Review: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

I write this knowing that I will not able to truly express how I feel about this novel. It is equal parts breathtaking, heartbreaking and infuriating. I was drawn to this book by the title. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that Kate and I have an interest in Korea and I was born in 1982. You add the feminist storyline and it had me. Kim Jiyoung quit her job that she liked to be a full time mother and wife. She starts speaking in other women’s voices which not surprisingly concerned her husband so he enlist the help of a male therapist to treat her. The novel plays out out a narrative her life as she explains it to her therapist during their sessions. Through this we see the hardships she endures throughout her life and everything that has led her to today. Like so many women of our generation, Jiyoung was encouraged to follow her dreams and pursue a career that she wanted but also expected to give it all up once marriage and children come into the picture. As the novel progresses and she gets older I could see of how the toll of constantly being undervalued, dismissed and harassed by a misogynistic society has taken on her. There are the all too familiar stories of having expectations of taking care of ones family over yourself. The expectation that her brother should get cherished because he will be the one to bring the family honor and not the sisters. The expectations that women have to do just deal with being harassed and belittled at the work place. That she will always come in second to the wants and needs to the men in her life. Every woman knows how this all feels. Growing up in the US during a time of mostly prosperity, there were things about her childhood I could not identify with but what I could was being told that the boy teasing you/bulling you means that they secretly like you. The assumption that the boys are just smarter and some how more mature and more immature then you too. I remember a specific incident in college getting a grade two points below my fellow male student even though it was a group project and we both did equal amount of the work. At least twice I was passed over for promotions in favor of a less experience male coworker. As a single woman living in New York City. I am constantly aware of my surroundings and cautious of what I say and do when I’m around men. On the occasion I went out with friends, we always make sure to text each other when we get home to check in that we all got home safely. It’s exhausting to be a woman. Admittingly, Kim Jiyoung had it harder then I did. I do admit that I have a certain amount of privilege that has allowed me to live an easier life than most. I have had some sense that Korea is a very patriarchal society based on the amount of Kdramas and Kpop I’ve consumed but how it’s illustrated here makes it feel so oppressive. It seems to be getting better but you can’t change thousands of years of thinking and traditions overnight. Jiyoung is constantly trying to find the balance of sticking up for herself but also not rocking the boat. She sees that what she is being told and taught is unfair but doesn’t what to to say or do about it. When she does stand up for herself it is often her that gets in trouble and not the man in question. Again all too familiar. It really is a wonder that after a lifetime of this abuse and oppression that all women don’t just snap. The sense of dread I began to feel as the narrative came closer and closer to her getting married was just heavy. I wished I could tell her no. Don’t do it. Don’t quit your job. Insist more that your husband give up more of his time once the baby is born. At the end we get to read the therapist diagnosis and like so many good intention men he gets so close to getting to the truth and understanding what she is really going through but in the end fails to comprehend. Mostly because it would mean he would have to start to actually see women as something other then just their wives, mothers, daughters and human beings and to do that he would have to make them people, equal and that is just too hard for too many men. So nothing changes and we all suffer for it.

Review for Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Oh My. Where do I start? Let’s just get this out of the way. Those who are fans of the books and are willing to look past all the problematic elements of the series will love this. The rest of us, meh. It doesn’t really reveal anything new. It is literally a retelling of Twilight but from Edward’s perspective. So no surprises, no twists or subplots. It’s all the same. Okay not really. We are treated to more scenes with the Cullens and get to see more insight into their family dynamic which I’ll admit is interesting but not enough to say this was worth it. If I’m being honest this was hard for me to get through. 1. All of my feels about rereading Twilight were still fresh and my mind and well yeah that definitely played in how I viewed this book. 2. It didn’t change my opinion on either Edward or Bella if anything just reaffirmed what I already believed about each character. 3. It’s kinda boring. So much that I got as far as the Port Angeles incident to realize I didn’t care about Edward’s thoughts on things. I just didn’t. It was 600 pages of Edward going back and forth of feeling guilty for putting Bella and danger but feeling even more guilty for unable to walk away. Like ugh. I can’t.

