This was a credibly well written and crafted novel. I was really taken in by this family and their struggles and triumphs. Pachinko follows one Korean family from 1910-1989 from their home in south of Korea to Japan. When Yangjin’s daughter sixteen year old daughter, Sunja gets pregnant and the father can’t marry her. a boarder at her boarding house agrees to Marry her and take her to Japan with him to spare her and her family any shame. Being a Korean living in Imperial Japan at the time was not easy. They were often discriminated against and limited in their movements thanks to racist policies. As the family tries to find ways to survive through poverty, war time and other personal tragedy it tears them apart and brings them together. If there is one thing that I got out of this novel is that no matter where women live, what their station in life is or what religion they practice. Their choices are pretty shit. Sunja finds herself pregnant from a secret affair with a wealthy businessman. When she finds out that he can’t marry her because he already has a wife and three daughters back in Japan she walks away. His offer of being his Korean wife and him buying her house and taken care of her is not enough. She will never be his true wife but also being an unwed mother will bring shame on her and her family. When a young pastor falls ill in her family’s boardinghouse, she and her mother help him get better. Isek is convinced he was sent to them on purpose to help them as they helped him so he agrees to marry her and take her with her to Osaka. This will spare the family of the shame. At 16, Sunja choices are to be destitute and shunned from society or marry a complete stranger and move to another country. Isek is a kind man and takes good care of her and their sons. He raises Noa as his own flesh and blood and does what he can to provide for his family and his brother and sister in law. They do grow to have mutual understanding and good marriage. It’s a shame that Isek dies early in the book due to unfairly imprisoned for political reasons but I wanted to know more about him. Their children Noa and Mozasu are two very different children. They both struggle to find their identity as Koreans born in Japan and lived their whole lives but still looked at as foreigners. I’m sure this is something many children of immigrants can relate too. Noa and Mozasu both represent the “good Korean” and the “bad Korean”. Noa was always the good student who believed that if was good, if he studied hard and was the best in his class who would be able to overcome prejudices and be accepted only to ultimately discover that years of hate is not easily overcome, particularly when the hate comes from within. Mozasu on the other hand understood early that you can’t change people’s mind. If people wanted to label him the “bad Korean” he would comply and ultimately was able to succeed.
I’ll admit I know very little about Korean history or their relationship to Japan. Considering we could be at war with North Korea very soon this seems like a big oversight on our parts. The Koreans were overtaken by Japan and forced in to be second class citizens in their own country. When they moved to Japan things were not better. They were limited on what jobs they could get. They had to live in a ghetto. Even their chosen professions were looked down upon. Pachinko, a kind of gambling was seen as criminal activity and often thought of us gangsters. After World War Two when Japan lost their war their situation became even more precarious. They were not anymore welcomed in Japan then before but with uncertainty at home they couldn’t go back to Korea. If they did, do they go back to North or South Korea. In a way they became homeless, which seems even sadder since for characters like Noa, Mozasu, Yumi and Solomon who were all born and raised in Japan. This is the only home they ever knew and yet they never treated like they belonged. There is a pretty powerful scene of Solomon, the son of Mozasu so 2nd generation Korean Japanese, having to go to the home department and register so he can stay in the country he was born in. I would say that would be crazy but then I remember what’s going on in our country and it doesn’t seem so crazy that a country would do that to it’s people. There is also discussions on women’s role. Sunja from the very beginning is a hard worker and finds it hard to stay stagnant. When Isek is imprisoned and the family is desperate for money, she steps up and starts selling kimchi by the train station despite warnings from his brother in law that women must work. She is industries and does what she needs to do to keep her family fed and sheltered. It is her strength that keeps the family going. At one point, Koh Hansu, who got her pregnant at the beginning of the story, shows up and sends them to a farm out of the city to save them from the end of the war. I was angry that after what he did and could just show up and play hero. Like how dare he? Sunja rejects him over and over again but he always comes back. So infuriating.
I’m glad that we are doing our Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives challenge because I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have this book otherwise and I would have missed out on a wonderful story.
