Miles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun
Memorable and moving with remarkable sensitivity, this writer has a distinct talent that has made her book one of my top ten for 2008. Spectacular imagery can be expected when you read Mun’s work. Your vision of setting and character requires little effort to conjure up what she vividly depicts in poetic prose.
I received Miles from Nowhere, about a week ago, and decided to glance over the first few pages as I do with all ARC’s I receive. I began thumbing through the book and reading a little. Within a few pages it became apparent that I wasn’t going to put this book down. I spent the rest of a dreary drizzly day buried in this amazing book.
The book takes place in the 1980s in New York City. As the story begins, Joon a Korean girl lives with her parents. Their marriage is a rocky relationship always on the brink of failure. One day her father finally has enough and decides to leave home. This sends her mentally ill mother, unable to contend with difficulties with his desertion, on a tragic trajectory of wacky behavior.
When Joon takes to the streets she fights for survival wearing the scars of pain. Joon is the main character, and will always be my favorite person in the novel. Who can forget her? She is confused, vulnerable, sweet, gullible, trusting, and generous. You are a part of her as a twin the entire book, difficult to leave her, hard to not feel her pain.
Her battles become narcotic addiction, failed friendships, and lost loves. She tries to climb out of the streets by working in a variety of jobs from dance girl hostess to an Avon door to door sales representative.
The story is written episodically with Joon as the narrator. We learn about all the friends, parents and the people Joon meets through her point of view. You can’t help but love Joon and want to protect and embrace her and tell her it’s just a bad dream. Time passes in Joon’s mind, sometimes rational, sometimes fragmented. You feel her confusion, her sense of loss and despair all through her cognition. Mun makes it look easy the way she has manages to create the passage of time over five years as Joon ages to eighteen.
This is a sensitive, heart-wrenching story, sometimes amusing, sometimes dispiriting yet carrying a message of hope. Nami Mun’s novel is a tale that will leave you deep in thought. With a late December release it just might make the perfect holiday gift for some. This debut work of Nami Mun portrays a veteran of her craft, a talented and compelling author. I hope we see more from her soon. Highly recommended.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Banned Book Week Raffle
This is a raffle to celebrate our freedom to read!!! Please leave a comment on my blog to be entered in the raffle to win a copy of Gap Creek,by Robert Morgan. The drawing for Gap Creek will be on October 6th. Good Luck. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this book, it was an Oprah Book Club pick, winner of the Southern Book Critic Circle Award, and a NYT Notable Book. Besides that...I highly recommend it!
If you link to my blog and write about the raffle on your blog you will get two (2) additional chances.
Reading This Week
Finished reading The Fire, by Katherine Neville. I am a huge fan of her novel The Eight, written twenty years ago. I would recommend the Eight to anyone who loves drama, excitement and intrigue. In my opinion, The Davinci Code, often compared to The Eight, pales in comparison hands down. The Fire on the other hand was very disappointing to me after such a long wait for another book from this talented writer. It was difficult to stay focused and I lost interest easily. Unlike The Eight, I struggled to finish the book. If you want to experience Katherine Neville's finest work, read The Eight.
Finished reading Murderers in Mausoleums, Riding the Back Roads of Empire Between Moscow and Beijing by Jeffrey Tayler (Review to follow during the week)
Surprise Read of the Month...Miles from Nowhere by Nami MunMiles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun
I received Miles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun about a week ago, and decided to glance over the first few pages on Saturday. When I receive an ARC I thumb through the book, read a little and try to obtain an overview before I sit down and read it.
It soon became apparent that I wasn’t going to put this book down, and it quickly landed on top of my TBR pile. I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy day. As I began to read Miles to Nowhere, I came to know Joon, a thirteen year old run-a-way, living on the streets. The story takes place in the 1980’s in New York City.
As the story begins, Joon a Korean girl lives with her parents. Their marriage is a rocky relationship always on the brink of failure. One day her father finally has enough and decides to leave home. This sends her mentally ill mother, unable to cope with his desertion, on a tragic trajectory of wacky behavior. When Joon takes to the streets she fights for survival wearing the scars of pain. Her battles become narcotic addiction, failed friendships, and lost loves. She tries to climb out by working in a variety of jobs from dance girl hostess to an avon door to door salesgirl. The story is written episodically with Joon as the narrator. We learn about all the friends, parents and the people Joon meets through her point of view. You can’t help but love Joon and want to protect and embrace her and tell her it’s just a bad dream. Time passes in Joon’s mind, sometimes rational, sometimes fragmented. You feel her confusion, her sense of loss and despair all through her cognition. Mun makes it look easy the way she has managed to create the passage of time over five years as Joon ages to eighteen. This book does not come out until December 26th, but you will want to get a copy as soon as you can. This is a warm, sensitive, reflective story, sometimes amusing, sometimes dispiriting but carrying a message of hope. You will close the cover and say ahhhhhhh.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Book Raffle Winner. Congratulations Ti, from Book Chatter and Other Stuff. Here is her announcement card.