Let’s talk about Edward here When we meet Edward he is a bored out of his mind 100+ year old vampire high schooler. Just going through the motions of playing the average teenager to try to blend in with all the humans and try to have a normal life. Like Bella I kind of have dislike to him from the beginning. He has such contempt for his fellow students based on reading their thoughts. He calls them all simple and shallow for worrying and thinking about such mundane things but like they are all teenagers. What are they supposed to think about. He sneers in judgement at all of them for getting so excited about a new student who is starting as it’s the most interesting thing in the world. I remember when a new kid started at school and how we all were all excited to meet someone new. It’s human nature but I guess that’s the point. Edward isn’t human. Of course, we all know what happens next. Edward meets Bella in Biology. She smells so amazing that he immediately wants to kill her and suck all her blood out of her. He contemplates if he could do it before anyone would stop him? How many others he would have to kill? Can he lure her away from the rest of the student body after class? He miraculously makes it through class without killing anyone and immediately runs away to Alaska as to not to risk exposing his family. After a week sulking in Alaska he decides to go back mostly out of out pride. How dare this little girl force him from his home and family? How dare she make him feel weak for running away? Who does she think she is? So he comes back and eavesdrops and everyone else’s thoughts about her because frustratingly he can’t read her thoughts. He’s intrigued by her because she doesn’t do what he expects her to do. For someone who has known everyone thoughts for almost an hundred years, not being able to is an exciting challenge for him and add to that that she doesn’t react to him the way everyone else does. She doesn’t seem scared or wary of him like she should be. She challenges him and his principles. So he does what any normal vampire does. He observes her through others and see that’s she different from the other humans. He thinks she’s kind and shy and incredibly unlucky because he has to save her from Tyler’s truck. Next thing you know, Bella is all Edward can think about. He obsesses over everything about her. Why does she do that and say this? Why is she is so unlucky? Like seriously, she could die at any moment. He must protect her! This includes breaking and entering into her bedroom to watch her sleep. BTW, the mental gymnastics he goes through to justify doing this is pretty impressive if not scary and wrong but I digress. When I say he’s obsessed with her I mean it. I’m not convinced that he is actually in love with Bella. He’s in love with the challenge of her. The enigma of her. Bella is the first interesting thing to happen to him in decades and he is desperate to hold on to it despite the fact he knows that he is wrong for her. He knows that every moment he is with her he puts her in danger either from him and his family or outside forces and instead of walking away like he knows he should but can’t because he’s obsessed. This really isn’t a love story at least from Edward’s perspective.

The good thing about this book is we do get to know more about the Cullen’s like Rosalie. In the original series she is nothing more then just a spoiled pretty girl who doesn’t like Bella because has what Rosalie wants. To be human. To be able to grow old, start a family and have a normal life. Apparently it’s more than that. Rosalie hates Bella at first because she’s vain. She was meant to be Edward’s partner and Edward rejected her and even though she found Emmett the rejection still stings. Which really makes her seem shallow and easy to dismiss when she raises questions about Bella and the risks she presents to their family. She could undo everything that they have built and what happens when she wants Edward to turn her? What happens if she disappears? The rest of the family don’t listen to her because they think she is just being difficult but she’s right. She was absolutely right. When James, Victoria and Laurent come in the area, things would have been fine if Bella hadn’t been there and even before the whole James’ incident Bella is already thinking about becoming a vampire so she can be with Edward forever. Even Alice has seen a possible future of Bella being turned so they all know it could be happy. We need to give Rosalie an apology because she was all right all along. #Rosaliewasright

So yeah it was a ride. I wouldn’t say I would recommend reading it unless you are looking for some nostalgia in your life. It’s not a good book, well not any better than the original. It doesn’t add to it, except for maybe the car chase to get from the Airport to the dance studio to save Bella. That was pretty fun. Also Alice’s planning the cover up afterwards was amusing but neither of those things make it worth reading this if you weren’t already planning on it. I’ll never regret reading the Twilight Series because it did introduce me to a whole new genre and new authors that I wouldn’t have every thought about before. For that I’ll be forever grateful for but as for Edward, Bella it was good while it lasted but in the end I’m just not that into you after all.

