Posted in Release Day!

Just published: Unbound by Dina Gu Brumfield!

Reminder that Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai by Dina Gu Brumfield (⭐⭐⭐) published today! Check out the full review here or grab your own copy on Book Depository!

Recommended: yes
For a generational story of understanding, for a look at recent historical Chinese eras, for a story that pierces your heart and makes you want only the best for the characters, for a blend of romance and survival and coming-of-age.

love love love the cover. love.

Summary
​Mini Pao lives with her sister and parents in a pre-war Shanghai divided among foreign occupiers and Chinese citizens, a city known as the “Paris of the East” with its contrast of  vibrant night life and repressive social mores. Already considered an old maid at twenty-three, Mini boldly rejects the path set out for her as she struggles to provide for her family and reckons with her desire for romance and autonomy. Mini’s story of love, betrayal, and determination unfolds in the Western-style cafes, open-air markets, and jazz-soaked nightclubs of Shanghai—the same city where, decades later, her granddaughter Ting embarks on her own journey toward independence. 

Ting Lee has grown up behind an iron curtain in a time of scarcity, humility, and forced-sameness in accordance with the strictures of Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution. As a result, Ting’s imagination burns with curiosity about fashion, America, and most of all, her long-lost grandmother Mini’s glamorous past and mysterious present. As her thirst for knowledge about the world beyond 1970s Shanghai grows, Ting is driven to uncover her family’s tragic past and face the difficult truth of what the future holds for her if she remains in China.

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty, Reviews

Check out this absolutely dizzying library in Mexico

The José Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City

The José Vasconcelos Library is quite an architectural feat

When I first saw photos of this library, I had to close my eyes for a moment after because of how disorienting they were! The design is a maze of mirrored and symmetrical elevated walkways among the shelves. It gives the impression that everything is simply floating in midair. Considering how heavy books are, they must have some really impressive work done out of sight to be able to support everything!

With bright full pane glass windows and a botanical garden around the building, getting a spot by the window will give views just as breathtaking as those inside. (….and probably less likely to give you a headache!)

Posted in Reviews

Review: Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai by Dina Gu Brumfield

Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai by Dina Gu Brumfield – ⭐⭐⭐
Expected publication: August 4, 2020

Recommended: yes
For a generational story of understanding, for a look at recent historical Chinese eras, for a story that pierces your heart and makes you want only the best for the characters, for a blend of romance and survival and coming-of-age.

love love love the cover. love.

Summary
​Mini Pao lives with her sister and parents in a pre-war Shanghai divided among foreign occupiers and Chinese citizens, a city known as the “Paris of the East” with its contrast of  vibrant night life and repressive social mores. Already considered an old maid at twenty-three, Mini boldly rejects the path set out for her as she struggles to provide for her family and reckons with her desire for romance and autonomy. Mini’s story of love, betrayal, and determination unfolds in the Western-style cafes, open-air markets, and jazz-soaked nightclubs of Shanghai—the same city where, decades later, her granddaughter Ting embarks on her own journey toward independence. 

Ting Lee has grown up behind an iron curtain in a time of scarcity, humility, and forced-sameness in accordance with the strictures of Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution. As a result, Ting’s imagination burns with curiosity about fashion, America, and most of all, her long-lost grandmother Mini’s glamorous past and mysterious present. As her thirst for knowledge about the world beyond 1970s Shanghai grows, Ting is driven to uncover her family’s tragic past and face the difficult truth of what the future holds for her if she remains in China.

Thoughts:
This was an elaborate and impressive saga of romance, and survival, and coming-of-age. Ting ages from a child to an adult women in the course of the story, and we see Mini from late teens to her elder years. That span alone is a lot to cover, and so the story relfects that in how long it can take to read. While it was engaging the whole way through, the concepts and stories are complex enough that it simply takes some time.

Continue reading “Review: Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai by Dina Gu Brumfield”
Posted in Book Talk, Chatty, Reviews

Check out this amazing huge library in Seoul

The gorgeous and dizzying
Starfield Library in Seoul

I’m quite disappointed that the Starfield Library in Seoul was not in place yet when I was living in Korea. I obviously plan to return once it’s possible though, so I’ll see it yet! And be baffled by it yet… how do you get the top books?? 😵

  • only allowed to read while there
  • has over 50,000 materials
  • tablets available to borrow for electronic reading too
  • TONS AND TONS OF SEATING 😁
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Eat The Buddha

In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is from an author I was quite moved by before, which made my discovery of a similar book, Eat the Buddha (by Barbara Demick) quite exciting!
Expected release: July 28, 2020

Why wait on this one?