What will be your first book to read in Autumn? I will be reading Saye, by Jeremy H. Walker a debut novelist. Stay tuned to hear more.
I will also be reading Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir for the Early Reviewers Program at Library Thing. I started reading Murderers in Mausoleums by Jeffrey Tayler.
Tell me what are your first intended reads for Autumn? Let's celebrate our new reading season wherever you live. New Englanders like me will likely relish in the crisp chill in the air and breathe in the sweet smells of the harvest. My cozy book nook is ready. How about you?
Reviews of the week
by Bonnie J. Glover
978-0-345-48091-0, 272 pp.
Going Down Southjust blew me away. This is the story of three ordinary yet extraordinary women, Grandma Birdie, her daughter Daisy and her 15 year old granddaughter Olivia Jean who come to live in Cold Water Springs, Alabama. Ms. Glover has created an amazing cast of characters in this beautiful story of forgiveness. The dialogue is so amazingly genuine, offering a glimpse of a culture through conversations that are honest and rarely seen in literature. You can’t get closer to real life than the story Going Down South. As the story spans the lives of the females in one family over generations, they all face life against difficult odds, and harbor deep anger. Through it all they manage to rise to independence and gain a sense of self.
Sometime during the 1960's, Olivia Jean becomes pregnant, and her mom and daddy Turk decide to leave New York to take her down south to live with Daisy’s mom Birdie. Thinking she has protected her daughter from the stigma and shame of an out of wedlock pregnancy Daisy’s life is turned upside down when the preacher Percy Walker singles out Olivia Jean at church. He labels her a whore and and admonishes her for her indiscretion as he preaches from the pulpit.
Moving down south proves to be a tension filled proposition as Daisy and Birdie have been at odds for years. They both conceal secrets from the past that have stirred up malevolent memories. As they choose to let anger and the past fester, conversations are strained, ugly, and hateful, until one day Grandma Birdie decides she has had enough.
Grandma Birdie, is a colorful character with witty jailhouse toughness and sage wisdom with a soft heart for family. Daisy, on the other hand has so much anger, time will only tell when tempers will flare. Olivia Jean at fifteen helps to uncover the many secrets with astounding strength for one so young. These feisty heroines are reason alone to read Going Down South. This book touches on all emotions, and you will laugh out loud. Outrageous at times, honestly human and heartfelt. Fabulous fiction with remarkable realism. Don’t miss this Bonnie Glover’s glorious gift. Highly recommended.
My published review in Historical Novels Review for August Issue
Elizabeth Stoddard, edited and with intro. by Jennifer Putzi, Univ of Nebraska Press, 2008, $19.95/C$21.95/£10.99, pb, 271pp, 9780803293472
Originally published in 1865, Two Men begins when Jason Auster, a carpenter, leaves home to start a new life. His stagecoach makes a stop in Crest, a seashore village in New England where he decides to settle. Finding work at a local church, he meets dark-eyed Sarah Parke, a woman of wealth and social standing. He learns she is the granddaughter of the well-known Squire Parke. Despite their differences in social class, Jason soon becomes a frequent visitor at the Squire’s home, playing whist with Sarah’s grandfather and backgammon with her. They marry and have a son, who they name Parke.
A stroke takes the Squire’s life, and fate puts Jason in control of his estate. Some years later, Osmund Luce, Sarah’s co-heir, shows up with his daughter, Philippa, who he intends to leave with Sarah. Upon learning of his grandfather’s death, Osmund gives Philippa his inheritance. The novel continues as a complex story of love and romance, relationships left unsatisfied, and surprising, difficult choices.
Two Men takes place during the antebellum period, when men, not women, were allowed to express passion, and marrying beneath your class, interracial relationships, and choosing to be a single woman were all considered taboo.