Final Thoughts on Twilight

It’s funny how time and age makes you look at things differently. I know both Kate and I have mentioned this before on this blog. When the Twilight first came out 15 years ago we were fans. I personally was borderline obsessed with the series. I reread them multiple times back to back to back. Once I finished with Eclipse, I would go immediately go back to Twilight and reread them all over again. I even scheduled my move to New York around the Breaking Dawn Midnight release party. I don’t remember the last time I read Twilight but I’m thinking it was probably some time around 2008. Obviously, a lot of happened in the 12 years since the last time I read Twilight. The movies came out and that lead to more discourse to be written about them. The inevitable backlash and burnout happened. My own opinion changed. I’ll admit there was a short period that I felt embarrassed for liking them though over time I had began to soften on them and even start to defend them. Our one and only podcast we discussed vampire novels and Twilight featured heavily. I started to feel that some of the backlash was unwarranted. That it mostly focused on the fact that it was written by a woman and had a fan base made up of young girls and their mothers. Two demographics that are rarely taken seriously. When Stephenie Meyer announced that she was going to finally release Midnight Sun I was ecstatic. Kate and I planned to reread the series to prepare. It was going to be amazing! I did not anticipate how hard it was going to be me to get through just Twilight. Not all of it had to do with the text. The pandemic really has interrupted so much of our lives but yes the story was hard to get into. I’ve already talked about my feelings Bella. My feelings about Edward are not any better and honestly Midnight Sun does improve it but more on that in another post. How did I think this book was romantic? I was more Team Jacob than Team Edward because I always felt that Edward was a little to controlling even back then but this time around I was more horrified by his actions. The manipulation and gas lighting that Edward pulls on Bella throughout the series is not okay. I realize to keep him and family safe there is a certain amount of lying is a must but the things he continue to keep from her. The fact he breaks into her house to watch her sleep. How he appoints himself her guardian without her knowledge or consent. How he justifies all of this as for her own good to try to convince himself that he is still a good guy despite also being aware that he is the greatest threat to her safety then anything else in forks. Bella is also not so great. Meyer’s tries to make her selflessness as a virtue but I think it’s kind of her weakness. She has no self preservation or just no self. She sees no issues with Edward entering her house without her consent. She’s flattered. She refuses to tell Charley that she is going on a date with Edward because she wants to protect him and his family if something goes bad like killing her. She runs off the meet James alone to save her mom but more importantly save Edward. The moment she starts to get involved with Edward she drops everything else. To be clear, she didn’t really much care for many of her other friends before so her dropping them wasn’t a hardship but it really does show her priorities. Being in my late thirties now, how quickly Bella is to give up her youth for immortality the most troubling. The one thing I agree with Edward. She is so focused on the fact that she will age and Edward won’t and the aesthetics of how that will look as time goes by. That she never considers of what she’ll give up or that her own priorities might change. She might go to college, meet other people and find a subject that she is passionate about and decide that she wants more then just Edward. She denies herself the opportunity to grow. Not to mention the abuse she suffers. Make no mistake, Edward is an abuser. He may not be physically hurting her but he is emotionally. He manipulates her to feel to certain ways. He constricts her movements of where she can go and who she can see. He constantly puts her in danger and not just by being in her presence but from other vampires as well. Edward is not the romantic lead he or Bella thinks he is. I’ll go more into it with Midnight Sun but I have a feeling that Twilight Series written as it is now would not be published or at least would not be the world wide sensation it became. Not in the Me Too era. If anything Twilight is cautionary tale and maybe that’s how she view it from now on.

TV Review: The Baby-Sitter’s Club

I’ll admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the books. I know that I read a few of them when I was a kid but don’t really remember much about them beyond Stacy’s struggles with diabetes and Claudia being the artist. When I was a bookseller I often recommended it to parents because I may not have been to it as girl I knew so many who had and it had very few things for any parent to object about. While self-quarantining this last week, I decided to check out the Netflix series based on the books and was just so blown away. It is so happy and wholesome and exactly what I needed in times like this. This is very much the Baby-sitter’s club of our childhood and it’s also not. The characters are the same. Kristy is the president and bossy. Mary-Ann, her best friend is still smart and caring. Claudia is still the artist and fashionista. Stacy is still boy crazing and Dawn is still the cool California girl but they’ve been updated to today’s world. The very first scene we meet Kristy and Mary-Ann talking about a teacher and school and Kristy gives one sweet burn to Thomas Jefferson and it doesn’t let up. Each girl is fully fleshed up as they navigate middle school and friendship. They are all going through changes from parents divorces and remarriage, sickness, boys, first loves and other heartbreaks. Each girl gets their own episodes that they narrate and center in and we see how they are coping or not coping with all the changes going on in their lives. I feel in love with all five of them and want the world for them. I love their friendship and how they support each other. They fight and argue but even during times when they are made with each other or unsure of each other they are always there when they need each other. We don’t always get stories of girls friendships like this so when it’s like this we need to celebrate it. I can’t recommend it enough. Go watch it and bring some tissues.

