Category Archives: Books

Korean Culture

This book took me awhile to read. The time it took was not longer just because I have had less time, but also because it is about a culture of which I am not very familiar. “House of the Winds” by Mia Yun is a story which at times drug along, but at other times was quite insightful.

The story takes place in different parts of Korea over time, but for the most part in the city of Seoul. Seoul is in South Korea and is their capitol. We follow this particular family through their struggles caused by the Korean War, as well as through their own personal strife.

The story is told by one of the daughters of the family. She basically narrates while recounting memories, not necessarily in order. She tells about her mother, lack thereof father and her siblings; a brother and sister. Since this is a story of memories there were often times when I wondered if pieces were elaborated or spun into a fairytale quality. It could have just been that Mia Yun has a unique and beautiful way of describing things, even when they are frightening memories.

***spoiler alert***

I folded down corners of some pages that I wanted to share excerpts from, because I found them thought provoking and interesting.

In one instance, she was remembering something her mother had told her about happiness. She recalls this during a period of time when her older sister had runaway from home.

“About happiness. Happiness is not something one grabs out of the air and rubs all over like honey. One had to strive for and work for it.”

There is also a section when they mother and children had to move again because their father was still missing in action and mother couldn’t afford the house. When they moved into the much older, much smaller house, the grandmother visited and she brought a box of matches and cakes of soap. The tradition being that wealth would spread like wildfire and multiply like soap bubbles. I thought that was very cute and will probably be using that sentiment for friends in the future. =o)

Last but not least, I enjoyed when our narrator discussed her feeling about books. She was reading profusely, all the time, waiting for her older sisters magazines and getting her hands on any book she could find.

“Then I began to find words I read in books fanciful and elusive – sunlight streaming through my fingers. They could pass right through me and leave me still hungry and empty.” She further goes on to say, “A word was a tricky thing. It could change meaning from one sentence to another. A word could betray me, fail me and confuse me. But I discovered if words are put to music and a voice sings them, they become permanent. This this way, the words form a link from one day to another.”

Like many other parts of the book I really connected with the way she wrote and explained her feelings. She endured so much and yet rarely complained about it because she could find beauty elsewhere.

Some of the book I still don’t really understand. Why is it important to celebrate someone 100 days after their death? What is so special about Carp that eating them is sinful? Why were men taken to fight in the war, never to return, and yet their parents were told nothing? And how can a country be so divided internally whilst also hating all of their neighboring countries? But then…how is that any different than the quirks of my own culture and country? Perhaps not different, perhaps not at all.

Andy Warhol = Crazy Talk

So I can’t read as fast as I can find and listen to new music, but I typically read a book a week depending on the size of it.

This week I have finished “If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend” by Alison Pace. And it was such a great read. There were at least a dozen, if not more, instances in which I was laughing out loud at how Pace described things. Particularly, the secretary that the main character couldn’t stand…she said she looked like a Velociraptor from Jurassic Park! Every single time she mentioned that character, she would refer to her as the velociraptor. HA! Excellent visual of a creepy dinosaur sitting behind a desk. Love it!

Alison Pace is an excellent author. Reading her book was like sitting in a cafe and listening to her tell a story like we were old childhood friends. Plus at the beginning of each chapter, she quoted Andy Warhol. I now know that he was completely and wonderfully absurd.

“Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?” – Andy Warhol

***spolier alert***

Jane Laine. She worked in an art gallery in New York. Her boss was a complete psycho trip who clearly had issues. The main attraction at this gallery are Ian Rhys Fitzsimmons’ sculptures. Jane claims she doesn’t understand them or why their are so special, it’s too abstract for her and she believes that Ian could very well just be a fraud.

Jane finds out that her boyfriend of two-years has been cheating on her. Everything about that break-up is just a disaster. Jane is beside herself, rightly so, and she feels like her life is going nowhere.

When her crab of a boss pulls her into his office; she thinks she is going to get fired. Instead of getting the axe, her tells her that he wants her to accompany their artist extraordinaire on a trip around the world for an art festival.

Predictably enough, Jane and Ian fall in love while working together during the International Art Fair. By the end of the book, after many laughs, she understood more than just his art, she also understood what she had been searching for all the while.

But Inside I’m Screaming

Not wanting to speak for everyone I will say that I have felt this way and I’m sure many other people have felt this way, too.

But Inside I’m Screaming” by Elizabeth Flock

It’s no secret that many people in the world suffer from overwhelming stress at some point in their life. Many people also suffer from severe anxiety and depression. There is no shame in that fact and no one should be judged negatively if they wall in one or all of those categories.

This book is about a reporter who suffered a nervous breakdown on the air. It was in that moment that she reached the very end of her rope. Perhaps she has been hanging from the thinnest shred of a thread on that rope for some time and it finally just snapped.

***spoiler alert***

Isabel tries to kill herself. After being released from the hospital she is admitted into a psychiatric facility called Three Breezes. She meets a lot of other people there are are all dealing with their own issues. While she is being treated there she learns how to cope better with the stress and anxiety in her life. She also begins to really see who she is and why she has been caught in the same destructive patterns for so long. She realizes she is constantly wanting love from her father, acceptance from her Mom and the approval of a man in her love life. Rather than being strong enough to steer her own life, she constantly gets herself involved with someone who makes all the choices for her. She has constantly tried to make everyone else feel better, most blaming herself for why they don’t. And most of all she realizes that none of those things matter, what matters most is that she needs to love herself. SHE needs to love HERSELF. Everything else falls into place after that.

