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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 2018-03-08 02:30
A historical fairy tale that has gone straight on to my favorites list, and I’m not usually big on fairy tales OR mermaids! Christina Henry has written something special here
The Mermaid - Christina Henry

'The Mermaid' has immediately gone onto my favorites list, so I can tell you right away that this book is an absolute treat.
When I grabbed my early copy of it at Emerald City Con at the weekend, I hadn't heard it was coming out, so I certainly didn't harbor any expectations for it, and to be honest, I'm not even a big fan of fairytale retellings. Plus I had to dispel any recent images of killer mermaids I still had in my head after reading 'Into the Drowning Deep’ by Mira Grant, and I thought this would be the perfect way to do that.

'The Mermaid' is a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who wasn't content enough with life in the ocean so she decided that life on land, with a man called Jack, who she feels is the love of her life, was where she needed to be. Amelia was able to come and go from the sea as she pleased, and it seemed as though her life was everything she needed it to be...until Jack grew old (and she didn't). She was then discovered by the great P.T. Barnum. The same P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus Company, who is famous for coining the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute."

That's where Amelia's life completely changed, and the story of the mermaid becomes loosely based off the 'Feejee Mermaid' hoax that Barnum orchestrated. Author Christina Henry obviously did a lot of research to include details about Joice Heth and Tom Thumb (reading the novel will make this all clear!); I found all of this, and all Barnum's various 'humbugs' to be absolutely fascinating (and shocking).

Through the eyes of Amelia, who is essentially a stranger, 'an alien' to this foreign modern world that is New York circa 1840, she questions all sorts of things: why wear all the silly trappings of clothes, why are women not afforded the same rights as men, why are animals treated so poorly, why are people who are not white or Christian 'savages', and so on. And she dares to question her new 'employer' Barnum*, who basically is raking in the dough with her mermaid exhibit.
*I have no idea what to make of P.T.Barnum as a person or character, but Henry does say this rendition is the one that suits her story.

There is so much to love about this book: the wonderful characters who fit within the actual mold that was cast, but who now have been brought to life, the writing of Henry's that seems to flow so beautifully and seems so befitting of the time, and all the questions and ideas that spring off the pages through the character of the mermaid Amelia.
And then there's the idea of the mermaid herself, something we think we have an idea about, and here it is done again; I felt like what I was reading was subtle and ethereal, and in the way that that Amelia was trying to show her reality within the book to others, I was being made to believe it too. There are also themes of sadness, loss, and longing, new love, and acceptance, in the book, and I felt those emotions from the characters clearly. It was wonderful to read all of that and move along with the feelings like waves.

Absolutely wonderful book. I already want to own whatever special edition is made. And the Funko Pop.

I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review. Thank you!

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review 2018-03-05 03:03
Suspend your disbelief for this wild novel about a girl with healing powers who kickstarts the apocalypse; also takes on topics like suicide and bullying
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza - Shaun David Hutchinson

I wanted to read this crazy book from the moment I read the synopsis, and a kind soul surprised me with a pre-order of it.
It’s the sort of book that you’ll either be stoked, like me, when you get your hands on it, or one that you will steer clear of because it’s way too outlandish. And that’s because if you fully intend to immerse yourself in a book where a young girl called Elena Mendoza exists because she is the product of a virgin birth (parthenogenesis), it means suspending your disbelief (a lot), but not reading if you are prone to seeing that very premise alone as blasphemous.

The concept of the book becomes even more interesting after Elena realizes she has the gift of healing people, but she discovers this only after her crush, Freddie, is shot outside the Starbucks she works at. Big problem with this though: innocent people are ‘raptured’ every time Elena heals someone, and the number grows the longer she does it, and she has inanimate objects telling her she must do these healings. Not to mention that this all kicked off the apocalypse.
There’s so much else in here other than this wild story though, that will have the reader thinking all the way through. Having the main character as a bisexual girl of Cuban descent (kudos to Hutchinson) struggling with the ‘voices’, dealing with bullies, and her feelings toward her crush (who honestly isn’t very nice to her), there are a whole host of teenage issues even without the impending apocalypse and feeling like an outcast because she’s a product of a virgin birth. There are also lots of other things brought up such as grief, suicide, gun use, and ultimately the fate of the world becomes the final big conversation.

It’s hard not to read this and not have yourself thinking about how Elena is ‘playing God’ and also about how the world might end. So you can read this and think about how silly it is that Elena is hearing a voice coming from the siren on the Starbucks cup, but you can also appreciate that there are some big questions and topics that Hutchinson is tackling within this wonderful, thought-provoking novel. Sometimes you have to tackle the big subjects within these parameters because otherwise they’re even more overwhelming!
My only major issues with the book were with some passages that seemed to drag that made pacing odd, and a little bit of preachiness at the end. Overall though, this is a wonderfully-written, decidedly different and fun YA novel. A unique read!

