Thursday, 15 April 2021

Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko"

Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko" - 2017

I was drawn to this book because of its Asian appearance. These lovely drawings can only come from the Far East. The title didn't tell me anything. Pachinko? Who or what is Pachinko? I had to find out. The description convinced me further.

Now, if - like me - you don't know what Pachinko is, let me tell you. It's a Japanese mechanical game that is mainly situated in game arcades. I have never set foot in any of those slot machine places, so even if it is also known in Europe, this is not my world.

And there isn't much about the world inside those parlours, more about the life of Koreans in Japan. If you don't know anything about that, there is a lot to learn. I know there have been animosities toward foreigners no matter when and where. Always. I have lived abroad most of my life. Being German, I have experienced much the same hatred towards me and my family as the Koreans in this story had to endure in Japan.

Maybe that's why I liked this book so much, I could identify with their feelings. Unlucky for the family here, they couldn't go back to Korea since they came from the Northern part. And that is the case with many immigrants. Even if the first generation still would love to, the second and further generations are even less inclined to because for them, their new country is home, not the one where their ancestors come from.

The Koreans in this book are hard-working, honest people and, yet, they have no chance to ever get accepted. Sound familiar? This book could go onto any list of books about racism. The characters are loveable and unforgettable.

In any case, this is such a great tale about a family through several generations. If you like this kind of literature, you should read this book.

Min Jin Lee includes a a quote by Benedict Anderson, author of "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism". I absolutely love this:

"I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.

It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…

The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind…

It is imagined as
sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which the Enlightenment and Revolution were destroying the legitimacy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm…

Finally, it is imagined as a
community because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep horizontal comradeship.

Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly die for such limited imaginings.

Could anyone explain it better? I have to read that book!

From the back cover:

"Yeongdo, Korea 1911. A club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, Sunja's salvation is just the beginning of her story.

Through eight decades and four generations,
Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival."

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Top Ten Tuesday - Crayola Crayon Colours

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish".

It is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl.

Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

This week's topic is: April 13: Book Titles That Sound Like They Could Be Crayola Crayon Colours (Take a moment and Google some of the crazy Crayola crayon colors that exist. Can you think of any book titles that sound like they could also be a crayon color? It might be fun to include a description of the kind of color you’re picturing.)

What a funny challenge. Jana gave us the hint to look up Crayola colours. My sons were never much into drawing, so we only had the basics. But wow, they have any mixture of any colours on earth. Unbelievable.

It was a tough decision, would I stick to the known colours or rather use those funny ones. In the end I went with blue and green, my favourite colours. I would have loved to come up with a title like "Periwinkle" or "Wild Blue Yonder". I'm sure there are books with those words in their title.

You see the colours here in the order of my book list. Arent' they beautiful?

And here are the books:

Drinkwater, Carol "The Olive Series" - 2001-2010

Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud) "Anne of Green Gables" - 1908

Cullen, Bill "It’s a long way from Penny Apples" - 2003

Powers, Charles T. "In the Memory of the Forest" - 1997

Falcones, Ildefonso "Cathedral of the Sea" (Spanish: La catedral del mar) - 2008

Collins, Wilkie "The Moonstone" - 1868

Betancourt, Íngrid "Even Silence has an End: My Six Years in the Jungle"
(French: Même le silence a une fin) - 2010

Abulhawa, Susan "The Blue Between Sky and Water" - 2015
There are even two colours in this title. Blue and Sky.
Having said that, there might even be a "water blue".

Levy, Andrew "A Brain Wider Than The Sky: A Migraine Diary" - 2009
Faulkner, William "Light in August" - 1932

Monday, 12 April 2021

The Classics Club: The Classics Spin #26

"Words and Peace" is a blog I've been following for a couple of years and I have always found some interesting new (or olde) books there, especially French ones.

For a while, she published posts by "The Classics Club" asking us to create a post, before next Sunday 18th April 2021, and list our choice of any twenty books that remain "to be read" on our Classics Club list. They'll then post a number from 1 through 20 and we have time until the end (Saturday 31st) of May 2021 to read it.

In the meantime, I read eight more books from my old list (Classics Spin #25) which I replaced by some new ones. They are all in chronological order.

