Monthly Archives: April 2011

Review: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

David Levithan

The Lover’s Dictionary

211 pages

Publication Date: January 4, 2011

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Source: Library

Exacerbate, v

I believe your exact words were: “You’re getting too emotional.”

The Lover’s Dictionary is a book I’ve wanted to read for months before I was finally able to get my hands on it. I first heard about it last year through a few bloggers. I placed it on my TBR list and waited for what felt like forever to get a copy. Luckily my library came through for me.

The book is the story of two unnamed lovers, how they met, and their relationship through the years. Told through dictionary-like entries, The Lover’s Dictionary is really a breath of fresh air from what readers are used to when it comes to novels and  their structures.

There’s so much to enjoy about this book. First there are the little entries that make up this couple’s relationship. At just 211 pages long, the author is able to tell us just enough about this couple to keep us satisfied.  I love how readers don’t get to know their names, ages, or even what they look like. That’s up to our imaginations. In one of the reviews I read about this book, the blogger loved how even the gender of this couple could be questioned. We don’t know really know if this couple is a same-sex or not. I imagined them as a being a guy and a girl because of a fight that’s mentioned in the book.

One of my favorite entries in the book:

Qualm, n

There is no reason to make fun of me for flossing twice a day.

I highly recommend this book. If you haven’t read Nick and Norah’s Playlist which is also another great book written by  Leviathan which he co-authored with Rachel Coh, I suggest you add that to your tbr list too.

Thoughts: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

Please Look After Mom
Kyung-Sook Shin
Translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim
256 pages
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Knopf
Source: Bought it
It’s been one week since Mom went missing. . .

Park So-nyo is an elderly woman who’s trailing behind her husband in a crowded Seoul subway station when the two become separated as it’s time to board. It should have been a routine trip to the city from the country but turns into a mysterious disappearance as hours turn into days without Park’s return. What follows is a sometimes lazy, other times desperate search for Mom by her husband and five grown children as they reflect on their lives with her.

Usually when an author uses a second-person narrative, I can’t read past the first page.  I often find this point of view gimmicky and too distracting to become engaged in the book. I think it speaks volumes of not only Shin’s talent as a writer but Chi-Young Kim’s talent as a translator that PLAM doesn’t read this way.

There’s so much that I can say to describe PLAM. I can tell you that it’s about family and motherly love. I can also say that it’s about guilt and the role of mothers in any culture. As a mother, I can tell you that being a mom is one of the most rewarding roles that I have ever had but it’s also the most demanding and hardest. There’s no off-days, no breaks, and you’re “on call” for the rest of your life. Shin expertly illustrates how much women sacrifice for their children without children always being aware of it. Park is the mother who sells her wedding ring so that her child can have what they need and who’s constantly working in the fields to make sure her children have enough food to eat. I’ve read reviews about this book that described Park as a martyr and I think that shows how cynical people have become of mothers. A martyr is someone who accepts their suffering which is the opposite of this character. Park doesn’t accept her suffering but gets through it without harming others.

Shin does a beautiful job exploring the life of Park through the eyes of her family and herself. Readers learn about a woman who was slowly becoming sicker the older she became, who had headaches that were so bad she couldn’t cry when she learned that her only sister died. But readers also learn the roles about the family has played in Park’s disappearance: the husband who was so selfish that he refused to acknowledge the growing pain his wife was in; the daughter who’s also a famous writer and her inability to have a conversation with her mom about the places she travelled; or the son who was his mother’s favorite but never did enough for her.

You don’t understand why it took you so long to realize something so obvious. To you, Mom was always Mom. It never occurred to you that she once taken a first step, or had once been three or twelve or twenty years old. Mom was Mom. She was born as Mom. Until you saw her running to your uncle like that, it hadn’t dawned on you that she was a human being who harbored the exact same feeling you had for your own brothers, and this realization led to the awareness that she, too, had had a childhood. From then on, you sometimes thought of Mom as a child, as a girl, as a young woman, as a newlywed, as a mother who had just given birth to you.