  • I’ve read a lot of books about Korea and North Korea because I absolutely love the country (countries) and their history, culture, and everything. Barbara Demerick’s North Korea Confidential was incredibly well-written and completely immersed me in the stories of the people who spoke. If this is anything like that, then it will be another wealth of knowledge and experience.
  • I love learning about other places, and particularly about historical and cultural events that I have never learned about before. There are a lot of gaps in my world knowledge to fill, and I hope that this book could do well to help another one.
  • At the same time, I want to break my own stereotypes. I work in travel, and the way we sell trips to this region is largely by romanticizing it’s quaint, traditional, spiritual lifestyle. While those aspects may exist in Tibet, I feel that there is so much more to know about life there. I want to dismantle my shaky understanding and build a stronger foundation of knowledge and empathy.

Summary:
Just as she did with North Korea, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick explores one of the most hidden corners of the world. She tells the story of a Tibetan town perched eleven thousand feet above sea level that is one of the most difficult places in all of China for foreigners to visit. Ngaba was one of the first places where the Tibetans and the Chinese Communists encountered one another. In the 1930s, Mao Zedong’s Red Army fled into the Tibetan plateau to escape their adversaries in the Chinese Civil War. By the time the soldiers reached Ngaba, they were so hungry that they looted monasteries and ate religious statues made of flour and butter—to Tibetans, it was as if they were eating the Buddha. Their experiences would make Ngaba one of the engines of Tibetan resistance for decades to come, culminating in shocking acts of self-immolation.

Eat the Buddha spans decades of modern Tibetan and Chinese history, as told through the private lives of Demick’s subjects, among them a princess whose family is wiped out during the Cultural Revolution, a young Tibetan nomad who becomes radicalized in the storied monastery of Kirti, an upwardly mobile entrepreneur who falls in love with a Chinese woman, a poet and intellectual who risks everything to voice his resistance, and a Tibetan schoolgirl forced to choose at an early age between her family and the elusive lure of Chinese money. All of them face the same dilemma: Do they resist the Chinese, or do they join them? Do they adhere to Buddhist teachings of compassion and nonviolence, or do they fight?

Illuminating a culture that has long been romanticized by Westerners as deeply spiritual and peaceful, Demick reveals what it is really like to be a Tibetan in the twenty-first century, trying to preserve one’s culture, faith, and language against the depredations of a seemingly unstoppable, technologically all-seeing superpower. Her depiction is nuanced, unvarnished, and at times shocking.

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

In Progress with City of Saints and Thieves

Progress: page 245/401 (61%)

I got this book months ago in March and was so excited about it! I’ve finally got the chance to pick it up. I am currently reading City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C Anderson. Here’s how it’s going so far!

Why did I start reading it?

I’ve been trying to purchase a load of books from my favorite nonprofit bookshop in the past few months since they are trying to stay afloat during COVID shutdowns. I don’t typically purchase physical books because I don’t have a lot of space, but this is a worthy cause! I browsed what they had online and found this one, which sounded fantastic and I had never heard of it before.

Where have I gone?

(Swahili!) Words I’ve Learned:

kanga

Lines that linger

The air is whipping past me and the shadows and the sun ripple over my arms and legs as we rocket through the jacaranda trees that tunnel the road. Their flowers lie on the ground like purple snow.

I can tell he doesn’t see the amazing view of the city, or that I’m safe here. All he sees through his rich-boy eyes is a poor refugee girl living in a filthy half-finished building.

Posted in Reviews

Review: K-Pop Idol Diaries by Go Futa!

K-Pop Idol Diaries by Go Futa – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommended: sure!!
For a cute quick read, for anyone who’s all about the idol fandom, for a likable but realistic MC.

Summary:
Gigi is a 16-year-old from South Korea, who dreams of becoming an idol for the famed talent agency, One-Shot Entertainment. As fate would have it, Gigi is recruited as their newest trainee, but winds up in a situation far from what she ever dreamed of when she’s placed in an experimental unit group project code-named “SKS.” From there, Gigi’s new life as a K-Pop idol begins to unfold more like a K-Drama after she’s assigned to the newly defined co-ed unit SKS-7, and must adjust to working with 6 male bandmates who aren’t very thrilled by her placement in their group. Will Gigi be able to survive in SKS-7 and the world of Korean idol life, or will her dreams go up in flames as quickly as they were ignited?