Quick Review: Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

In some ways I’m sorry that I read this book now when I was so distracted because it was a good book and a solid ending to an entertaining series. It took me a month to get read it not because I wasn’t enjoying it but that I just had trouble concentrating long enough to get what I was reading. I’ve talked about my struggle to read while self isolating. I’ve been doing some thinking and realized that maybe it’s not just that I’ve had hard time concentrating during this time but I also have a hard time concentrating on reading on home. In the before time, I did most of my reading during my commutes to and from work. I would read at home but usually no more than a chapter or two right before bed. For me to read as many books as I did before, I have to change my reading habits on a whole to do it. This kind of makes me feel better. Also I have to remind myself that I need to stop holding myself to the standards of life before the pandemic because we are not living in the world anymore and may never again. So enough about that. Let’s talk about this book.

We we last ended our heroes, they have to race across the country to get to wish point before Genno, who has all the pieces of the scroll summons the Dragon and gets his wish. Unknown to Yumeko, Tatsumi and gang there is another person out there that has been pulling the strings and the task ahead of them is much tougher than they thought. Yumeko continues to shine with her brave spirit and kind heart. Despite the risk she always did what she could to protect her friends and complete strangers. This strength is ultimately what gets her and her friends through all the trials along the way. The ending was admittingly heartbreaking but powerful and maybe the most realistic way to end. Which is kind of funny when you think about because Yumeko is a kitsune, Tatsumi is sharing his body with a Demon and they are trying to stop the bad guy from summoning a Dragon to get a wish. If you are looking for a good fantasy novel based on mythology but want something not based on western stories, this is a good series to check out. The rich Japanese folktales that fill this series really gives it a lush setting that works so well with the fantasy it created.

Quick Review: Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

Take a bow Justina Ireland. This series is just so good. Zombies, Queer heroine, old western story. It really has it all. At the end of Dread Nation, Jane and Katherine had to escape Summerland after it was overrun by Shamblers Of course, nothing is simple for them and they suffer one tragedy after another. I got a tell you, it was interesting reading this right before Coronavirus became a global pandemic because while I don’t think people are coming back as Zombies but it’s interesting to see how the world even fictional adapted to epidemic. Let’s just say, I am not sure we are doing all that great but I digress. Jane and Katherine through the journey have to deal with some major PTSD other issues. They have seen and done some many terrible things to survive and that will do damage to the strongest person. What I love about this story is how they handle it and the importance of having a strong friendship to get your through it. Katherine saves Jane by just being supportive of her. Being there for her when she needs and taking a step back when she doesn’t. Proof that we can’t always do it alone. A lesson that Gideon could have learned. He was so sure of his own greatness that he was willing to let the world burn to get what he thought he deserved. Yeah, privilege rich white man destroys the world. I know I am not doing it justice with this review but this series is amazing and for all of you quarantined at home, I highly recommend it.

Review: The King of Crows by Libba Bray

The Diviner’s series is such a well crafted story from beginning to end. Libba Bray has said in interviews that she wanted to write a ghost story and it kinda is. Our heroes have to literally fight the ghosts of our nation’s past and the ghosts of their own lives too. While I don’t think it was intended it is also a cautionary tale as well. It takes place in 1927 but so many of the issues that 1920’s America was facing we are still facing now. You all know the quote, History repeats itself? Well, Evie, Sam, Theta, Henry, Ling, Memphis, Isiah and Jericho are faced with racism, sexism, white supremacy, fascism and rapidly improvements in technology. I’ve mentioned this in past reviews of this series that so many of the scenes could take place today and not look out of place. We really haven’t learned from our mistakes or really ever really truly faced the truth of our past. The King of Crow was created by the greed, sorrow and misdeeds of our past. He feeds of the fear and ignorance and uses that to bargain with people for their souls and this has made him powerful. After the events of last book, our heroes have to go on the run. They are being blamed for the death of Sarah Snow, a popular radio star and they are easy targets because they are a group of young people who are black, Jewish, mixed race, gay, disabled and have powers that people do not understand. Once again playing on fear and ignorance they public quickly turns on them. Now the first half of the book have shades of the never-ending-camping trip from Harry Potter. The group has been split up and all of over the country. While it was necessary in some ways for characters to have a chance to grow and the piece together what was going on, it did drag down the narrative. Once they were all united the narrative really took off and become more compelling. They meet up with a new diviner named Sarah Beth. Sarah Beth is totally creepy but she knows how to defeat the King of Crows so our group of diviners seek her out. A lot of things happen and yes it is tragic but in the end they were able to defeat the ghosts of their pasts to defeat the ghosts of our past as well. I don’t want to say too much more because I don’t want to spoil it for you. I highly recommend this series and so relevant to today that you should read it and then discuss our past. We are a great nation but we have also done some terrible things and they will forever haunt us until we actually deal with it otherwise history will continue to repeat itself.