Even with such a selfish family, I carried hope with each turned page that Park would be found. I hoped that her family would have a chance to write the wrongs of the past. I believe good writing does that: it makes you carry hope when there is none, it makes you even despair with characters as though they are real. I glanced through the eyes of these children as they saw their mother as a person not just a role and admitted their wrongs while wishing for a second chance.

Told with  tenderness, Please Look at Mom is a story that will have readers exploring their own relationships with their moms.

This review has been crossed-posted at Color Online.

Sunday Salon

It’s a cold and rainy morning here in Southern California: perfect spring weather. The kids have been up since about three o’clock waiting to open their Easter baskets and see which books and candy they received. Which means I’m a little tired right now!

I’m currently on spring break so I’m reading as much as I can. This morning I finished Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. It was an amazing read that had me a little teary at times. I also read The Violets of March by Sarah Jio, which was an absorbing read. Hours flew by as I sat and read the story of forbidden love affairs and family secrets.  Last week I also finished two graphic novels: Empire State by Jason Shiga and Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge along with several children’s books.

This morning I started Zita The Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. It’s a graphic novel that has been on my list for months. I also just started re-reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It’s fantastic. The first time I read it was on audio now I’m toting around a huge hardcover. I have a nice stack of e-books, paperbacks, and audio books to read this week. Being on spring break gives me permission to read as much as I want and I’m taking advantage of it. I’m hoping to read at least 10 books this week. We’ll see how I do.

I hope everyone is having a great Sunday. What are you reading today?

Thoughts: Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

Three Shadows

Cyril Pedrosa

Translated from the French by Edward Gauvin

272 pages

Pub year: 2008

Publisher: First Second

Source: Personal Library

Back then, life was simple and sweet. The taste of cherries, the cool shade, the fresh smell of the river. . . That wads how we lived, in a vale among the hills – sheltered from the storms, ignorant of the world, as though on an island, peaceful and untroubled.

And then . . . everything changed.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books that I would describe as being gentle. Stories that quietly unfold as I read them but yet still leaves me stunned after I have read the last page. Cyril Pedrosa’s Three Shadows is that kind of read.

Louis leads a simple life with his wife Lise and their young son, Joachim. It’s a life where the three can easily forget that the rest of the world even exists. But one night Joachim notices three hooded horsemen that loom on a nearby hill, shadows that watch the family. It’s during a fateful night when the horsemen call out to Joachim that Lise and Louis start to realize the danger their son may be in.  Louis decides to do everything in his power to keep his son away from the horsemen so he flees in the middle of the night with Joachim and some rations, vowing not to come back until they have outran the shadows. Lise is left behind to grieve for the lost time she has with her son in hopes that her husband will one day make peace with what’s ahead.

My description may sound odd but I’m letting you know just the basics. I think the less you know about this book in terms of plot- the better your reaction to it will be. When I bought Three Shadows earlier this year, I thought its vague description was interesting enough to buy. I was so amazed about this book that I had to read this book twice before I could write a review on it. The story of this small family against these three mysterious beings and the ensuing race to get Joachim as far away as possible from them was interesting enough that I had to read to the end. The art, done in black and white, helps to keep the pictures as part of the story and not a distraction.

click on the picture to enlarge

There are scenes that are so beautiful that I held my breath as I read. These were scenes that revealed the motives, emotions, and acts of bravery of everyday people and villains. The front flap of this book asked “What price would you pay to save your child?” Louis is a great example of a parent who’s willing to sacrifice everything for their child. In the end,  Three Shadows is the fable that it sets out to be.

You can see a much longer excerpt from the book here.

Just announced

Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer Prize today in fiction. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer won for general non-fiction.  I haven’t read either book but I did just placed them on hold at my local library. Have you read either book yet? Now that they’ve won the Pulitzer are you adding them to your tbr list?