Thoughts:
Oh man, this was so fun to read! Gigi is too edgy for her girl group, so gets shifted into a (previously) all-boy group where her rapping style will have a bigger impact. That’s definitely unusual, which is openly acknowledged in the book. Typically idol groups are gender exclusive: all female or all male. KARD is one of the few real-life mixed-gender groups I’m aware of, and even in their interviews they’ve shyly acknowledged that it can feel pretty awkward doing some of the dances and such together. Just a part of the culture.

Continue reading “Review: K-Pop Idol Diaries by Go Futa!”
Posted in Release Day!

Just Published: Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Reminder that Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir released today (well, in English at least). Check out the review here or swing to Barnes & Noble to grab a copy!

Summary:
Iceland in the 1960s. Hekla is a budding female novelist who was born in the remote district of Dalir. After packing her few belongings, including James Joyces’s Ulysses and a Remington typewriter, she heads for Reykjavik with a manuscript buried in her bags. There, she intends to become a writer. Sharing an apartment with her childhood and queer friend Jón John, Hekla comes to learn that she will have to stand alone in a small male dominated community that would rather see her win a pageant than be a professional artist. As the two friends find themselves increasingly on the outside, their bond shapes and strengthens them artistically in the most moving of ways. 

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Tiananmen 1989

In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I’m using Fast Forward Fridays to look ahead to a release I’m excited about! Today’s is Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes, told from a man who was helping to organize the Tiananmen protests on June 4th, 1989.
Expected Release: June 16, 2020

Why wait on this one?

  • This is about an event I know too little about: the Tiananmen square massacre, or June 4th Event. Considering how arguably recent this was, it’s pretty weird that I know so little about it, so I’m taking my education into my own hands.
  • This is told from the experiences of Lun Zhang, the Chinese sociology teacher who was helping to organize the protest. I hope to get an authentic insight that isn’t filtered through a Westernized lens; allow the culture to be shown genuinely the way it felt for the people living it and let those voices be heard.
  • I think I’ve made it clear by now that I love graphic novel memoirs. In general, I think the format is well-suited to difficult realities, particularly historical ones. I don’t know much about this incident, except that it was awful. I expect the image aspect of this to carry some of the storytelling burden.
  • It feels like a good time to learn about this event specifically, given the many protests happening now in my own country seeking political reform (particularly around police brutality). I’m not too familiar with the background of the event, but I believe that I’ll see connections between Tiananmen and modern-day America in the activist movements and what people are trying to change.

Follow the story of China’s infamous June Fourth Incident — otherwise known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre — from the first-hand account of a young sociology teacher who witnessed it all.

Over 30 years ago, on April 15th 1989, the occupation of Tiananmen Square began. As tens of thousands of students and concerned Chinese citizens took to the streets demanding political reforms, the fate of China’s communist system was unknown. When reports of soldiers marching into Beijing to suppress the protests reverberated across Western airwaves, the world didn’t know what to expect. Lun Zhang was just a young sociology teacher then, in charge of management and safety service for the protests. Now, in this powerful graphic novel, Zhang pairs with French journalist and Asia specialist Adrien Gombeaud, and artist Ameziane, to share his unvarnished memory of this crucial moment in world history for the first time. Providing comprehensive coverage of the 1989 protests that ended in bloodshed and drew global scrutiny, Zhang includes context for these explosive events, sympathetically depicting a world of discontented, idealistic, activist Chinese youth rarely portrayed in Western media. Many voices and viewpoints are on display, from Western journalists to Chinese administrators. Describing how the hope of a generation was shattered when authorities opened fire on protestors and bystanders, Tiananmen 1989 shows the way in which contemporary China shaped itself.

bonus! sample page from the book courtesy of Edelweiss
Posted in Reviews

Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin – ⭐⭐⭐
Didn’t love the start but the second half was much stronger. Absolutely love the way the romance line was handled.

Recommended: sure
For a light read about love, self-discovery, and Paris, for a romance I can cheer for, for heartwarming characters who you can’t help but smile at

Summary:
Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris? Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read! Picturing days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and people-watching on the Champs-Elysees Sarah boards the plane. But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream isn’t quite as rosy in reality…

Thoughts:
The beginning of this book didn’t show itself to it’s best advantage for me. Typically an MC, especially a female one, who feels insecure or unworthy is very tiring and frustrating to read. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that first half of the book mostly filled with self-derogatory remarks and pity and angst. I get that happens to everyone, but in books it’s always amplified to a somewhat intolerable level.

If you can get past that, the second half picks up significantly once Sarah stops moaning about her life and starts living it. More threads of plot are woven in the latter half to bring in other characters we come to care about. They are made into more than just a background, but they are still fairly one-dimensional. The sparkle in the book is on the main couple and her closest friend or two.

Continue reading “Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin”