Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee



                It is extremely difficult to tell a multigenerational story that has a well-crafted plot, great world building, and amazing character development. Lee managed to not only master all those things but also include historical details and racial nuances that enhanced the story and described a culture. Pachinko begins in Korea in the early 1900s, the story of man crippled since birth, who marries a poor young girl whose father had too many daughters and few prospects. It then follows the growth of their family, his death and his daughter’s unexpected pregnancy. All around them the world is changing. Korea is now controlled by Japan, people are suffering because of their culture and uncertainty about the future looms. We follow this family through four generations. As the years pass, their lives change in unbelievable ways as wars come and go, their country is divided and their family survives.
                I don’t want to be purposefully vague but I also don’t want to give anything away. This story was incredibly well done. The manner in which Lee crafted and maintained this story lent itself beautifully to this plot. She didn’t go into painstaking detail about each year of their lives, but allowed time to pass naturally and events to unfold organically. Reflecting on the time passed and the ways in which it changed the characters was extremely effective. The beginning of the story provided absolutely no clues to what would happen as time changed. Social commentary throughout clued readers into the historical events happening around the characters.
                One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel was the look at Korean culture and the racial divide between Koreans and Japanese. I’m not well versed on the struggles that occurred in Korean history. Reading about the bigotry and cultural differences that were so pervasive was interesting and I thought well handled. It was vital to making this novel as authentic as possible to explore how these two cultures interacted.
                I’m giving this novel 5 out of 5 stars. I was impressed by the way Lee tackled this multi-generational epic about a Korean family. It isn’t a novel you can casually read because it handles so many details and those details are what weave the beautiful fabric that is this novel. Very well done. I was invested in the characters from the beginning and that dedication to them never wavered. I felt like I was living through turbulent times, rejoicing through their triumphs and despondent through their pain. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty



                I usually read books before I watch any kind of on screen adaptation, as a rule, because I know that the book will be better than the adaptation. I broke that rule for Big Little Lies and dived head first into the HBO adaptation simply based on the casting. It took one episode for me to realize that I needed to read the book and immediately requested it from the library and became #141 in line for the next book. Needless to say I got my copy right after the season ended. I loved every episode and was very interested to see what had been changed in this adaption. Spoiler Alert: a lot had been changed but both were really enjoyable.
                Big Little Lies is the story of three very different women and their families, living in Australia. An incident occurs regarding one of their sons, tension occurs and the worst of the community rears its ugly head and battle lines are drawn. In the midst of these battle lines are all of the imperfections that only these women recognize in their own families because everyone has secrets. An abusive husband, a rape, rage against an ex-husband. It all seems so simple but from the onset we know that someone is dead and it isn’t until the end that we realize how so many of the lies lead to that death.

                I’m not sure how quickly I would have realized who was dead if I had read the book first. I was able to make all kinds of assumptions while watching the show, many of which I assumed I would have made if I read the book first, but alas I will never know. Moriarity crafted this story well and the lives of all of these women were captivating and interesting. I had heard mixed reviews about the book, which I’m glad I decided to ignore. The details provided in the book added so much depth to the story that fortunately the actors were able to add to the show. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler

Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler



                And so it all ends. And it was so damn good! Okay, let me slow down and start with the beginning of this book. The Clay’s Ark disease is running rampant. The only people who exist now are those with the disease, those who hold the pattern and the mutes being controlled. The Clayarks and Patternist are basically at war. Teray is a son of the Patternmaster, Rayal, who is dying from the Clay’s Ark disease. Coransee is also a son of Rayal and now sees Teray as his biggest threat to obtaining the pattern once Rayal finally succumbs to the disease.
                There you have it. That is the backdrop for the final book in this series. I’m not going to try and go into the details of this book because they are too vast and I won’t be able to put into words everything going on, within the limits I want this post to be. What I will say is that this was a satisfying finale. This story spreads over hundreds of years. Many of the characters within the story are never intertwined but they are vaguely mentioned and if you are familiar with these books, then their presence is obvious. I kept wondering throughout if any of the previous characters would intertwine more explicitly and honestly I like that she didn’t. Each of these novels could easily stand on their own. Interestingly enough that’s how this series began! Patternmaster was the first book released in this series but is the last in the series chronologically. The story then moved to Mind of My Mind (chronologically the second book), then Survivor (chronologically fourth but a book she pulled from being published again because she hated it. Of course I’m curious but it’s almost impossible to get my hands on!) Fourth to be released was Wild Seed (chronologically first) and the last book to be released was Clay’s Ark (chronologically third).
                I’m glad that my first experience reading this series was in the chronological order. I absolutely loved the way these characters developed and how the story was told. The world building blended and expanded beautifully with each book. I gained more understanding of the how the pattern was formed and maintained through each book. The introduction of the Clay’s Ark disease was a completely unexpected twist that piqued my interest instantly and made me crave to know the conclusion of the series. I will eventually read the series in the order it was published because I’m curious to see what that reading experience would be like.