Sunday Salon: Blogiversaries and Drift

My fourth blogiversary is coming up later on this week and I have to tell you how strange it is that I’m still blogging. When I first started blogging back in April of 2007, I started because I needed a place to talk about books. I didn’t know anyone who read as much as I did. I still don’t know anyone off-line who does. I googled a few search terms about books and all of these blogs popped up. I remember finding Maggie’s Southern Reading challenge and becoming so excited about finding not only other bookworms but reading challenges also!

My first posts weren’t about books but everyday life – getting a bad haircut or some of my favorite words. Slowly I started to write about books (I still cringe at some of my first reviews). I started making blogger friends and the rest is history. Like all hobbies, I’ve had some ups and downs with blogging but it has been so rewarding. I found people I wouldn’t have known otherwise and books that might have taken me years to find if I hadn’t started blogging.

With that said, I think this is probably my last year of blogging. I’ve been thinking about it for the past six months and the idea of not blogging isn’t going away. A few years away writer Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) wrote about drifting- the decisions we make by not deciding – or the absence of feeling as though what we’re doing is “right”.  For awhile now I’ve been feeling like I’m drifting when it comes to almost every aspect of my life – being a college student, blogging, even reading. I don’t know what’s going on but I think this year might be the year to take a break from everything and figure out what I want. I have no idea what’s ahead for me but I’m open to change.

Since this might be my last blogiversary, I’m hoping to host a giveaway. Look out for a post in a few days.

With the read-a-thon behind us, how are you all feeling? Thank you to everyone wishing me well when I had my yearly read-a-thon hangover. My migraine went away a few days later and I was so relieved. With my break away from blogging, I read and re-read several books: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa, The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge along with a dozen picture books. I loved them all for different reasons.

Right now I’m reading Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. It’s translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim. I have to say that this translation is so beautiful! I’m only thirty pages in and I’m already recommending it. You need to add it to your Goodreads or LibraryThing profile, place it on hold at your local library, or buy it now.

So that’s what I’m up to, what are you reading today?

Sunday Salon: Read-a-thon Hangover

Usually it’s early morning when I write my Sunday Salon post but after being up all night with the event, I’m barely getting the strength now to even blog. I was on the prize committee, so it was my job to contact publishers and bloggers about possible donations, contact winners throughout the event, and keep tabs on who won and who hadn’t yet. Plus I was also cheer-leading and reading. It was pretty challenging especially when I took over the read-a-thon for two hours. That was so scary but so awesome! I don’t know if I would do it all again during the next read-a-thon in October but it was a great experience. The highlight was knowing that so many people had a great time. If you participated in the read-a-thon yesterday and are considering participating in the next one, I hope you sign up to volunteer. The read-a-thon is only fun when enough volunteers are willing to help. Volunteer duties can be as short as 1 hour or as long as 20.

I bet you’re wondering about the title of this post. Well after every read-a-thon, I get a little headache because of the lack of sleep and the ton of books read. I only finished 1 or 2 books this time with everything I was doing, but I still ended up with one. I don’t mind. I just hope my headache goes away soon.

To recover from everything I’ve been up to, I plan on taking this week off from blogging. I want to read a little, catch up on my homework, and just relax. I hope you all have a great week.

Did you participate in this weekend’s read-a-thon?

Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? I’m still reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. It’s such a great book! I’ve been going on an emotional roller-coaster with it. Put it on your TBR lists now!
2. How many books have you read so far? I’m still on book two.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? If I get through this book, I’ll be happy. I decided that since I’m working behind the scenes, I’ll probably take next week off from blogging to read as much as I want to.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Nope. I just had the kids participate too. They’re enjoying it. Right now they’re watching a movie while I read.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? My only interruption is my behind-the-scenes work for the read-a-thon.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Nothing. I just love how everyone is encouraging each other on Twitter. It’s nice to see new blogging friendships formed.
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I would probably just be a reader next time!
9. Are you getting tired yet? A little but I have a pot of coffee to keep me company!
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Have fun! Reach out and encourage bloggers you don’t know. We’re all readers who love good books!