This is the first book in the Shaw Confessions Trilogy, a companion trilogy to the Mara Dyer Trilogy. I would recommend going back to read the original trilogy before starting this one and if you haven’t read the Mara Dyer Trilogy then read it first because this book will not make sense if not. I did not re-read the last series and I found myself hitting up google looking for synopsis to remind myself what happened. The Retribution of Mara Dyer came out in 2014 and so much has happened in the last three years it’s easy to forget who Stella is and what happened between her and Mara. What I remember about the original series was how kind of creepy it was. Is Mara really seeing hallucination or can she really kill people with her mind? The first book was a mind trip. This was a little bit more straight forward mystery. It’s a few months after the ending of the last book and other carriers or gifted teens like Noah, Mara, Jaime and Stella are disappearing and then committing suicide. The problem is that they don’t want to and what do these disappearances and suicides have to do with Noah, Mara and what has done to them? Well we don’t get a lot of answers but then again we do still have two more books to go. What we do get is more incite into Noah. The complicated but loyal boyfriend Noah. He is a kid who has every privilege in the world but doesn’t see the point in living until he meets Mara. What happens when he doesn’t have that anymore? Also the question used to be is Mara crazy? Now it’s is Mara a psychotic killer? I’m really going to have to back and read the first trilogy again.
“By relegating the things we fear and don’t understand to religion, and the things we understand and control to science, we rob science of its artistry and religion of its mutability.”
I’m starting with this quote because I really love it and wanted to share. Maggie Stiefvater has a relationship with the English language that I can only marvel at. How she is to spin, twirl her words to create her worlds is truly magical and is why I look forward to reading all of her books. It’s hard to describe her books because they are unique. I mean, who would think about rich white boys looking for a dead Welsh King with the help of psychics would be be so good? And yet, The Raven Cycle is a gift of a series. All the Crooked Saints has many of the Stiefvater hallmarks we have grown to love but this time taking us to a new time a place. The Soria’s grant miracles to all those who seek them but like everything worth having you have work for it. Cousins Daniel, Beatriz and Joaquin are as close as you can get. They are the youngest of the Soria clan. Joaquin, 16 wants to be a DJ and wants more then just being a Soria. Beatriz, 18 is logical and pragmatic. Known to others as “the girl without feelings” she is more interested in figuring out puzzles then her families miracles. Daniel, 19 is the current “Saint of Bicho Raro”. When pilgrims come to Bicho Raro, Daniel helps them to their first miracle but he has a secret. When pilgrims come to Bicho Raro they come looking for miracles and rid themselves of their darkness. Those coming for an easy solution will be disappointed. The Saint provides the first miracle that makes their darkness into flesh and it manifest in many forms. It is then up to the pilgrim to figure out what they need to do rid themselves of their darkness and perform the second miracle. The Soria’s are not allowed to help the pilgrims after the first miracle because if they do it will bring on their own darkness that is far more dark then anything the pilgrims have. The story begins with the three cousins sitting in their truck listening to their pirated radio show they started. Joaquin is the host and Beatriz the engineer and Daniel, just a listener. They are interrupted by new arriving pilgrims, Tony and Pete. Well Pete isn’t a pilgrim. He is just there to work for the truck that is currently their radio station. The next day, it’s discovered that Daniel has gone out into the desert because he helped a pilgrim named Marisita, who’s darkness manifested in her walking in a constant rain storm wearing a wedding dress covered in butterflies. Beatriz and Joaquin try to figure out a way to help Daniel without bringing the darkness on themselves. The central question to this novel is what are you willing to do for a miracle because really what is more frightening than facing yourself? There is nothing harder then looking at yourself and seeing what is actually there and then doing something to change it. We all have this idealized versions of ourselves that makes it herd for us to hear the truth. I’ve been going through this lately. I was recently up for a promotion at work that I didn’t get. I felt I was ready for it but when I was told it was going to go to someone outside of the company and the reasons why it hurt but also was truthful. The reasons why I wasn’t promoted were all things about myself that I needed to work on but to have someone else voice them out loud was kind of painful to hear. I have been grappling with this knowledge for a couple weeks know and what to do with it because in truth I didn’t really want to the job. I’m looking to change careers but the promotion would have looked better on my resume if I stayed for another year. Now that I didn’t get it, how do I go about improving myself so the next time there is no doubt then I’m the one for the job. As for the novel, the Soria’s are all forced to face their own darkness in a way when Daniel leaves because just because they perform the miracles doesn’t mean they don’t need miracles too. It’s not easy but then again anything truly worth having shouldn’t be easy and the struggles they go through it proof of that. So readers, implore you to read this book and ask yourself what do you want and what are you most of afraid. I’ll go first. What do I want. I want to make a difference. What I am most afraid of. That I have reached as far as I’ll ever go and this is the best I’ll ever achieve. What about you?