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review 2018-03-01 09:29
Tragic, and poignant, this beautifully-written book blew me away; the gun debate will rage on at the back of your mind, and your heart will break for the lead character
Gun Love - Jennifer Clement

This amazing, tragic, beautiful book completely blew me away. The gawdy pink and yellow cover and a title that can only imply a tale that’s going to leave you with something unforgettable, immediately made me want to read this, even though I will unashamedly say I detest firearms...and yes, there are a lot of guns in this book.
This poetically-written novel drew me in right away, as it’s really a tale about a young girl called Pearl who has spent her short life of 14 years living with her mom in a car parked at a trailer park, in Central Florida. The novel is written in three parts, and told from Pearl’s perspective, as if she were telling someone her story, her absolutely heart-wrenching story; it is told with the naivety of someone who is even younger because she has seen so little, yet this is also a little girl who has had to come to terms with not knowing who her father is, has her ‘wardrobe’ in the trunk of the car, and has smoked cigarettes since she was 10.
Huge issues come up in this pretty short book, and my heart broke over and over again, at the same time my head was screaming on about the gun debate (there’s no coincidence that this is set in Florida, but it comes at a time where recent incidents make this novel all the more poignant, regardless of the specific story contained within). It’s hard not to connect thoughts and feelings with current events when reading this. It’s also very hard to read this without a lump in your throat.
I’ve not read any of author Jennifer Clement’s work before but this is spectacular. I can’t give too much away regarding the full storyline, but the way Jennifer weaves words together is just magic, and I couldn’t take my eyes away from the page. This is one of the best things I’ve read so far this year and I won’t forget ‘Gun Love’ any time soon, especially given the sad tale within, and the tragedies brought on by firearms in the real world. Absolutely masterful and poignant.

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review 2018-02-13 18:03
Absolutely riveting thriller inspired by a real-life case; I couldn’t put this down!
Mister Tender's Girl: A Novel - Carter Wilson

I waited with baited breath to receive my finished copy after reading the initial excerpt, and I was not disappointed when I got the actual book in my hands. ‘Mister Tender’s Girl’ kept me riveted from start to finish; the tension, and gripping story just didn’t let up for the entire novel.


The main character, Alice Gray (formerly Hill), has been victim to the atrocity of being attacked and stabbed by the Glassin twins, some 14 years ago now, and the crime was ‘encouraged’ by their fanatical attachment to graphic novels that Alice’s father wrote and drew about a character called ‘Mister Tender’. For many readers (and author Carter Wilson writes about this at the end of the novel), this will remind them of the real-life crimes spurred on by the Slender Man case.

Alice now lives in a world where she has tried to run away from her terrible past back in England, where her father was also later attacked and killed, her brother has been diagnosed with mental illness, although her mother is pulling all the strings for him; along with all that, Alice gradually finds out there’s a whole online community dedicated to following Alice’s new life, obsessed with her struggle, and she comes to learn that the past is catching up with her. There’s now a ‘Mister Interested’ on her tail, and figures from her past are popping up, making her her terrible PTSD symptoms and panic attacks incredibly difficult to deal with, especially in her new life that she has tried to create; she now owns a coffee shop, and has dedicated time to make her body and mind stronger in response to her past. It seems her changes are not enough though, as she is living in a world of constant terror, anxiety, and fitful dreams.


I feel like this is more than just a thriller though; it kept me glued to my pages for 2 days straight, as often as I could get reading time in, Wilson has done an excellent job in creating a character who has worked hard on herself and fights back against all odds, shows great tenacity, and although she is struggling with problems like PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks, she continues to rule out being a victim any longer. She also wants to have strong bonds with her brother and sees his struggle as well. I like that Wilson delved into the ‘scary depths’ of mental illness here because this was important to these characters.
I know you have to suspend your disbelief about the cops becoming involved at certain junctures of the plot perhaps (I’m trying so hard not to reveal what happens!), but the tension and drama in this book doesn’t let up and I was INSIDE this book all the way; it was written THAT well.

For writing Alice as a survivor who decided to fight back after she became a victim, I say bravo. And for making it so that I forgot about about real-life scenario comparisons, extra kudos. I also enjoyed the writing tactic of taking the reader inside other worlds within the book successfully, without losing me in the least: the children’s story, the graphic novel, the past storylines, the dreams, the Internet chatroom, all very cleverfully employed.
*Extra points for taking me back to Dover, England, where my dad lives.


Overall, this was one enthralling suspenseful read, and just like I couldn’t wait to get this in my hands, I can’t wait to read what Carter writes next. I couldn’t get ENOUGH of this book, I just wanted more. That’s ALWAYS a sign of a good book.
*Thank you to Sourcebooks and BookishFirst for my copy of the book.





**First Impression of what I’ve read so far (written after reading initial EXCERPT):
I actually slept on my first look of the book before writing this ‘impression’, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what I read. I also lapped up those first 30 pages (and kept swiping, hoping there was more on my Kindle, because I didn’t want it to end yet), because I was immediately drawn into the story that Carter has written. Alice is gripped in this world of anxiety and ongoing terror after what happened to her (and her father) so many years ago, and those feelings just emanate off those pages. I was immediately made to feel what she was feeling and because I love psychological thrillers in general, this just felt unique, with the graphic novel element, just jumping off the pages too. The writing was smooth and felt natural as Alice’s ‘voice’, and out of all of the ‘First Impressions I’ve read yet, this is the one that has pulled me in the fastest. Alice is haunted daily by her past, while trying to hide behind a veneer in a different world where no one really knows her, and now this ‘Mister Tender’ shows up?! I absolutely am dying to know what happens next and I would be honored to read and review an early copy of this thriller. It looks fantastic.

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