, that it surely won't be worthwhile to anyone else ever. How wrong you were, Anne Frank.

Anne practices multiple languages, learns history and other subjects, reads voraciously and really only stops in to write in her diary occasionally once she and her family are in hiding. She also stays abreast of her schoolwork, always planning and even trying to expect freedom just around the corner. She's up on the war, keeps an eye on the Allied Forces and fully expects them to succeed. She knows she's being optimistic. She says she's doing it purposely. She watches the squabbles around her, getting annoyed at other people's annoyance, and only occasionally allows herself to wish for things she can't have. Instead, she simply plans for "after" the war.

One moment really stood out to me. While discussing the war, Anne notes that despite nationality, she believes that after the war "We can never be just Dutch or just English or whatever, we will be Jews as well." This is, to me, a remarkable statement. While Zionism had already begun, it becomes very clear that Anne - isolated and sheltered from the worst thus far - has figured out something absolutely vital about the world post WWII and about identity when someone is part of a marginalized group in a larger society. Much earlier she had started wrestling between her German identity and her Jewish identity and she will begin to include her Dutch identity too.

The Diary of A Young Girl is exactly that and so much more.

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review 2018-02-18 07:41
Of course all this happened a long time ago, and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne

I wasn't planning on reading this today. It fell from my new pile, and as I went to get coffee, I started to read and finished it in one sitting.

Original and devastating. A child "outside the fence" long before anyone knew what went on at a place he understands to be called "Out-With" where he's moved because his father has been promoted to commandant. The family is housed on the grounds and on day one Bruno sees what he imagines to be not very fun children across the field. He and his sister didn't want to move from Berlin, but what choice does a child have? So off they go to and nobody tells them much beyond they have to go. Since nobody tells them anything, they have to make it up for themselves and figure it out on their own. But how do you figure out the unimaginable?

They've always lived in the city, so the kids first decide that a lot of strange-seeming things just are because this is "the countryside;" he calls his father's boss "the Fury." Bruno is the son of an important man in a Nazi party, but he knows nothing about it. Why should he? Nobody knew anything about what was going on in those camps for a very long time. (Recall the reactions of the grown-up soldiers who liberated the camps or the newspaper accounts in the days afterward.)

It's apolitical and not historical. It's mostly a fable and readers will need to be very young and naive or willing to suspend belief for a few hours while they step into the shoes of a young German boy who does not have the benefit of history or being outside anything but his own, very small, world. (Bruno is nine, but it feels more like around six or so. He's certainly much younger than today's nine year old kids.)

Perhaps the best part of this book comes at the very end, after the whole story is over. The narrator says, "Of course all this happened a long time ago, and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age."

Talk about a gut punch.

And also an opening to what is going on in many parts of the world right now, has gone on in recent years, etc.

I'm now listening to an interview with the author and publisher. They discuss how many survivors, their children and grandchildren have read this book and decided that they should have their children read it. Marketed first as an adult book, it's a fable and would be OK for people of any age with some guard rails. If a child reads it, they will need a grown-up guide to fill in all of the things Bruno doesn't grasp. It's an opening conversation to both history and the way complacency, secrecy, prejudice, denial, and deceit have devastating consequences.

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