As Isabel begins to heal and blossom she also starts reaching out to other patients at the facility. One patient in specific is a child, Peter, who she feels a connection to because she sees herself as a child in him. The interaction between those two is very touching.

At times the book was very hard to read. Elizabeth Flock did not try to hide the grim and frightening details of mental illness and the road to recovery. Unfortunately, it all seemed very true and real to me and often times I felt like it was written about me…I am Isabel. The parallels were alarming. But maybe that is why it felt so good to get to the end and know that Isabel has a long way to go, but that she is going to be okay…as long as she keeps going and as long as she loves herself.

Oh how wicked

Though I finished the book a couple days ago, I haven’t been able to write about it yet, because I’m not sure how to say what I want to say.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire is one of the hardest books I have ever read. The language and the extensive plot are incredibly complex and I had trouble following the storyline. Embracing the challenge, I finally did finish the book and am happy about that triumph.

With that said, I would only recommend this book to someone who absolutely LOVES to read and is interested in learning the history of the Wicked Witch of the West and her place in Oz. I do admit to a strong sympathy for her now. Following her from birth to death in the novel is quite eye-opening to say the least.

Parts of the story are a bit racy, which surprised me. The themes involve culture, society and religion in addition to magic. You read about Elphaba (the wicked witch), her family which includes two siblings, her peers (including Glinda) and of course the great Wizard of Oz. (Who is just a huge creep, by the way).

The ending suited the book and I am happy to have read and finished it. If you can get past the complexity and you enjoy reading then give it a whirl.

Currently, 30 chapters into “But Inside I’m Screaming” by Elizabeth Flock which I will probably finish tonight. =o)

Odd Thomas

In addition to being a music fiend, I also LOVE to read. And yesterday I finished a great book; another Dean Koontz pick called “Forever Odd.”

Odd Thomas is the name of the main character and he can see dead people. Laugh if you must, but this is not as cliche as Sixth Sense. In fact, this is a gift in which people come to Odd for resolution or sometimes even for reasons he doesn’t quite understand. In addition he has a gift of psychic magnetism which guides him to the right places at the right time.

The book begins when Odd wakes in the middle of the night to find the spirit of Dr. Jessup in his room. He isn’t scared, but he is alarmed because Dr. Jessup was perfectly alive earlier that day. So he follows Dr. Jessup to his home and finds his murdered body. Dr. Jessup’s son is nowhere to be found. Thus the plot thickens and we follow Odd throughout the book searching for Danny (the missing boy) and dealing with the three sick people who have kidnapped him. The sickest being Datura, the woman who befriended a crippled Danny and took advantage of secrets he told her about Odd’s supernatural gifts.

I won’t get into the rest, because it was such a good read I would rather you find out for yourself. But I will tell you that despite many of the grim details, Koontz is a very funny writer. There were quite a few times in which I was laughing at how he described things. He is a vivid writer with a phenomenal imagination.

And next on my reading list is “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire.

Find out who is “Everyone Worth Knowing”

Since I finished school I have been a reading fiend.

There have been so many books that I have let pile up and it has been quite enjoyable to start dwindling down the stack.

On Saturday I finished “Everyone Worth Knowing” by Lauren Weisberger. She also wrote “The Devil Wears Prada.” Bette Robinson is the main character in this book. She’s on a journey of self discovery and she morphs into this woman she isn’t very proud of with very little privacy and a huge credit card bill. Haha. She is aware that she did not want to be that person. It takes some time for her to get out of the materialistic world of knowing all the right people and being able to get into the fancy, elite New York clubs. Eventually, she finds herself in a room of close friends and family, celebrating her birthday. It ends there, in that room, and I can imagine the feeling that must have swelled within her at that sight.

I don’t know how she held out as long as she did working in the PR position she had landed in after quitting her job at the bank. But Bette had the life of a rock star for quite some time. Until she realized that labels on your jeans really don’t matter and being able to get on a jet and sip champagne at any given moment, yes it was quite nice, but so not necessary. Especially if being that person meant disappointing everyone who ever meant anything to you. Ah Bette, you made an excellent character in a book, I really loved reading along as you blossomed. =o)

And so now I am already over 200 pages into another book, haha. My brother will shake his head when he reads this, but it is another Dean Koontz book. This one is called “Forever Odd” and though like “Intensity” it does involve a murder, this storyline is far less gruesome. In fact, I think the reason I can’t put this book down is because the main character Odd (yes, his parents named him that, strange people) can see spirits and help them find closure with what they left behind upon dying. In addition, he refers to a magnetic feeling he has, like he is being pulled places to help people in danger. It is a very interesting book and I’m pretty sure I’ll finish it tonight after Heroes. =o)

Dreams and Strangers

I had a nice relaxing weekend for the most part.

Friday night consisted of drinking an entire bottle of wine. Beringer White Merlot. It was very, very good. No, I didn’t get plastered and didn’t have a hangover the next morning. But let me tell you something, I felt very relaxed and happy. I know, it’s not good, there has to be moderation, but I was home and safe and clearly…I like wine.

Afterwards I finished a great book by Nora Roberts called “Dream Makers.” It was actually two stories in one, and they were separately titled “Untamed” and “Less of a Stranger.” Definitely chick books, love stories, but it wasn’t like a Harlequinn romance or anything. Just nice love stories. My favorite was “Less of a Stranger.”

I have already started a new book “Everyone Worth Knowing” by Lauren Weisberger. She also wrote “The Devil Wears Prada.” I’ll let you know how it goes.