This is not a Civil War novel. It is a period piece that gives a sense of what it was like to live in mid-19th century American society. The language is indicative of the period, and today’s audience won’t find it shocking. Yet, reading the book I kept wondering what the Victorian attitudes of Stoddard's readership would think. No doubt there were many whispers and raised eyebrows. Stoddard was an author ahead of her time; her portrayal of strong women seems almost anachronistic, her descriptive writing flows, and she conveys much of her characters’ thoughts through dialog. Two Men is a remarkable tale; highly recommended.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
It was a busy Saturday creating a new garden with my cousin Russ. We spent the day planning, digging, weeding, setting plants, and scattering spring bulbs. All these plants were transplanted from his glorious gardens in Massachusetts. Some of the flora and herbs in his assortment are generations old. You can see by the final results in the slide-show album. Prior to today, there was virtually nothing but hanging plants, a couple of shrubs, and a stray perennial misfit here and there. I owe so much to Russ and his magic. Here are millions of thanks for everything. You truly are amazing!!!
BubbleShare: Share photos - Create and Share Crafts
I was busy reading a lot this week trying to hold on to the waning days of summer sunshine. It doesn't take long for tension to take hold when you get back to teaching.
I am determined to stay relaxed from the pervasive school stress while at home with reading.
This week to de-stress:
Going Down South,by Bonnie Glover
Tomato Girl, by Jayne Pupek
Red Sky in Morning:A Novel about World War II, by Patrick Culhane-Excellent
A Lady of Secret Devotion, by Tracie Peterson Romantic Historical Fiction.
The Fire, by Katherine Neville
You Are Here, by Thomas M. Kostigen-Alarming-mind-awakening book that will make you think about the cities and places on the planet that are most polluted and who is causing it. Can it be stopped?
Don't forget, Sunday Salon Raffle from September 7th, leave a comment on this posting and earn another chance for the drawing. Please remember to leave your email address so that I can contact you.
So Long at the Fair....Raffle
Monday, September 8, 2008
Living Dead Girl
by Elizabeth Scott
Disturbing and psychologically creepy, I read this book in one day. Living Dead Girl evoked unforgivable and unspeakable images that became etched in memory.
Ray, an evil souled sexual child abuser has cleverly abducted Alice, a child of ten from a class trip. She becomes his child baby doll until she is fifteen. Ray who was also abused as a child doesn’t want Alice to grow-up and she fears when the time comes he will kill her. Repeated sexual, physical and psychological abuse are part of her daily life lessons. Fear, intimidation, threats to her family and starvation are just a few other ways he uses to perpetuate his power over her. She would rather be dead, than live this way. She calls herself “the living dead girl.” Will death be her only solution?
Elizabeth Scott said this story was meant to be told after she awoke from a dream that she had about Alice. I was compelled to listen with the passion I suspect Scott had in telling it. We want to think the sick psychopathic behavior in the story is just another fiction tale, but we know better. Gripping the book, I notice as I leave my chair for a break how tense I have become. I need a break a few times to ponder the story and take a breath. You can’t put this book down for long, you will finish it before you sleep with my guarantee.
Elizabeth Scott’s story is marvelously written as the story takes on a momentum of its own driving to a suspenseful conclusion. Tension, with a bit of surprise make for an anxious riddled ending. After reading the last page, I honestly felt like I was in a catatonic state for sometime. I was honestly lost for words, wanting to just reflect on The Living Dead Girl.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Hi Saloners,As I sit here writing this weeks Sunday Salon, my sister just called to let me know that my town is under a tornado warning. Lovely! Of course, at this time of night, around 8:00PM it is dark and Hurricane Hannah has been raising havoc all day. How do you see a tornado in the dark? The ground is saturated and trees, limbs and other projectiles litter the streets. Power lines are down, major streets are closed and I am thankful I am inside my cozy house. Now, you would think I live in the southern part of the US, but actually, I live in Connecticut. More specifically, the inland northern hills. So although I have lived through hurricanes while living at the coast in my earlier lifetime, I'm not fond of the term "tornado warning." My dog "Mystery" as usual, is hiding in the bathroom because she hates the sound of thunder. She shutters and quakes continuously until I can give her something to calm her down. Well, as Twain is quoted, "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes." I'm waiting.
The Winds of Tara, by Katherine Pinotti
You will be surprisingly swept away by The Winds of Tara, assuming you can obtain a copy to read. It is unavailable in the United States. Due to copyright infringements and the lack of authorization from the Mitchell Trust, the book was pulled from bookstore shelves. Fortunately, since the copyright does not apply in Australia, diehard Gone With the Wind fans, can buy The Winds of Tara there, albeit having to pay high shipping costs.