1.    Eichendorff, Joseph von "Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts und andere Novellen" (Life of a Good-For-Nothing) - 1826
2.    Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - 1845
3.    Keller, Gottfried "Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe" - 1855/56
4.    Eliot, George "Silas Marner" (Silas Marner) - 1861
5.    Twain, Mark "A Tramp Abroad" - 1880
6.    Storm, Theodor "The Rider on the White Horse" (Der Schimmelreiter und andere Erzählungen) - 1888
7.    Van Dyke, Henry "The Story of the Other Wise Man" - 1896
8.    Frost, Robert "A Boy’s Will" and "North of Boston" - 1913+1914
9.    Martin, Catherine "The Incredible Journey" - 1923
10.    Mandelstam, Ossip "The Din of Time" (Шум времени/Shum vremeni) - 1925
11.    Bulgakow, Michail "The Master and Margarita" (Мастер и Маргарита) - 1929-39
12.    Cather, Willa "Shadows on the Rock" - 1931
13.    Christie, Agatha "Murder on the Orient Express" (Hercule Poirot #10) - 1934
14.    Elbogen, Ismar; Sterling, Eleonore "Die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland" [The History of the Jews in Germany] - 1935/66
15.    Némirovsky, Irène "La Proie" [The Prey] - 1938
16.    Fallada, Hans "Every Man Dies Alone" (Jeder stirbt für sich allein) - 1947
17.    Böll, Heinrich "The Silent Angel" (Der Engel schwieg) - 1949/50
18.    Kazantzakis, Nikos "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Ο τελευταίος πειρασμός/O telefteos pirasmos) - 1951
19.    Highsmith, Patricia "The Talented Mr. Ripley" - 1955
20.    Savage Carlson, Natalie "The Family Under the Bridge" - 1958

If you want to take up the challenge, here is the post: The Classics Spin #26 

The reason I've been putting off reading them is because my TBR pile is so huge. I love classics, I want to read them, and I love how I actually read more classic books than before.

I will add the chosen number once it's published. I will also add every other book I read afterwards with a link to the spin.

For Classics Spin #20, I got #19:
James, Henry "Daisy Miller" - 1879
For Classics Spin #23, I got #8:
Stendhal "Le Rouge et le Noir" (The Red and the Black) - 1830
For Classics Spin #24, I got #18:
Baum, L. Frank "The Wizard of Oz" - 1900
For Classics Spin #25, I got #14:
Hubbard, Fra Elbert "A Message to Garcia" - 1899

And here are all the books on my classics list.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library." Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice 

I am so lucky to have one.

"Real museums are places where Time is transformed into Space." Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence

Orhan Pamuk is one of my favourite authors. What he says here might not be a book quote but shows a wonderful approach to life.

"A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door into another place and another heart and another world." Catherynne M. Valente

Very true. A book can lead you anywhere. This quote reminds me of one of my favourite Disney Movies, Monsters, Inc.

"In life, it's important to know when to stop arguing with people … and simply let them be wrong." N.N. *

Haha, yes, sometimes that's all you can do to keep a sane mind. But sometimes it's worth the fight.

Find more book quotes here.

* [If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Jansson, Tove "Moominsummer Madness"

Jansson, Tove "Moominsummer Madness" (Finnish: Vaarallinen juhannus) - 1954

I hadn't read anything about the "Moomins" but I'd heard about them and seen their pictures everywhere. They're cute. I can only explain my ignorance of the books by the fact that we spent most of our sons' childhoods in England where they were not as popular as elsewhere.

So, I never read the "Moomins" as a child nor did I read them while my children were little. I suppose my perspective would have been a little different.

I read it with my online book club, all of us grown-ups, some of us with little kids, others with no kids or grown-up kids, like me. And a large number of Finnish members which is why this book was chosen, I guess. I quite liked it though I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd read it with a child. Or maybe if I'd read the first book first. This was number 5 and the author assumed we know who is who and, even more important, what is what. So, the Moomins belong to the trolls, then there are mymbles, hemuls, fillyjonks, and a rat.

The Moomins live in a house in Moomin valley. When a volcano erupts, the valley is flooded and the Moomins have to seek shelter elsewhere. They find a theatre that they don't recognize as such since they've never seen or heard of one before but in the end they even present a play, even if somewhat haphazardly.

There is plenty of depth in the story, though, to be enjoyed by adults, as well. The characters may be eccentric but they seem to be just as "normal" as us human beings. Good writing and good psychology. The story is easy to follow yet not boring.

This was our book club read in March 2021.

Some thoughts by the members:

  • I felt the book really uplifted my spirit, while we are living isolated from travel and much wild adventures.
  • Some of the author's special ideals and characteristics came out well in the story, too, I think. 
  • And the ending was hilarious with the totally ruined theatre.
  • I found it very philosophical, positive, and quirky. 

From the back cover:

"When a flood sweeps through the valley, the Moomins must find a new house. And with typical Moomin good luck, one just happens to be floating by. It looks normal enough, but there are curtains where one wall should be, strange rows of lights, and other odd amenities. Then Moomintroll and the Snork Maiden disappear, and the family realize that the house may hold the answers to more than they ever dreamed."