Readathon Update #1 I’m still here!

 

Sigh. It’s hour #8 and I’m barely on my second book, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. It’s a fabulous book with a strong main character. Instead of enjoying my read, I’ve been working behind the scenes with the prizes, cheer-leading, and working on mini-challenges. How’s everyone else doing?

It’s Time for the Read-a-thon!

The read-a-thon has just started! My five-year-old is up too so this will be interesting. I have a pot of coffee going and my stack of books are close by. My first read will be:

 

Shaun Tan’s Lost and Found: Three Books

Hour 1 Meme:

1. Where are you reading from today? I’m reading from Southern California.

2. Three random facts about me: When it comes to the read-a-thon I love cheerleading just as much as I love reading; I’m an English major but if I could, I would probably be an English/psychology/anthropology major, and I love cold stormy weather.

3. How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? About 30 books. I don’t plan on reading them all but it’s nice to have a stack ready.

4. Do you have any goals for today? Just to have fun but it would be nice if I can read 6 books.

5. If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice? Have fun and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Join a few mini-challenges since they are so much fun and prizes are involved.

 

Happy reading everyone!

Read-a-thon stack and tips

 

It’s almost here! It’s almost here! We’re just two days away from the beginning of Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon. I’ve participated in this event almost every time that it’s been hosted and I can’t wait to participate again.  I figure today is the perfect day to post my read-a-thon stack and a few tips for those of us participating in the event for the first time. If you haven’t already signed up,  it’s not too late.

Tip #1 - Pick out a few books days in advance so you’re not running around after the start of the event, looking for something to read. I usually pick out the same sort of books every read-a-thon because I know which genres work for me during this time.

Tip #2 – Include short books in your read-a-thon stack. I always tell people that the read-a-thon isn’t a race or contest of any kind, but your competitive side is sure to come out just a little. If you’re on your second book and you see that someone else is on their fifth, you might feel a little bad funny about your reading speed. It’s nice to read your short books at the start of the event so you can feel like you’re off to a great start.

Tip #3 – Be sure to include different genres  in your stack. During every read-a-thon event, I make sure to have a book of poetry, picture books, graphic novels, and a short story collection in my reading pile. Why? Because after reading a book or two of the same genre, I need something different to keep going. I don’t try to read a whole poetry collection in one day but reading a few poems or short stories between books is a great change and it almost always work. For this weekend’s stack, I’ve included the poetry collection Vice by Ai. I’ve also have a ton of great short stories that I’ve found on Tor.com’s website. Poets.org is a good place to read poetry online.

Tip #4 – Be sure to include different formats in your stack. This tip is here for the same reasons as tip #3: variety is good. This will be my first read-a-thon using an e-reader. I also have a few audio books ready just in case I go on a walk or need to rest my eyes. Audiobook Jukebox is a website to visit for audio book recommendations.

Tip #5. Have your refrigerator stocked with healthy snacks before the start of the event. During one of the first read-a-thons that I signed up for, I ate massive amounts of junk and paid for it later on when I crashed from my sugar high around hour 12 and didn’t wake up until after the read-a-thon ended. It’s just smart to include healthy and quick snacks that you can eat without much fuss.

Tip #6 – Naps are great. Seriously.

Tip #7 – Let your family know in advance of your plans. Since I’ve participated in the read-a-thon so many times before, my family knows that it’s my day. If I don’t mess with anyone while Spongebob/football/HGTV is on, my family knows not to bother me during the read-a-thon unless they have to or if I’m taking a break. Moms need me-time too.

Tip #8 – Have fun. Dewey started the read-a-thon to have fun and you should have fun too. If you want to disregard most of my tips, please do but not this one. If you would rather read just YA paranormal fiction the whole time, do it. Want to just read a chunkster? Do it. Don’t put any pressure on yourself.

