The White Book by Han Kang
A book about colour? Yes it's about colour, but also about the author's life. Her mother had children before her, but they didn't survive. This book seems to be about the author working through the pain but also wondering what her life would be like if her siblings had survived.
The book is organized by words of white things. For every thing, for example Salt, the author recounts a feeling, anecdote or a short story from her past. The whole book is very short but it's a very interesting book. The stories are all over the place but they do sort of connect together and they keep circling back to the author's siblings that died just a few hours after birth. I've never read a book just based on a colour but it seems the right way to write this book.
In Asia, white is the colour for death. You have white flowers at the funeral of people. This book is about death but I don't want to scare you off, it's a beautiful book as much about life as death.
This author, Ms. Kang also has written some other powerful books like The Vegetarian, and Human Acts. If you haven't read her yet, you should!
Book #65 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
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To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
In 1885, Alaska is still the Wild West and hasn't been tamed. A soldier is tasked with traversing the Wolverine River with a small band of men bu he has to leave behind his wife as he undertakes this difficult journey. We are told this story through journal entries from the soldier and his wife. We also get some news clippings, pictures, sketches, and even poetry from another member of the mission.
There are difficulties and mysterious happenings along the way to do with the Native Americans who live in the river. The men have to navigate these relationships as well as the wild Wolverine River.
This was an exciting adventure story. You have to give it a a few chapters to draw you in though. I would say this is an example of great historical fiction – I am drawn into a story while also learning about the historical context of the men and women at this time.
Book #64 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
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The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
A beautiful story about an alien who comes to Earth on a mission. He has to learn to fit in, and earn lots and lots of money, but living on Earth changes him as well. This sort of reminded me of the story The Humans by Matt Haig. It's interesting to see humans from the alien perspective. We are just as strange as the aliens!
I want to be careful not to say too much about this story so I don't spoil it for you. This book certainly deserves to be in this SF Masterworks collection. I can't believe I've never heard of this author as I consider myself well-read in sci-fi. I found out that he is well-known for his book Mockingbird. I have added that to my To-Read list as well.
Book #63 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
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Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi
A powerful account of a murderer, prostitute, and just a woman taking back her freedom and dignity in the world. This is a true story of a woman in Cairo, Egypt sentenced to death for killing her pimp. She tells her story to a psychiatrist the night before she's executed.
The Good People by Hannah Kent
This is the sort of historical fiction that I enjoy. It's well researched enough that you are learning a lot about the time-period but the story is also compelling enough that you want to keep reading; you don't always get both of these in every historical fiction.
The setting is 1825, Ireland. The story is primarily about Nance Roche, who is a herb woman, and about Irish folk beliefs, more specifically, fairies. The way of life in Ireland at this time is well detailed and the details of 19th century village life really draw you into the story. Kent uses lots of Irish phrases which you can look up to learn more about them but I'm not sure I'll be able to ever pronounce them properly!
At the heart of the story, this is a story about superstitions but sometimes superstition is so rooted in everyday life, it is hard to see it as such. Superstition in this story gives a poor widow, Nora, hope that her child can be changed back to normal with the knowledge of The Good People (fairies) that Nance possesses.
Book #61 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
It's the oldest question of all, George, Who can spy on the spies? Who can smell out the fox without running with him?
This is an intense, slow burn of a thriller. You are taken on a journey through the history of the Circus, the British intelligence service, by Smiley. Smiley is someone who has been retired. He along with some others are going through the past and present to try to find out who is the mole.
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
You can see where the plot is going from the moment you pick this up. Does that mean it's not a fun read? Hell no! This is a summer movie. This is eating ice cream in bed. This is well-done, fun sci-fi. It's a perfect beach read.
Scalzi is great at world building but his characters are pretty one-dimensional. I didn't even realize this was a series until I picked it up. I generally dislike reading series because they leave you hanging at the end. This book does exactly that. You will have to read the next 2 books of The Interdependency to see where this goes.
One thing that bothered me a bit was how Scalzi tries to give his spaceships witty names like Iain M. Banks does in The Culture series. When Scalzi does it, it just seems lame and like he's ripping off Banks.
Book #59 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
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The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
I had heard a lot about this author, and this book before reading it. Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel prize in literature recently too.
So coming into this book you could say I had high hopes. The first 90 pages were boring. I didn't want to press on, but I really dislike abandoning books. I soldiered on, eventhough I wasn't really enjoying the story.
Alas I was finally rewarded with some joy about 100 pages in. This is far too slow an opening for a book that is only 355 pages long.
That being said, I did enjoy the book once it was finished. The story was interesting and does have sort of a fable-like quality to it but unfortunately it takes far too long to get there. I fear many readers won't get past the 100 page hurdle of a boring married couple walking around being rather dull.
A better book by this author is Never Let Me Go. Do not watch the movie first! The book is far more interesting and the movie spoils all the surprises entirely too quickly.
Book #56 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
Lisa See writes about what she knows and wants to learn more about. She's has a Chinese American background and most of her books explore themes of being a Chinese immigrant. Her books usually have a woman as the protagonist who has to deal with a difficult tradition of their culture.
This book is no different. It has all the ingredients that Lisa See is known for and make for an enjoyable read:
- historical setting in China
- tea culture (growing tea, processing tea)
- Chinese culture (Ahka hill tribe people marriage culture)
- Chinese American kid looking for their roots
It was a good read. It brought me sorrow, pain, happiness, and taught me a lot about Pu'er tea and the whole system of tea cultivation from growing, picking, selling, and even drinking.
Ms. See's books are always very well researched and it shows in her books. I appreciate that in her acknowledgments she's very specific with things she researched, or people that helped her and how these elements shaped the story. It gives you insight into how she develops her stories.
Other books I enjoyed from Lisa See were: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and China Dolls.
Book #57 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
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The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories – Ken Liu
Ken Liu is maybe most well-known for his stellar translations of other superstars like Ci Lixin (Three Body Problem) but he also is a great writer in his own right.
This collection of stories are varied. Some are about: historical fiction, alternative histories, evolution of humans, robot ghosts, and even musings on the book making habits of fictional alien races.
In each story Liu can blend elements from Chinese folklore, history, and culture into all his work. He puts a piece of himself into all these stories along with his fantastic imagination. I also appreciate how he often leaves a note at the end of his stories to a link to the idea that sparked the story.
Stories in this collection:
- The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species
- State Change
- The Perfect Match
- Good Hunting
- The Literomancer
- The Regular
- The Paper Menagerie
- An Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition
- The Waves
- Mono No Aware
- All the Flavors
- A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel
- The Litigation Master and the Monkey King
- The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary
NOTE: The short-story “Good Hunting” has been adapted into an episode of Netflix's “Love, Death + Robots”. It's episode 8 in the series.
Book #58 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
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