Gods this is such a great series. I’m sorry that it’s only a trilogy but Rick being Rick did leave it open that if he wants to he can always return to Vahalla, Magnus Chase and his friends. I’ve gushed and praised Rick Riordan in so many other reviews and this is another one. His ability to mix mythology, humor and present day is truly a gift. Yes, his these books a little formulaic. His heroes must go on epic journeys, where they must face many dangers and trials before facing a near impossible task but never does it feel tired or old. It maybe because of his cast of characters are all are real and diverse. How many young reader novels has a Muslim and gender fluid characters in the same novel? and more important how many of them are both are shown to be brave, resourceful, loyal, smart, funny and happy. The answer not many. Both Samirah and Alex are all of those and more. Throughout the entirety of the book Sam is practicing Ramadan, which is probably the first time that many of readers have ever read about Ramadan. As I have stated before about Rick’s, he’s not afraid to tackle tough subjects in his books and he does it by showing positive scenes and connecting them with the stories of our past. That no matter what a child is going through, they are not the only ones. Kids of all race, gender identity and faith can see themselves in one of his many books and that’s amazing. So keep up the good work Rick!
Those who do not know their own history are doomed to repeat it. It may sound cliche but it is true. Libba Bray has set The Diviner’s series in the twenties but in our current political climate it could easily be a contemporary novel. All she would have to do is change some of the slang and add some emoji’s. Themes of race, sexual orientation, patriotism, health, sexism and worker’s rights are very prevalent through out Before the Devil Breaks You and The Diviner’s series just as they are today. The Eugenic’s movement that was full swing in the 1920’s where white supremacist used pseudoscience to prove that the white race was superior to all others. It influenced government policy, immigration and mental health and would later inspire those in Nazi Party. The racist policy was dressed up as a way to make America better and stronger. If we can weed out all the undesirable elements of our a population we would be stronger. Their “Make America Great Again” so to say. Our Diviner’s, Evie, Sam, Memphis, Henry, Ling, Isiah, Theta, Jericho and Mabel have now faced two ghosts and are starting to understand the threat they are facing. They powers are growing but are strongest together. They start working with Will and Sister Walker to improve their powers but they all have secrets. Will and Sister Walker both are part of opening the gap between the living in the dead and creating the Diviners. Making them a little less trust worthy. Evie is clinging on to her fame as a radio host but also can’t decide between Sam and Jericho. Theta is afraid the other will find out about her powers and gets an even bigger surprised when her past comes back to haunt her. Mabel, the one without any kind of powers feels out of place because she can’t read objects or disappear or walk in dreams. She want’s to change the world but more then anything she was be noticed. They individual stories are heartbreaking and true and make a for a rich story and speaks to the diverse nature of our country. The King of Crows is throwing everything at them this time because it’s not just one ghost but many and it’s not just ghost they must fight against it’s prejudice and ignorance. It’s the balance between wanted to be safe vs. wanting to feel safe. Those are two different things. When people are scared they will agree to almost anything to feel safe again even if it doesn’t actually make them safer. I would point to the entire last election cycles of examples of that. The Diviner’s came together at the beginning of the book only be torn apart which I can only assume is the perfect set up for the last book. I’ll give Miss Bray credit, she knows how to tell a story and is not at all sentimental. The last 20-30 pages. Bray channels her inner George R.R. Martin and racks up a body count that only he could appreciate. We are living in scary times and anyone who picks this book up hoping to escape will be disappointed because America hasn’t learned from our own history and we are now repeating it.