Last but not least is my reading pool:

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Book of Lost Things by John O’Connolly (re-read)

Pym by Mat Johnson

Vice by  Ai

BB Wolf and the Three LPs by J.D. Arnold

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection

Empire State by Jason Shiga

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman

Page by Paige by Lauren Lee Gulledge

Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa (re-read)

Fables Vol. 14: Witches by Bill Willingham (re-read)

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier (re-read)

Chew Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice by John Layman (re-read)

The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds (re-read)

Are you participating in the read-a-thon this weekend? Any tips you think I should add to the list?

Guyku by Bob Raczka

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys

Bob Raczka

Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

48 pages

October 2010

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

 

I picked up Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys because of all the positive reviews it was receiving on Twitter – a place that I receive many book recommendations from. After my first reading  of Guyku, I knew all the talk was right. The book is a great poetry introduction for young children – girls included. Raczka gives readers haiku for every season of the year that are great for reading aloud. With illustrations by the wonderful Peter H. Reynolds the book is a perfect addition to any poetry collection.

The haiku featured in the book are silly, funny, or lightly mourning a passing season. They’re also simple enough where even young children can understand them.

The illustrations are soft and compliment each haiku and season. I love that the boys in the book are of every shape and color. I really love how after every reading of this book, my kids and I wanted more.  Guyku is a great book for poetry experts and novices alike.

Sunday Salon

Good morning! Right now it’s so early in the morning that the sun isn’t up yet. That hasn’t stopped the birds in my neighborhood though. They’re chirping away, not letting any of the day go to waste. I feel the same way. I’ve been up for hours now reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s my first time reading it and it is such a great read. I’m about 100 page in and I’ve already have many post-its marking some of my favorite passages.

The read-a-thon is less than a week away and I’m so excited! I’ve already started going through my tbr pile looking for books toread. So far my read-a-thon stack contains several graphic novels, a few novellas, and some fantasy. I’m hoping to share my pile with you guys in a few days once I’ve nailed down exactly what I plan on reading.

There’s one book that I’m thinking about adding to my tbr pile for this week: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. It’s the story of a mom who goes missing after getting pulled away from her husband in a busy Seoul train station and her family’s search for her. The story is told from the viewpoints of her adult children and herself. I’ve read an excerpt of the first chapter last night and it was amazing! It’s Shin’s first book to be translated into English.  I hope her other books will become available in English soon. Please Look After Mom‘s publication date isn’t until Tuesday so I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of it.  Though my shelves are stack with unread books, I think this is a purchase I need to make!

Speaking of TBR piles and unread books, if you participated in the TBR Dare, how did you do? My goal was to read 25 books off my shelves. If I didn’t make it to 25, I would have to donate the difference. I made it to 19 and I’ve given away more than 20 books so I’m happy.

Now I’m off to continue Their Eyes Were Watching God. What are you reading today?

April is. . . National Poetry Month

I love the month of April. Not because of spring, (a season that I don’t care for), but because April signals so many different changes: spring break, Easter, my blogiversary, and the start of National Poetry Month. I love poetry and by celebrating N.P.M. is a great way to share some of my favorite poets and their works. It’s also a great excuse to read more poetry than I usually do. Do you read poetry? If so, are you going to celebrate National Poetry Month?

 

Can’t Tell

Nellie Wong

When World War II was declared

on the morning radio,

we glued our ears, widened our eyes.

our bodies shivered.

 

A voice said

Japan was the enemy,

Pearl Harbor a shambles

and in our grocery store

in Berkeley, we were suspended

 

Next to the meat marker

where voices hummed,

valises, pots and pans packed,

no more hot dogs, baloney,

pork kidneys.

 

We children huddled on wooden planks

and my parents whispered:

We are Chinese, we are Chinese.

Safety pins anchored,

our loins ached.

 

Shortly our Japanese neighbors vanished

and my parents continued to whisper:

We are Chinese, we are Chinese.

 

We wore black arm bands,

put up a sign

in bold letters.

 

 

From the poetry anthology, Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women’s Poetry edited by Marilyn Sewell.