Once I overcame the logistics of obtaining the book, it was well worth the wait and expense. I was held captive again by Scarlett and Rhett as I was as a teen.
Again, Tara is the rock that holds the family together and nothing is more sacred or valued more, than the lives and reputations of those who live there. It is delightful to enjoy the banter again between the Butler’s as they continue to prove they are truly made for each other. Neither trusting each other, both madly in love with each other, both stubborn and unyielding. Without the Civil War as the backdrop, Scarlett is busy trying to save her marriage and recover her reputation as well as maintaining the social status of the family name.
Katherine Pinotti has succeeded in masterfully matching the tone, style, dialect and personalities of the original characters created so lovingly by Margaret Mitchell. It is obvious that the author took great care when writing the sequel to maintain a continuum that would be believable and have the same passion as the original. Her success should be celebrated as she has not altered the integrity of Mitchell’s novel, nor has she detracted from the novel’s birthright. On the contrary, Pinotti, has enhanced the legacy of Gone With the Wind by breathing a new soul into a story fans have yearned to hear.
Although it has been said that Mitchell never intended a sequel, many have attempted to provide a resolution to GWTW. Scarlett written in 1991 was rather dull and disappointing. Recently, Rhett Butler’s People, by David McCraig out in stores, provides another perspective. Both of these sequels were authorized despite Margaret Mitchell’s wishes. Another version bestselling, The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall is from the slave’s perspective. This book was allowed to be sold only after a court decision ruled in favor of the author.
Katherine Pinotti’s version fulfills an enormous void for those fans who wish to reclaim the magic of Tara. The Winds of Tara is an astounding success. It will captivate your attention and you will believe.
“God’s nightgown!”, as Scarlett would say.
It is such a waste to finally have a worthy sequel, and not be able to support the demand for anyone wanting to read the book in the US. If you loved Gone With the Wind, you must send for The Winds of Tara today.
I've had a super busy schedule at work this week, but grateful for my free time to read at night. I had a productive week after finishing up the prodigious tome The Toss of a Lemon that had me tied up it seemed for some time. This book was very well written, but had such finite details that at times I almost said, "Enough, I'm done!!!" Fortunately, I stuck with it, because it really has a very strong heroine who I wanted to follow to the end. Please see my review: The Toss of a Lemon
Finished this week....reviews to follow.
1.You Are Here, The surprising link between what we do and what that does to our planet. by Thomas M. Kostigen This is a series of stories about cities or places around the world that are the most polluted and who is responsible.
2.Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott
3.Red Sky in Morning, by Patrick Culhane
4.The Fire, by Katherine Neville
5.A Lady of Secret Devotion, by Tracie Peterson
Win a Book,End of Summer Raffle
This week I am having a raffle for a copy of So Long at the Fair. This is what Amazon said about this book:The bestselling author of Drowning Ruth returns to the small-town Wisconsin she so brilliantly evoked with this gripping novel about love, marriage, and adultery.
The Rules: 1. Leave a comment on my blog. (one chance)
2. Answer this question and get (another chance): What was the name of the book written about Gone With the Wind from the slave's perspective?
3. Link this raffle to your blog. (another chance)
4. Drawing will be held on September 18th.
5. Contest only open to United States shipping address.
6. Leave an email contact address.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The Toss of a Lemon
by Padma Viswanathan
Padma Viswanathan has written an impressive inspirational journey of a fictional Brahmin family that spans three generations. Be prepared however, for diminutive details that encompass 616 pages, as the author describes life in India from 1896 to1962.
The Toss of a Lemon is based on the stories told to her by her grandmother and re-created in the character of Sivakami. This woman is widowed at eighteen with two small children, thereafter, she is subjected to the strict rules governed by her caste. Unable to leave the house, unable to be touched from dawn to dusk, unable to remarry I can’t imagine how she feels at her age. Further, she must wear white and have her head shaved by an untouchable.
What a powerful woman she is. I love Sivakami because she is such a paradox as supplicant to her caste, yet defiantly disregarding caste rules in to raise her grandchildren. In a patriarchal society this takes strength, endurance and courage. She is a remarkable character. Padma’s grandmother must be pleased and proud that her stories have new life. If you enjoy a book with a strong heroine or love historical epics this would appeal to you.
I felt the subject of the caste system was a missed opportunity for more in depth teaching. There is an assumption at times that the reader has an above average understanding of Indian social and cultural life. This would be an ideal reading group novel with a study guide. Brilliantly written by a debut novelist with tremendous talent.