This was a lot of fun to read and I really want to play Warcross. Marie Lu or someone make that happen! Emika Chen is a hacker and bounty hunter. Her father died when she was eleven and learned how to hack while in foster care. She admires Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross because he created Warcross when he was younger then she was and now at 21 owns his own company and a billionaire. Emika’s life is not going so well. She has less then $13 to her name and is facing eviction due to being 3 months behind in rent. In a moment of desperation she hacked in during the opening ceremony of the Warcross Championships. The next day she is on a plane to Tokyo and is hired by Hideo to track down a hacker named Zero. Emika goes under cover as a player in the games so she can track down Zero and figure out who he is and what he is trying to do. Emika is smart and quickly figures out that one of her own teammates is working with Zero. She tells her findings to Hideo and because this is a YA novel, sparks fly because again YA novel, Hideo is hot! I figured out who Zero was about halfway through the books but the beauty of it, it didn’t spoil the ending. There are secrets in the game of Warcross that no matter how much a character opens up, we still don’t know all the facts. This book was fast paced and full of twists and turns. I do hope that in the next book that we get to know more about Emika’s teammates Asher, Roshan, Hammy and Ren because I feel like we just scratched the surface of who they are. I’m really interested in seeing where Emika goes now that she knows the truth of what happened but is not really sure that it’s truly a bad thing. I don’t want to say too much because it will spoil the ending but it will start some conversations. So yes, go read it.
The Throne of Glass series has expanded way beyond the original books and has so many characters that Sarah J Maas basically had to pull a George R.R. Martin and split the characters up in to two books. Tower of Dawn takes place at the same time that Empire of Storms but this time in the Southern Continent. Chaol and Nesryn journey to meet the Khagan and his family in hopes of swaying them to join their cause but to also heal Chaol paralysis with their famed healers. Chaol meets the young healer Yrene, who readers first met in one of the prequel novella’s. Yrene and Chaol have the typical antagonizing relationship that turns into a romance but they have more chemistry in their first scene then Chaol and Nesryn ever did. Chaol is one of my favorite characters and I was total Celaenia/Chaol shipper and was sad when they broke off but it was inevitable since as we know Celaenia turned out to be Aelin the Queen of Terrasan. Chaol was in love with Celaenia not with Aelin and it’s not that I don’t like Nesryn but they just seemed off. I’m happy that Chaol found someone who is more his equal. Now back to the story. The Khagan and the southern Continent have powerful armies and Aelin and Dorian need all the help they need if they are going to defeat Erawen and the Valg but the Khagan are not easily persuaded. They have had peace in their lands for years and are not eager to rush into a war on another continent. They are also in mourning of their youngest daughter who supposedly killed herself but some in the family don’t believe it. After Chaol tells Yrene how he was really injured, strange things start to happen. Another healer is mysteriously murdered that not even the healers can figure out how. Are the Valg already here? Chaol, Nesryn and Yrene piece together who the Valg are and who they are really fighting. Let’s just say some holes are filled in. The nice thing about this book was that it only had 3 POV’s. As the series has grown and the world expanded and more and more characters were introduced, there were more and more storylines and subplots and POV that it was getting a little out of control. Again, think Game of Thrones. It was nice to have a much simpler storyline to follow. It was filled with the same intrigued and action as the previous books and it was nice breather before the finale comes out next year.
I think I’m going to have to read the next book in the series before I will fully be able to process how I feel about this one. It’s kind of like the Time Traveler’s Wife, which I know everyone else loved but I was just creeped out by the guy fantasizing about his wife when she is still just a little girl. This wasn’t as bad but I do think A turned out to be more of a stalker. So A wakes up in a new body every day and has been all of their life or as far as they know. (Editor’s Note: Because A is gender neutral, I’m going to use they instead of him or her) We have no idea where A came from, what their real name, or parents or even their gender because A doesn’t know these things. A just knows that tomorrow they will borrow someone else’s life for a day and then move on to someone else. Some days A is a boy and some days A is a girl. A could be an alien for all we know though I don’t think so. One day A, inhabits the life of Justin who has a beautiful but sad girlfriend named Rhiannon who A immediately falls in love with. Soon A is breaking all of their rules to get to know her. They find out that Rhiannon is going to a party so they take the borrowed body of a boy to the party so they can hang out with her. Then A, takes another borrowed body, this time a girl, to her school so they can follow her around for a day. You get the picture. A’s entire life starts to revolve around Rhiannon. Even convinces her for a time that they could be together despite the fact A has no idea who he is going to be from day to day. Ultimately it’s his less call obsession with her that get him in trouble. They only have 24 hours in each body so at the stroke of midnight A is someone else. On the night they go to the party to see Rhiannon, A doesn’t make it home on time so the boy, Nathan, wakes up in his car 40 minutes from home and thinks he was taken over by the devil. That story line is far more interesting because that’s where we are going to get the answers about who A is and how A came to be. That’s what I want to read more about. I’m hoping to get more of that in the next book and less stalking.