Review: The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

Over three books, Stevie has been trying to figure out what happened to Alice Ellingham after she was kidnapped in 1936. The truth is truly tragic. I wont’ say what happened to her because I don’t want to spoil it but the whole affair is sad. At the end of the last book, Stevie had solve the mystery who was responsible of the kidnapping but was too afraid to tell anyone. She was too afraid that her evidence was too circumstantial but if she solved it and it’s over than what does she do next. Things have already gotten out of control. Two students have died and Stevie’s mentor has also died. David has run away and after another accident is forcing the school to close down immediately. The students don’t want to leave. There is too much left unsolved so they stay despite the massive blizzard. As Stevie unravels the mysteries we get a glimpse of what really happened and how things went off the rails from the beginning. So many people could have been spared if greed hadn’t taken over everyone. True today as it is back then. Over the series, Stevie has really grown. She has learned to deal with her anxiety. She works through her insecurities because she knows that she has more to discover and learn. A reminder to all of us not to give up despite the obstacles. I did enjoy this series. It was funny and heartwarming and a good mystery. Now if only she would finish her Shades of London series.

Quick Review: One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus

While One of Us is Lying was a steamroller with the mystery happening in the first book. One of Us is Next is more of a slow burn. It eases us into the mystery.. It takes place 18 months after the events of the first book. The “Bayview Four” have all graduated and all have stated college except for Addy, who decided to take a year off and works at a local restaurant. She works with fellow student, Phoebe who also lives across from her and her sister. Maeve, Bronwyn sister is still friends with Addy and hangs out often at the restaurant that Addy works. Usually with her friend and ex boyfriend.Knox. They find themselves once again at the mercy of a mysterious gossip but instead of Simon’s app, it’s a Truth or Dare game via text message. Clearly the student body and really the administration learned nothing from the last time because everyone immediately gets sucked into the game and the gossip and the school teachers are kinda useless. There is mention of a new “no tolerance” policy that was put into place after Simon’s death but obviously not working.. There were some pretty unsubtle bullying happening in plain sight of the whole school and at no time did any teacher or administrated got involved. I would say there are not very good at their jobs. On a whole it was a good companion to the first book and the resolution is pretty devastating. It wasn’t as good as the first one but still a solid read. Mystery readers will want to find out what happened next at Bayview high.

Quick Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Tell me if you heard this one. A jock, A beauty queen, a brain, an outsider and a criminal all get detention. Yeah, it’s basically the breakfast club except for one of them dies and the other four are the main suspects. The victim in question is Simon. He runs a gossip app that spills all of his fellow students secrets. It just so happens that his next post all involve his detention mates so f course they are all the prime suspects when it’s discovered his death wasn’t accidental. Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate and nothing in common before this but now they must band together if they are going to figure out what happens but when everyone has secrets, it’s hard to know who to trust. This was a fine mystery to read. The characters are all well fleshed out and vulnerable. They are not innocent but they are also not guilty and court of public opinion can be brutal. It’s an interesting study in social media, bullying and the pressures we put on kids to be perfect. With everyone having cell phones, it only takes a second for a picture to go viral and everyone knows your secrets. Not to mention a really good commentary on toxic masculinity and entitlement culture that goes with it. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything but there are a lot of twists and turns and while I suspected the outcome it didn’t make it any less tragic or upsetting. Well worth the read.