                This is a series I would highly recommend. The topics and themes explored were extraordinary. The concepts of slavery, control, freedom and maintaining humanity were prevalent throughout the series, and the supernatural, magical elements added so much depth to the story that it was easy to fall into the story. I loved each of these book. I’m just upset it took me this long to read them. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler

Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler


                Blake thought he would be safe with his daughters in their armored truck, even as they traveled out of their safe enclave. But when a man ripped open his locked door and threatened to kill his family everything changed. Blake knew these people were different. They were reading his body language, like they were reading his mind. They knew Keira was sick even if the strangers couldn’t deduce what was wrong. The strangers forced them to go to the ranch, kidnapping Rane, Blake’s other daughter and threatening them all if they didn’t follow. Eli, the leader of the ranch, made it clear that they couldn’t leave. That they would be infected like him, and everyone else at the ranch. The extraterrestrial organisms inhabiting Eli’s body would infect him too. Shockingly, the only way to keep any one at the ranch, and the world safe, would be for Blake and his family to stay. By then they were already infected.
                I have absolutely no idea how this novel fits into the Patternist series because none of the other characters of the previous books were even mentioned, but it is obvious that this novel is part of the Patternist universe, so beyond anything else, I am extremely curious. With that being said, this book could stand on its own. Changing in narrative from the past, with Eli’s infection and him coming upon this inhabited ranch, back to the present with Blake’s family kidnapped and brought to the ranch, Butler weaves a tale of the struggle to maintain humanity, while your body is losing its humanity. Every single character is struggling with their circumstances, brought on by a mission off the planet and an infection that took the lives of everyone but Eli. The possibilities of what could happen in this well-crafted, and terrifyingly realistic world are disturbing to say the least. And I could not put this novel down.

                I mean, damn. I’m continually shocked by how amazing Octavia E. Butler was a writer. This story, like every single one of hers that I have read so far, has incredible character development and world building. Each plot has been mind-blowing in its uniqueness and detail. This is another book that I could easily recommend. I give this 5 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler

Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler



                Centuries have passed since Dora and Anyanwu have met and chose to live harmoniously. A truce between the two of them to exist together even though they may disagree. Doro is close to getting what he always wanted. His descendants are growing in number and now there is Mary. He knew from the moment Mary was born that she would be different. An exceptionally strong telepath, something completely different than he had seen before. She would be the prize he was looking for, if she survived transition. What Doro wasn’t expecting was for her to form a pattern with some of his other telepaths after she transitioned. That those telepaths would be connected to her and that she would be able to control them in a way that even he could not. And that he would begin to see her as a threat.
                The Patternist series is just incredible. There is no other way around it. What Octavia E. Butler created with this series is a group of non-humans who are able to enslave and take over those around them without their knowledge. That plot in and of itself is achieved seamlessly in Butler’s very capable hands. This second book in the series is as strong as the first and pulls in a deeper realm than I ever imagined. The characters are beautifully imagined. The world building is extremely strong. And because there is no extent to their power, the possibilities really are endless to where this story can go.

                I will say that I am reading this book in the order the series flows but not in the order the story was published. I had no idea the story was published in a different order but I am glad I am reading this story through chronologically. I’m loving the way these stories are flowing in to one another. This series is just steadily taking my breath away. Well done. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. Eager to begin the next book. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler



                This is a story of power, unbelievable power and unexplainable beings. Doro has roamed the Earth for over three millennia, taking bodies as necessary and finding others with some form of power to breed and build colonies of people, his people, obedient, subservient, useful and different. Many would call them witches. Anyanwu was special. She had power the likes of which Doro had never seen before, able to not only control her shape and appearance but to heal. Alive for more than three hundred years Anyanwu had many husbands and bore many children but none with a power to rival her own. Two extremely powerful beings with motives that would never mix and one content to keep the other a slave.
                I don’t want to spoil anything but what follows is an intense power struggle, one based on morals and the concept of what it means to truly live and to truly love. Anyanwu is willing to sacrifice her freedom for the people she loves and for her descendants. She believes in family and in forming relationships. Doro on the other hand has to kill to survive and only values the lives of those who can best serve him in one way or another. They both fear one another and yet Anyanwu is in a form of slavery. It is an intense and unpredictable story that looks at how we sacrifice ourselves for the ones we love and how others use power to manipulate others for their own gain.

                Octavia E. Butler ladies and gentlemen in all of her splendid glory. I am obsessed. And a little upset at myself for being so late to the “Octavia E. Butler is an amazing author” party. What the hell have I been doing?! What I love about her is that I never know what to expect from her stories but I can always depend on amazing character development, beautiful world building and a wholly original plot that is emotional, not contrived, well thought out and an extremely visceral experience. This novel about Anyanwu and Doro fit all of that and more. Easily 5 out of 5 stars. This is the first book in the Pattermaster Series and I’ve already downloaded the second book to begin reading soon. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck



                Audra was just trying to get away from her ex-husband and his controlling mother. It took her years to finally get over her addiction, develop a relationship with her kids, and finally leave. But he still controlled their lives. He was constantly trying to take the children away from her and she needed a break. Four days they had been on the road, making their way cross country when everything changed. The sheriff pulled her over, her kids were taken from her and now the sheriff claims they were never with her. She knows the truth and yet no one believes her. Except for Danny, the man who this has happened to be before, and who has been hunting for the people responsible.
                Here and Gone has a really interesting premise and started off strong. The sequence with the children being taken happened in the beginning stages of the novel and readers weren’t aware of how far into addiction Audra was and for what reasons until those facts were used to paint a picture about her. This helped with character development and with developing the plot but some of the aspects of the story felt really forced. None of the other characters were strongly developed. Those behind the kidnapping were given very little motivation outside of monetary reasons and those who demeaned Audra never gave her a chance. I also didn’t care for the world development because not much detail went into creating the setting for the story. In all, I thought this book was ok. It has a satisfying end even if some of the plot dragged a little in the middle of the novel.