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books I'd Gladly Throw Into the Ocean

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish".

It is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl.

Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

This week's topic is: Books I'd Gladly Throw Into the Ocean

There are quite a few books that fit into this category, most of them I only finished because they were book club books. Don't get me wrong, I have always loved being in a book club and I found many books and authors that I really loved but there were some that I could have done without.

Deforges, Régine "The Blue Bicycle" (French: La Bicyclette Bleue) - 1981

I hate plagiarism, especially when it's as obvious as this.

Franzen, Jonathan "The Corrections" - 2001
Not my cup of tea. Too boring. Everything seemed unrealistic.

Fuller, Alexandra "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" - 2002
I couldn't understand this family at all. Why would I want to live unhappily in a place where my children die because of the safety in the country and the poverty?

Krasnow, Iris "The Surrendering to Motherhood: Losing Your Mind, Finding Your Soul" - 1997
A book club book. Most of us were mothers. We all agreed that someone who has all the money in the world and can afford lots of help in the house cannot judge those who don't have those opportunities and have to work in order to raise their children. A snobby story by someone who belongs to the 1% who has no idea about how the rest of the world lives.

McEwan, Ian "Atonement" - 2001
Such a boring, repetitive book. If you want to create tension, you need to write a little more interesting.

Niffenegger, Audrey "The Time Traveler's Wife" - 2003
This book was the best example why I don't like science fiction. Just in case time travel did exist, there were far too many contradictions in the whole story. If you change science, stick to it and don't change it on every other page.

Pearson, Allison "I Don't Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother" (Working Mum) - 2002
Another book club read about another rich working mother who judges those who don't work, for whatever reason because, apparently, they judge her. We won't get anywhere if we keep adding those prejudices as "facts". The whole thing read as a chick-lit, as well.

Picoult, Jodi "My Sister's Keeper" - 2004
Another chick lit. This time disguised as a "drama" novel. Bleurgh.

Salinger, J. D. "The Catcher in the Rye" - 1951
I read this as a teenager where I maybe should have understood a rebellious teenager better than I would today but I still didn't like the guy or the plat.

Wisner, Franz "How the World Makes Love: And What It Taught a Jilted Groom" - 2009
Another awful plagiarism. If I pretend to travel the world just be copying other travel reports, someone will have read at least one of those books and notice. Well, I did.

Did you notice how none of them has an author's link? That's because I only read one of their outpourings. I decided one was already one too many.

Also, quite a few of them have a sort of candy-coloured cover. I guess this explains why I usually stay away from such editions. I know I'm a book snob but there you go.

Often, I add books to my TTT list that were on one or the other before. I think none of these was on another TTT before or ever will be again.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Six Degrees of Separation ~ Shuggie Bain

 Shuggie Bain

Stuart, Douglas "Shuggie Bain" - 2020

#6Degrees of Separation: from Shuggie Bain (Goodreads) to Dream of the Read Chamber.

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I love the idea. See more about this challenge, its history, further books and how I found this here.

This month’s prompt starts with Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.

There are several ways to tackle this challenge. I first tought about going from Scotland around the British Isles. My next idea was to go by the author's name. But in the end I decided to start with the fact that this is a Booker prize winner. What better novel to start with than the "Booker of Bookers".

Rushdie, Salman "Midnight's Children" - 1981

My next thought was about a book by a favourite author of mine that also takes place in India (as opposed to his usual stories from his home country, Catalonia/Spain).

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Midnight Palace" (Spanish: El Palacio de la Medianoche) - 1994

Thinking about Spain, there is another author who writes about historic Spain, starting with Barcelona in the 14th century. They build a cathedral there.

Falcones, Ildefonso "Cathedral of the Sea" (Spanish: La catedral del mar) - 2008

Which brings me to my next book where the build a cathedral in England. This is now a tetralogy. I must read the next one.

Follett, Ken "The Pillars of the Earth" - 1989

And a book with "earth" in the title always makes me think about one of the most famous books by one of my first favourite authors.

Buck, Pearl S. "The Good Earth" - 1931

Since we are in China already, I had to think about a poster I received lately from my son. It shows the biggest novels of every country and I was surprised that I'd read the one from this ancient country.

Cao, Xueqin "Dream of the Red Chamber" (Chinese: 红楼梦/Hung lou meng/aka The Story of the Stone) - ca. 1717-1763 (18th century)

And so we've made a trip around the word. From India to Spain to England and then to China.

Look for further monthly separation posts here.