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Search tags: second-read-by-an-author
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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 2018-01-25 04:55
Anything is Possible
Anything Is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

I will preface this, in an attempt at full disclosure, by admitting I am a fan of Elizabeth Strout. I heard her speak at our library lunch after Olive Kittredge came out, and at the time I was not sure if she would be able to top the success of that book. At the event, I grabbed copies of Amy & Isabelle and Abide with Me, which I greedily read not long after. There is something soothing and almost intoxicating about Strout's writing; she draws you in effortlessly, lulls you into complacency, and then shatters it all with a painful reality you might not have even imagined. Her characters are, at first glance, nondescript, often eking out a meager existence; but in her caring hands, they are stalwart, earnest, and beautiful. When Lucy Barton reappeared in this book, it was like catching up with an old friend, and I'm sure I judged her siblings harshly because I defended her. And that is the heart of it, really. I care about these characters. Strout pulls away the curtain, and we see what makes these people tick; we care about them because she makes us care, her words inspire empathy. And, given the state of things around here right now, we could all use a little more of that.

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review 2018-01-12 03:40
The Refugees
The Refugees - Viet Thanh Nguyen

I read Nguyen's well-received first book, The Sympathizer, so I was eager to read this collection of short stories, and happy to see it available on NetGalley. When I initially selected Sympathizer, it was on my husband's recommendation, but that book easily sold me on Nguyen's ability to compel a reader, especially one who wasn't sure about the subject. Like Sympathizer, the characters here live difficult, often impossible lives. In some cases, I admit, I wasn't sorry the story was short; I was happy to escape to a different place, with new characters and challenges. Despite the slim volume, the characters are fully-realized, and their stories are crafted with care and compassion.

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review 2018-01-04 22:08
Letters to a Young Writer
Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice - Colum McCann

I can't believe it's been so long since I read this book, but I am behind on my reviews and yes, it's a new year, so I am trying to catch up. The lateness, however, has nothing to do with my love for this book; this was a highlight of the year for me.


I've enjoyed Colum McCann's novels, so when he wrote a book on writing, of course I wanted to read it. (And I wanted to enroll in his creative writing class at Hunter.) When I look at the book again now, I am kind of surprised I didn't highlight passages. So why didn't I highlight this one? It would have taken all of the pleasure out of reading, what with all that highlighting. There are so many inspiring words here, as evidenced by writers and non-writers alike who rave about this book.


I especially appreciated that McCann addresses older writers here as well, and that he credits a whole slew of others with his own writing education. If you are an aspiring writer, this is a book to treasure, and, something I say only rarely — one to read again and again.

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review 2017-11-07 04:14
Little Heaven
Little Heaven: A Novel - Nick Cutter

Why, why, why, does someone like me, who is terrified of horror movies and books, keep choosing these books from NetGalley? To be fair, I have not chosen a lot of them, and they all have one commonality — they were all written by Nick Cutter (or Craig Davidson, who uses this name as a pseudonym.) I don't know what it is about these books, but I've said it before (here) and (here), I just find Cutter's writing completely compelling. This time, I didn't even tell my husband about it, I just went ahead and read it without the horror-shaming that usually comes first from him. And guess what? I loved this one too, more than The Deep, and a teensy-bit less than The Troop. Maybe next time I'll try a Davidson book, so I won't have to sleep with the lights on for a week after I finish.


Honestly, that's all I'm going to say about this, you don't need anything else from me. Get the book and read it for yourself. You will not be disappointed. Freaked out, confused and sleepless, but definitely not disappointed.

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