Han Kang–Human Acts

From the internationally bestselling author of The Vegetarian, a rare and astonishing (The Observer) portrait of political unrest and the universal struggle for justice.

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

This book.

Deep Exhale.

This book is a ghost story. To read this book is to experience the mass casualty that overcomes a city in war. We see both sides–from the living and bereaved–trying to find closure in a city building overcome with overflowing death. We see, too, through the blind eyes of a trapped soul, panicking under the press of rot and gore, unable to release himself from the body that no longer lives.

And that is only the beginning.

This book is a ghost story–and there are so many ghosts. There are only 218 pages, but I could not read this for more than a few minutes at a time without putting my bookmark in and just breathing. I could not cry because I felt like every emotion I had was sucked right out of me.

I’m not sure how to describe this book–beautiful? amazing? great? All of those words could fit but mostly it just tore me to shreds. This short book is exhausting to read and in literature that is the exact opposite of a negative review. Just be prepared when you go into this. Han Kang does not need to waste 500 pages on dramatic world-building, she can do it in a whisper. You will be haunted by Human Acts. This book is a ghost story.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books and Hogarth for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

Read the World:  South Korea

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Roxane Gay: An Untamed State

Roxane Gay is a powerful new literary voice whose short stories and essays have already earned her an enthusiastic audience. In An Untamed State, she delivers an assured debut about a woman kidnapped for ransom, her captivity as her father refuses to pay and her husband fights for her release over thirteen days, and her struggle to come to terms with the ordeal in its aftermath.

Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

I am sitting here watching the snow fall and I just have absolutely no idea what to even say about the book I just read. I was so not prepared for a story of this magnitude.

Let me start by telling you straight out that this is a book about rape. Roxane Gay does not hold back, either. The descriptions are very very vivid. Mireille is kidnapped and held in the most horrid conditions for 13 days–tortured and raped in an attempt to break her will. The result is devastating PTSD and a broken family.

But this isn’t just a story about a kidnapping. Roxane Gay highlights the challenges in interracial marriage, and she forces us to look at privilege in the face of terrible poverty.

Your heart will be in your throat the entire time. I hated to put this down for fear that if I did, Mireille wouldn’t make it to the next page. It’s THAT kind of story. The main character might die if you put it down even for a few minutes.

She also writes extensively about privilege and wealth, culture and poverty. Mirelle’s father grew so rich and callous that he was too scared to risk his lifestyle, and love is nothing without the money to back it. You can nearly smell the shit he feels he is smearing underneath his feet as he walks, and that attitude destroys him and his family.

Don’t put it down. It’s too important that you not miss a single bit of Roxane Gay’s message.

(The only reason this book didn’t receive a full five Book Dragons from me is because of just how many trigger points there could be in the story. I can’t put it on my MUST READS list because not everyone could read this. Otherwise, this book is brilliant. Just please be careful if you are sensitive to rape, sexual assault, or kidnapping. There is a great deal of violence in this novel.)

 

DiversityBingo2017:  Black Main Character Own Voices

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Magen Cubed: The Crashers

At 9:17 AM, a subway train crashed in East Brighton City. That was when everything changed.

Five survivors emerge from the accident: former detective Kyle Jeong; single mother Norah Aroyan; Afghanistan veteran Adam Harlow; the genius Clara Reyes; and the dying Bridger Levi. These five strangers walk away from the crash unscathed, only to realize the event has left each of them with strange new powers. As their city falls into chaos around them, they find themselves drawn into a story far more dangerous than they ever knew – and it will change their lives forever.

Death, undeath, superpowers, and apocalyptic visions. Welcome to East Brighton City – hope you survive.

When people start getting shouty on twitter about books I must read, they usually end up on my TBR. When people start getting shouty on twitter about books I must read that are free today on Amazon…well…they get added to my Kindle IMMEDIATELY DO NOT PASS GO OR COLLECT $200–especially when they out of the LGBTQIA and/or POC community. Please shout at me all of the books.

The Crashers was one of such shouty books, just before my vacation. I actually intended to take my Kindle with me, but already had a couple book books going so didn’t manage to get to it while traveling. It has everything: POC leads, gay leads, bisexual leads, disabled characters, mental illness, several badass women who take no shit, and did I mention they are superheroes?

Also, the author’s bio says she lives in Texas with a little dog named Cecil, so how in the world could I pass that up?

The story itself was just a little slow to start for me, but I think that was just the anticipation because I knew it was going to build up so much. It was a case of being TOO excited to read it. I LOVED almost all of the characters. There were one or two that I didn’t quite mesh with, but Adam? Ohhh Adam. I’m so in love with him. Is there anyone in the world who isn’t in love with Adam?

If you love cop dramas, superheroes–especially dark ones (think DC, not Marvel)–you’re going to love this. The Crashers has so much grit. SO MUCH, you guys. I think there’s still some in my teeth. I need a graphic novel version with blacks and grays and reds. Sin City style.

OOCH I cannot wait until Koreatown. GIMMEE GIMMEE GIMMEE.

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Hannah Hart: Buffering

The wildly popular YouTube personality and author of the New York Times bestseller My Drunk Kitchen is back! This time, she’s stirring up memories and tales from her past.

