Posted in Reviews

Review: The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

The Cat I Never Named : A True Story of Love, War, and Survival (Hardcover)
by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Recommended: Absolutely
For people who want to be better people, for people who have never learned about the ethnic cleansing that took place in the 90s in Bosnia & Herzegovina, for a memoir of the extremes of emotion — highest hopes and bleakest depressions
Expected Release: September 8, 2020

Summary:
Amra was a teen in Bihac, Bosnia, when her friend said they couldn’t speak anymore because Amra was Muslim. Then refugees from other cities started arriving, fleeing Serbian persecution. When Serbian tanks rolled into Bihac, the life she knew disappeared—right as a stray cat followed her home. Her family didn’t have the money to keep a pet, but after the cat seemed to save her brother, how could they turn it away? Saving a life one time could be a coincidence, but then it happened again—and Amra and her family wondered just what this cat was. This is the story of a teen who, even in the brutality of war, never wavered in her determination to obtain education, maintain friendships, and even find a first love—and the cat that provided comfort, and maybe even served as a guardian spirit, in the darkest of times.

Thoughts:
The moment I saw this book was forthcoming, I knew I had to read it. I always seek to know more about people and the world and experiences that I cannot understand on my own. This memoir teaches facts through the descriptions of events, but can also teach much-needed empathy. The read is an experience in itself.

The summary and title promise that there will be a cat present throughout the story, and she does indeed weave through the pages. Simply called Maci (‘cat’), the cat who accompanies Amra’s family is a beacon of goodness. I believe every instance that happened with this cat, because they are too incredible to be invented. It gave me that kind of wondrous feeling of something more to this world that I don’t often feel. I’m grateful for so much that this book gave me, from knowledge to emotion.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Recommended: YES
For a history not well known in the US, for a prime example of how graphic novels so well suit memoirs, for a funny and dramatic story

Do they ban books because they see danger in their authors, or because they are themselves in their villains?

Summary:
hen Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family’s restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.

This was during South Korea’s Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.

You can learn a lot about history by figuring out what people wanted to hide.

Thoughts:
Graphic novels are so well suited to memoirs and nonfiction. This is a prime example. The art and coloring complements the story perfectly. With the selective colors it focuses exactly on what needs to be focused on. And again, things that are hard to say in words are sometimes better conveyed in images.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast-Forward Friday: Good Boy

In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I use Fridays to look ahead to upcoming releases that I’ve been excited about! This one is, I’m hoping, not going to totally break my heart. Focusing on dogs as a pathway, Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan might be a heartbreaking/hilarious format for a memoir.
Expected Release: April 21, 2020

Why wait on this one?

  • Who can resist a story of dogs? Their very inclusion in the story promises antics and lessons learned. I can’t have a dog at my current residence, so I desperately need to live vicariously for this.
  • But then again… including dogs kind of implies that I’m going to have my heart broken as the author is forced to leave these dogs one way or another. Early deaths, forced abandonment, tragic accidents… I know they’ll shatter me, but such is life. And I’ll probably have my heart broken at least six times.
  • This also promises to be a memoir that we see more in recent years of a person recognizing themselves and transitioning to reflect who they truly feel they are. In short, as the book blurb says, “how a young boy became a middle-aged woman.”

Summary:
n her New York Times opinion column, Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote about her relationship with her beloved dog Indigo, and her wise, funny, heartbreaking column went viral. In Good Boy, Boylan explores what should be the simplest topic in the world, but never is: finding and giving love.

Good Boy is a universal account of a remarkable story: showing how a young boy became a middle-aged woman—accompanied at seven crucial moments of growth and transformation by seven memorable dogs. “Everything I know about love,” she writes, “I learned from dogs.” Their love enables us pull off what seem like impossible feats: to find our way home when we are lost, to live our lives with humor and courage, and above all, to best become our true selves.

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward… Tuesday? — Banned Books Club

Well, I usually take the chance each Friday to write a bit about an upcoming release that I’ve been excited for. However… today is Tuesday. Why the change? Uh… I forgot. 😂 That’s really it; no excuses. My days kind of blend together right now what with being home 99% of the time, so I didn’t even realize it was Friday.

BUT, I have been really excited for Banned Books Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, & Ryan Estrada to be released, so I absolutely want to call some attention to it!
Expected Release: May 19, 2020 (pushed back from April 21, 2020)

Why wait on this one?

  • Ah, I know you’re tired of hearing it, but I love Korea and will read just about anything related to it.
  • My favorite format for a memoir is probably a graphic novel memoir. Capturing moments that are hard to put into words can be caught with the visuals, which can add so much depth of emotion to the stories the people have to give.
  • While it’s a bit more scary knowing it’s real, the political intrigue is certain to pull me in. Trying to fight for what’s right while not knowing who to trust and risking severe consequences? How can you NOT be on the edge of your seat, gripping the book with white knuckles?
  • While I have a decent awareness of it already, I’m always eager to learn more about the history of Korea. It’s rife with takeovers, rebellions, divisions, unification, inventions, and so much more. I want to know about all of it.
  • One of the focal points of the story is the reading club about banned books that she unknowingly joins. As a reader, that’s obviously going to attract me.

Posted in Reviews

Tales from Behind the Window by Edanur Kuntman

Tales from Behind the Window by Edanur Kuntman – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Recommended: YUP
To anyone curious about life elsewhere, to anyone who’s ever learned about their elder family member’s lives and thought ‘Who are you’ or ‘How did I never know about this,’ to anyone looking for a short read with a lot of beauty and value

Don’t let the cover that makes it look like a Miyazaki film fool you: this is dark and real

Summary:
“Tales from behind the Window” is based on memories of an Anatolian grandmother and women she knew who suffered from male dominance over their lives. Writer and illustrator Edanur Kuntman seeks a unique way to express and give voice to women in her grandmother’s memories and in our reality who were not able to reconcile their inner emotional depth with their rural worlds in Northern Turkey. One long and two short stories included in this book revolve around terrifying emotional burdens such as forced marriages, being betrayed by patriarchs, and lost love, which have haunted and still haunt many in rural Anatolia.

Thoughts:
Gorgeous illustrations to convey the story; they set the mood just right for what you’re reading. Great use of the space on the pages, too. It was key for me to remember that this was based on memories of the author’s grandmother, Sureyya, and not just a story that ends when you finish the book.

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Posted in Reviews

Seoul Man by Frank Ahrens

Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis, and Unexpected Hilarity Inside a Korean Corporate Titan by Frank Ahrens – ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Recommended: sure
For those interested in the automotive world/Hyundai specifically, and those interested in life as an expat who can tolerate reading a ton about the automotive industry

Summary:
Frank Ahrens and his wife move to Korea for his wife’s government job placing. Frank takes on a job in PR at Hyundai, a major auto manufacturer, and details his experiences in Korea. Through his work, his home, and just managing regular daily activities, Frank learns a lot about his new industry and the country he’s ended up in. With humor and honesty, we see what life is like when you’re never quite sure of your footing.


Thoughts:
This took me forEVER to finally get around to reading, and then to finish once I was consistently reading it. It’s really heavy about the details of Hyundai and the automotive world, which could get to be a bit much for me at times. However, it’s balanced enough with stories about his personal experiences both in and out of the office that I was able to enjoy getting through this all.

Having lived in Korea, there were a lot of things that I related to very easily, thinking about times when I had also learned one of those cultural differences thanks to an awkward moment, and some were new to me since he was there longer than I was, and resolved some mysteries I still had.

Overall, it’s a good book to read on the side with some lighter things interspersed during it. Read a few chapters about the politics and planning of automotive shows, then a few chapters of whatever fiction you want.