The Hate U Give may be categorized as a fiction novel but make no mistake, there is nothing fictional about it. Yes, Starr, Khalil, Seven, Maya, Devante, Big Mav, Lisa and Kenya don’t actually exist but their story does. Starr is a sixteen year old girl who lives in the hood but goes to school in private school in the suburbs. Her worlds could not be different. Over Spring Break, her best friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police office during a routine traffic stop and Starr is the only witness. Starr must reconcile her own feelings about what she witnessed and the realities that come with it while also coming to grips how it effects her two different worlds. It gets thrown into sharp relief how her family and neighbors think what happens versus what her friends at school do. Starr grapples with her own fears and find her own voice to stand up for what rights, stand up to the authorities and her own friends too. This book is heartbreaking because it’s a story that we have seen played out too many times in the last couple of years. Khalil was unarmed when he was killed. Yes, he did sell drugs and had involvement with gangs but none of those facts should be justification for what this officer did. You could replace Khalil’s name with Michael, Philandro, Tamir, Tayvon or any other young black men unjustly killed by law enforcement and you would go through the same emotions. Angie Thomas does a brilliant job of outlining all the many view points about this issue. From Starr’s father, a former gang member and ex-con who is far to aware of how the justice system works to Hailey, Starr’s rich white friend who is willing to protest only because it got her out of class for a day. As the reader, we see what happened and how it happened at the beginning of the book. We know it was unjust but since the other characters weren’t there, we get to see how they process it through how they relate to Starr. They accept or deny it depends mostly on their own socioeconomic background and yes race plays apart of it too. Starr’s family of course understand immediately that Khalil did nothing wrong and that Starr did nothing wrong. They also know that because of the neighborhood that they live in it could be dangerous for Starr to speak out even if can help bring him justice. Whatever her decision, they always have her back. The first thing that really struck me was when Starr and Khalil were pulled over, Starr goes over in her head how she is supposed to act when interacting with cops. She says when she was 12 her father told her to do as the officer says, don’t talk unless spoken to and keep your hands visible. She was told this at twelve. Meaning that her parents thought, even as young as twelve years old she could be in danger. I tried to think if my parents and I ever had a talk about what to do if I got pulled over and I don’t think we ever did. Why would we? We are white, there is no reason for cops to look at me or my sister and assume we were up to no good. That we were criminals. That we could be dangerous but Starr’s parents and many black parents have to worry about that for their kids. That is truly heartbreaking. Two of the most interesting characters, okay maybe not the most interesting are Chris and Hailey. Chris and Hailey are both white, privileged and rich. Chris is Starr’s boyfriend. They share a love for sneakers, basketball and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He at times is completely oblivious to their differences. He doesn’t notice or bother him that people stare at them when they walk down the hallway. He wouldn’t say he was racists and most people would agree with him but because of his own privilege, without even realizing it he sometimes falls into the insensitive thinking. He doesn’t understand why Starr is so upset with him or just in general but when she tells him he does try to understand. He wants to be supportive to Starr and that means challenging his own misconceptions and that’s what makes a good ally. Hailey also wouldn’t call herself a racist either. She would be one of those people who says, “I’m not a racists have a black and Asian friend.” Throughout the book she makes insensitive comments and try to pass them off as jokes. When she gets called out on she gets defensive. “It was a joke” “I didn’t mean anything by it” “I can’t believe you would think I’m a racist” Even demands for Starr to apologize to her. She makes absolutely no effort to see Starr’s point of view or acknowledge that what she said hurt her feelings. When she does apologize, it isn’t because she sees what she did or said was wrong it’s that she wants things to go back to what they were before. Since I assume there are going to be a lot of young white readers of this book, Chris and Hailey are important because they may not be able to relate with Starr and her family but they probably can relate to either Chris or Hailey, whether they want to admit it or not. I hope they take a hard and close look at both of those characters and ask themselves some uncomfortable questions. Are they more like Chris or like Hailey? This novel really should be required school reading. Not just because it was well written but also because it does outline all the point of views and how much it should be it’s not just black and white but shades of gray. Only be listening and understanding what people of color and marginalized communities are saying and owning up to our prejudices will we able to end this. So one day, we won’t have to teach our children how to act in police presence and police won’t make snap judgments about civilians based on skin color.
**There maybe a few minor spoilers in this review**
First of all, our Cousin Sarah has good taste in books because I really enjoyed this series. So thank you Sarah for the suggestion. I’m sorry that I waited so long to read it.
One of the themes I got from this series is how past shapes our present and our future. As someone who has a degree in history I really appreciate that. The saying of “those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them” maybe cliche but it’s also true. History is littered with examples of forgetting or ignoring the past and then surprised when the results are the same. Look about what is going on today. Many of the same rhetoric that is being said on both side of the aisle have all been said before. There have been so many correlation between what is currently going in the United States with what lead to other Countries descent into authoritarian regimes. Agree or disagree that is the direction the US is going, one must be a little nervous with what they are seeing happening around our country. Right now is the perfect time to look back at our past and see what we can learn.
The Tearling was founded by William Tear and his followers by leaving the United States that had fallen into Martial Law and extreme poverty. They crossed the Atlantic and through a mysterious portal to land in the “New World” to start an utopian society where everyone was equal. No one was more important then another but this was never truly the truth in practice, even from the beginning of their new colony. William Tear always stood higher then everyone else even though he tried not too. His opinion was enough to sway an issue to right or the left. He was the King without the title. You add the people’s unwillingness to talk about their pre-crossing life led to the downfall of the society after only one generation. They failed to learn from their own past. They felt that had moved beyond the troubles of their past but when things fell apart they resorted back into the old habits and fear that lead the downfall of the past and again fell part again. Three hundred years later, Kelsea inherits a country with very little assets and has the traffic it’s own people to a neighboring country to survive. The people are mostly illiterate and live in poverty. The ideals of William Tear have long been forgotten. Kelsea with the help of the Mace, try their best to right the wrongs of their past but with little army and even less of a treasury she is fighting an uphill battle. Kelsea is not perfect herself. She is young and inexperienced. She has a temper on her that makes to make rash decisions. She was also left in the dark about her own countries history, particularly the resent history that she has to learn about her people as she rules them. She makes some great decisions but she also makes some terrible mistakes. Which is important because it is sometimes to easy to make the protagonist to perfect. It would be very easy to make Kelsea a saint, bringing her country back to it’s former glory but Erika Johansen doesn’t do that. Nor does she give us the perfect happy ending either but I’ll get to that later.
The Tearling is a curious place. It takes place in the future but is clearly a Medieval society. They lost most of their medical supplies and doctors in the crossing and 300 later they still haven’t developed any technology. They don’t even have a working printing press. The Horror! They do have a little bit of magic. Kelsea also inherits two sapphires that give her abilities to see into the past and powers. The ability to see into the past and the future help her but also make things a bit tense. She starts to have visions of the past through two women who helped shape the early Tearling. She sees how life was before the crossing and how the Tearling fell. She struggles to figure out how the past is supposed to help her but she knows it’s important. As her kingdom starts to fall apart and those who are most loyal are starting to question. When she finally figures out what to do it’s ruthless and brave that runs head on into doing not knowing what the outcome will be. In the end *spoiler* she does bring back William Tear’s vision for the New World even though it’s not how she imagined it. It’s very bittersweet that accomplished what she set out to do, she righted all the inequality the country had suffered through but it left her a little alone in her victory. Then again, who knows what the future will bring for Kelsea. Maybe all we have to do is gleam into her past to see where Kelsea will go next.