By combing through the journals that Hannah has kept for much of her life, this collection of narrative essays deliver a fuller picture of her life, her experiences, and the things she’s figured out about family, faith, love, sexuality, self-worth, friendship and fame.

Revealing what makes Hannah tick, this sometimes cringe-worthy, poignant collection of stories is sure to deliver plenty of Hannah’s wit and wisdom, and hopefully encourage you to try your hand at her patented brand of reckless optimism.

Personal note:

Hello, my darlings! I am incredibly pleased to present BUFFERING: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded!

As a big fan of memoirs, I wanted to try my hand at writing about the events of my life that deserve a little more consideration than can be accomplished in 140-characters or a 6-minute vlog. Now on the cusp of turning 30, I’m ready to expose some parts of my life that I haven’t shared before. Before, it was all about privacy, process and time. And now the time has come! I’m ready to put myself out there, for you.  

I’m a little nervous about all these vulnerable words going into the world, these tales about my love life, the wrestling I’ve done with faith, how I feel about sex and my family and myself. I’ve had a lot of trials, a lot of errors, but also a lot of passion. Here’s the thing–I’ve always found comfort in the stories shared by others, so I hope my stories, now that I feel ready to tell them, will bring you some comfort too.

And when you read this book please remember: Buffering is just the time it takes to process.

Enjoy!

Love,

Hannah 

OH. OH HANNAH.

I was going to start this blog off by gushing over how much of a Hannah Hart crush I have. “Mild Obsession” wouldn’t be too far off base.

But oh, Hannah. This book.

She’d told us many times that she was revealing all her secrets in this book. And I knew it would be packed full of gayness. I knew that she came from a religious background, and that she suffered from mental illness. I expected some darkness. I know there is a lot of depth behind her bright and shiney coat of happy.

But oh. Oh Hannah.

I was sobbing by page 11. And not like, internal, this is an emotional book, I feel sad but I’m not actually outwardly crying, “sobbing.” No. SOBBING. Full on WEEPING by page 11.

I’m not going to tell you what Hannah’s secrets are. They aren’t mine to tell. But there is a reason that her introduction is called Trigger Warning. This wonderful, beautiful woman who makes us laugh with her silly puns, her goofy kitchen antics, her smooth scotchy wisdom–I don’t know how she got there. How a person goes through the seven circles of hell and emerges with such a fresh outlook on life amazes me. Those people are my heroes–and Hannah Hart is one of them.

Buffering is not “just another Youtuber book.” Don’t throw it on the pile. Pick it up as soon as possible, whether you are a fan of hers or not. It will change your perspective on life–I promise you.

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Jennifer Mathieu: Afterward

When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other.

GAH this book will make you HURT. It’s a book about trauma–kidnapping, sexual abuse, PTSD, healing. It tore me up so much that I didn’t write the review immediately because I just wasn’t sure HOW to write it.

I’m still not sure.

Mostly I just felt so much pain for the boys and their families in this story. It’s extremely intense, so be careful with yourselves when you read it.

I’m sorry, this is a hard book to review–it’s beautiful, and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it, but also put a major trigger warning on it.

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This book was awarded in a Goodreads giveaway by Roaring Book Press. This post does contain affiliate links.

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Baby Doll

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next…

…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

Let me start by saying I had a very different review planned for this book. And that I really hate it when this happens. Because I honestly liked Baby Doll. It probably would have gotten a 4 from me. Is it “The Next Gone Girl!”? No. But it’s a great thriller, and a solid view of PTSD and recovery.

However, sometimes my “write the review immediately after reading the book” policy will bite you in the ass.

Because this happened in the Epilogue, two minutes before the close of the book:

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There is absolutely no reason to fat-shame there. Zero. It’s completely out of character for Lily. The scene is supposed to prove how strong she is, how far along her path of recovery she has come. She’s also a grown woman. While I understand her abuser degraded her, I still think it should have been shown in another way. That sentence could have been removed completely. Reading that shatters all illusions I have about Lily and the world she lives in.

Nope. Book ruined, just by that sentence. Doesn’t that suck so hard?

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NetGalley and Redhook provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

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Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Liane Moriarty and her deadly good story-telling strikes again. I haven’t seen Women’s Fiction this good since My Sister’s Keeper (really, nothing I’ve read by Jodi Picoult has measured up to that one, although I still have a great many of her books yet to read). Now that I’ve read four in a row, I’ve really seen just how far her reach can go. Every single plot was meticulously mapped from the beginning, and gone over with a fine-toothed comb to match every single detail.

Big Little Lies is now my favorite of the four, perhaps because it has a different mapping than the other three. With the others, we knew what was happening, but the characters didn’t. We were almost omnipresent–watching the characters figure out the details. The stories were far from boring, however, because we still had to pick together the pieces of how everything fit.

In Big Little Lies, however, we know someone has died at school trivia night. We know there has been some huge conflict between the parents, and between the children. We just don’t know who or what yet. The scene is set via Moriarty’s ability to break apart the chapters with both multi-person narration and other writing devices to see outside the box–in this book she uses a journalist’s interview with the parents to get multiple POV.

The story is super thrilling. I mentioned in one of my previous reviews that her books feel like a master laying dominos down, and Big Little Lies is a perfect illustration of that. She waits patiently for us to THINK we know what is about to happen and then *clickclickclick* down they all come.

She also covers a lot of BIG topics in this one. Bullying. Sexual assault and date rape. Domestic violence. PTSD. The sexual trafficking of children. They are wrapped in a women’s fiction/thriller, but Moriarty is making some very clear points here. Don’t let those go unnoticed.

I’ve added everything from her Goodreads page to my TBR, and I’m following her now too. I can’t stand to miss a single thing this woman puts out. It’s bound to be keep me falling off the edge of my seat.

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I received a copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Twitter Contest.

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Frayed

Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister’s killer…although she’ll wish she hadn’t. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.

And Kesley’s murderer could be much closer than she thought…

First things first, Frayed deals with a lot of really intense mental illnesses. PTSD, depression, grief, and others are all prevalent in here. There are also some heavy PTSD flashbacks, so be careful if you will be triggered by those.

Because of those characterizations, I really wanted to like Frayed. In fact, it is the reason I kept going. Unfortunately, while the story has the potential to be interesting…it reads more like a first draft than a book ready for publication. I’m really hoping that there has been much editing done after the ARC went out.

My main complaint about the book is that the pronouns and tenses are all over the place. At times the narrator talks straight to her sister, Kesley, in an attempted letter format. Other times, it’s just simple first person narration. However, there’s no barrier or switch off between the two. And I say “attempted letter” because there’s no “Dear Kesley” or “Love Ava” except at the very beginning and end. So the whole thing is supposed to be letter, I guess…except that it isn’t.

There are other little pieces about the plot that are just thrown in suddenly. Oh, here’s something important! Here’s something else! Oh, wait, you need to know this! There isn’t anything subtle about the book. The ending has a “Big Twist,” but doesn’t really make much sense.

There’s potential here. It just needs work–better transitions, better formatting. From what I can see on Goodreads, the author looks very young. I think she’s going to great things–her creativity is obviously very strong, and it’s easy to see she did a lot of research on the illnesses she used. I’ll look for more work from her in the future to see how she develops!

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NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases June 1.

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PANIC! instead of sleeping

Last week I shared a journal entry written during a migraine. It was dark, and helped to illustrate a bit of depression’s tunnel of misery. But one thing I’ve never been able to do is write from within an episode anxiety. It’s just too intense and unfocused.

But then I read Sarah Gailey’s “Dissociation is Scary” Article on Boston Globe, and was blown away. I knew I’d have to try it. If you haven’t read Sarah’s post yet, you need go check it out. It’s incredible. Part poem, part essay–she illustrates just how terrifying a PTSD episode is.

Last night, my brain would not settle. I’d had a horrible day, and I was exhausted. But, of course, as soon as I hit the pillow, all that stress fired up.

I didn’t quite have what I consider a full panic attack, but it was definitely an episode. I didn’t sleep much at all last night. At some point, I wrote down the exact chaos that was running through my head.

I can’t I can’t I can’t
OK.
Yes.
No. No. No.
Breathe 123456
123456
123456
I am dying.
That’s different than I want to die.
Right?
It’s different.
Different.
Different.
Different.
Different……..
Can’t Breathe can’t breathe can’t breathe
Get upgetupgetupgetup
You piece of shit.
My chest hurts.
Take a pill. I should take a pill.
No. Bad. It’s bad. Addictive.
Don’t.
Why? Need it.
That’s why you have it. Take it.
No don’t waste it.
You may need it more later.
I can’t sleep. Need it. Can’t sleep can’t sleep.
TAKE A PILL DUMBASS.
FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK
It’s not WORKING.
Wait…wait…waiiiiiiit…….
Work FASTER. NEED TO SLEEP.
Still can’t breathe. Stop thinking.
Eyes hurt.
Chest hurts.
Want to sleep.
Cry…

 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

Chris Cleave has written the most unromantic WWII romance ever in the history of WWII romances.

That’s a compliment by the way.

The Goodreads’ summary above makes it seem all about the love triangle (which really doesn’t exist, by the way…not in the way we think of love triangles), but Cleave dives deep into so many social norms of 1930s-40s that most books of this nature don’t bother to look at.

The author uses historical prejudicial words throughout his narrative. Words like the n-word, mongol, retarded. Words that today are incredibly offensive, but in the 30’s were ordinary in context. But those prejudices are exactly the point Cleave is trying to make. He focuses heavily on the fact that healthy white children were rushed out to the countryside while blacks and mentally-ill children were mostly left to fend for themselves.

We also get an incredible portrayal of PTSD (or shell-shock, as it was known then), from multiple characters–and not just those fighting on the front. We see drug addiction, depression, suicide–and all the horrible stigma that went along with it.

Chris Cleave kicks off #MentalHealthMonth with a beautiful, historical not-so-romantic romance that bears the ugly truth about WWII. Everyone Brave is Forgiven comes out tomorrow, May 3, and while it is brave, it certainly does not need forgiveness.

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NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases May 3.

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