Book Review: Pachinko

Book Review #22: Pachinko (Min Jin Lee)

***

I had really high hopes for this book given that I had read rave reviews everywhere and had to wait for it to become available at the library for several months. In the end, it was a satisfying read but I also felt let down. I found the writing and plot sometimes to be overly simplistic and not prone to giving enough depth to characters. I know part of that was out of necessity because the book had to cover an absurd amount of time, but I would have rather read an even longer novel that filled in some more details for me. I will say it was the first book I read from start to finish in quite some time.

Book Review: The Little Friend

Book Review #21 – The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)

*****

Wow. What a book. I can’t even think of what to say. This was a book I read, frequently, but also thought about reading when I wasn’t reading it. The only book I can compare it to is Light in August by Faulkner. There is a similarity — the gothic Southerness, the focus on race and class relations, the loss of innocence, the sense of individual people making logistically sound choices but getting caught up into a chaotic world. It’s a book about a 12-year old avenging her brother’s murder but it’s so far beyond that. Nothing much happens but also everything happens.

Donna Tartt, like Jeffery Eugenides, has written three books. Like Jeffery Eugenides, one has won the Pulitzer Prize. But unlike him, she has published each book ten years apart. Each one constructs a completely realistic and surreal world, and each one lets you go so deep into that world that it’s a struggle to let go.

Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

Book Review #2O – A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin)

**

I really thought I’d love this book. I have been reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s blog which is amazing. I love hearing her perspective on small moments, news events, and appreciate the value she provides as both a wonderful writer and someone older, who has an interesting perspective and view of the world. A Wizard of Earthsea is arguably her best known book. Written for children (or young adults might be more accurate), I found it really complex. Maybe it just wasn’t what I was expecting. The plot was almost hesitant, and I often found myself confused and having to go back a few pages to pick up the lost thread. I was curious about the book and how it would end, but couldn’t really get into it.

Book Review: The Marriage Plot

Book Review #19 – The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides)

**

Jeffrey Eugenides has published three books: The Virgin Suicides (adapted into a movie directed by Sofia Coppola), Middlesex (a Pulitzer Prize winner), and The Marriage Plot. I have read all three. The Virgin Suicides, which I read in my teens, I thought terrible and completely unrelateable. Middlesex, I found completely moving and phenomenal, and the Marriage Plot. What do I think about the Marriage Plot? It is a book I have seen – at the library, at the bookstore – many times, picked it up, read the back cover, and placed it back down. I do honestly believe it’s not worth reading. The characters are flat, the plot is absurd and slow-moving — there is just a completely vapid nothingness. It almost reminded me of Revolutionary Road in terms of how much of a novel you can craft around unlikable flat characters who can’t seem to learn how to be better people.

Book Review: Dear Ijeawele

Book Review #17 – Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

***

I hesitated over whether to review this book. I wasn’t sure if it was a book. It’s an adapted email from a friend classified by Wikipedia as “an epistolary form manifesto” whatever that needs. It is 15 suggestions on how to raise a daughter with feminist values. It’s a book meant to engaged deeply with but having no children and no book club, I struggled to do so. I wished I could convene a women’s group and meet each week to discuss one of the lessons.

Book Review: Goodbye, Things

Book Review #16 – Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism (Fumio Sasaki)

*

This is a dumb book. Basically a list of how/why you should become a minimalist which is fine but examples include a globetrotter who doesn’t seem to carry any clothes in his backpack (I am so confused by how this works. What underwear does he wear while his other pair is drying…?) and the author, himself, who uses the same dish cloth to dry his hands, wash his body and…dry his dishes. Yeesh.

 

Book Review: Sour Heart

Book Review #15 –  Sour Heart (Jenny Zhang)  

*****

This is a brilliant book. A collection of short stories with some interwoven threads, it is a raw and honest look at immigrant life. The broad theme of the book is the first and second generation immigrant experience in NYC. It goes so deep into the challenges and the hopes of moving to a new country during an era where there wasn’t technology to keep connections with the old world and the new. Almost disgusting at points in terms of how explicit it was, it is unflinching and is the best encapsulation of the immigrant experience I have ever read.