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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Title: Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by HachetteAudio
Genre: Historical fiction
Narrator: Allison Hiroto
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionPachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

“Life keeps pushing you around, but you never stop playing.”

I picked this book up because it got several good reviews and it covers a time period and geography that I’m not that familiar with.

This is a remarkable tale that covers several decades about Koreans and the plight those who immigrated to Japan faced during and after the wars. The narrator, Allison Hiroto, did a wonderful job with the pacing and the pronunciations of the names of the characters, the various forms of address, and the Korean vocabulary. I’m not sure I would have finished the book if she hadn’t been so good.

I also picked up the book because I was familiar with the game, pachinko. I didn’t realize it was associated with gangsters in Korea and Japan. I just played it in a friend’s basement as a little kid. It was a really fun game and a bit like an upright pinball machine.

I liked the beginning of the book quite a bit. I was introduced to one of the main characters, Sunja, and the Korean peninsula during the colonial era. The day-to-day life of a rural peasant was written in such a way that I had a vivid picture in my head, and I really wanted to continue to know more about Sunja’s life.

However, the book seemed to veer off of that intimate relationship I had with the character when the author chose to have many more first-person narratives. Each of them was a member of Sunja’s family or had some close connection to that family, but I felt less and less close to the characters as more points of view were introduced.

I give this book 4 stars.

Other recommendations…

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, The Persimmon Tree by Bryce Courtenay, or The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng.

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Raw Power by Ambrose Isben

If you were dying, and you were asked if you wanted a risky experimental surgery to save your life, would you do it?  What if the surgery involved a demon’s heart?

Raw PowerTitleRaw Power
Author: Ambrose Isben
Series: Demon Hearted #1
Publish Date: June 6, 2016 by Audible Studios
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: James Foster
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description:  I’m one of those disgruntled millennials you’ve heard about on the evening news. I’ve got a master’s degree in Art History, a mountain of student loan debt and no job to show for it.

Wait, scratch that. I track down stolen pieces of art for wealthy clients and then beat whoever stole them to within an inch of their life. Say what you will, but it puts bread on the table.

Something went wrong with this last job of mine, though. I walked in on something I wasn’t supposed to see and got murdered by witches. Yeah, real, legit witches. Never saw that one coming, did you? Neither did I, and the only reason I’m writing this is because some doctor working for an ancient secret society decided it would be a good idea to use me as a science experiment.

See, he implanted a new heart in me and saved my life, but it wasn’t just any old heart. It was a demon’s heart. Nifty, eh?

Anyhow, I’m back and better than ever, except that, now and then, the demon takes over completely and I do awful things. Lose control. But enough about that. This is a story about how I (mostly) rein in the demon’s impulsive personality and seek revenge against the coven of witches that tried to kill me. Along the way, I learn a thing or two about this secret society I’m apparently now a member of and find out that there’s a lot of shit out there that goes “bump” in the night.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words…spoilers.  *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

Wow. This was a great book.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I started this Nervous_Nellie_100book, but it was non-stop action until the end.  This story did not have any sex. There was plenty of violence but nothing too graphic. There was no cliffhanger.

Lucian is kind of a jerk.  I won’t lie and say he’s super cool because he’s not.  He’s basically a thug that “repossesses” items for the uber rich.  He’s just looking for a fast buck and really doesn’t care much about the whys or wherefores. He just wants the payday.

Then the demon heart happened.

The next thing Lucian knew, he was thrown into an A-Team situation where he had the temperament of a spoiled prom queen and the power of… well… a demon.

Not sure that’s a good idea, but the witch coven that is super evil is sacrificing children to work their magic.  It’s up to Lucian and his Scorpion-like team to stop their end game.

By the end of the book, I got to liking Lucian a little better.  That’s good writing right there.  The author took a character from slug to hero in two hundred pages. I am looking forward to the next book, Roaring Blood, as it is waiting for me in my TBR pile.

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Quickly, I’d like to address the narrator.  Sometimes you get really crappy narrators that can’t fit their character no matter what.  Not this guy.  His spin on Lucian Colt was awesome.  He captured Lucian’s whiny, spoiled attitude and then helped him along his way to self-realization and becoming a better guy.  Super narrator.  I’ll listen to him again, no questions asked!

T*Witches: Split Decision by H.B. Gilmour and Randy Reisfeld

Shocking secrets come to light at last as readers discover Thantos’s true nature, leaving the twins to deal with family drama, sinister death traps, and the loss of their magick without each other.

Title: Split Decision
Author: H.B. Gilmour & Randi Reisfeld
Series: T*Witches, Book 09
Publish Date: September 1, 2003 by Scholastic
Genre: YA paranormal fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Despite their much-needed vacation from themselves, Cam and Alex find their magick very weak while separated, resulting in evil settling in with no intention of leaving.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

 


Kat Mandu says…

Alex and Cam haven’t really been apart since Alex first showed up on her sister’s doorstep in book one. Now for the first time, the Twitches are doing their own thing. Alex is figuring out her relationship with Cade and Cam, recently split-up with Jason, and is lonely enough to fall for another one of Shane’s romantic tricks.

So Cam ends up on Coventry Island to deal with not only Shane, but also Sersee and her friends, Miranda and a very angry Ileana. Thantos tries to lure her in with promises of power and a family, with one exception: Alex isn’t part of the picture.

Alex herself has fallen into Michealina’s spell – one that promises she’ll see Sara again – and finds herself wondering if things would be better if she went back to Montana. Which is exactly how Thantos wants her to feel.

This book has a big “finding myself” kind of theme as the twins discover what life could mean for themselves without the interference of the other sister. The last eight books have tested their powers, and now it’s time to test their mettle and inner strength.

So overall, I really liked it and am ready for the finale.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

You might try the Daughters of the Moon series by Lynne Ewing, the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan, and Witches’ Key To Terror by Silver RavenWolf.

The Dragon’s Playlist by Laura Bickle

In The Dragon’s Playlist, Di begrudgingly returns home when her father is severely injured in a mining accident. But when she discovers an ancient dragon lurking around the mines, she has to question where she stands in an upcoming battle for the mines that could change her life forever.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: The Dragon’s Playlist
Author: Laura Bickle
Publish Date: June 1, 2017
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description“This is war,” the dragon said. And she believed him.

Di fled rural West Virginia to study music and pursue a bright future as a violinist. But when a mining accident nearly kills her father, she is summoned back home to support her family. Old ghosts and an old flame emerge from the past. When Di gets a job as a bookkeeper at the same mine where her father worked, she is drawn into a conflict pitting neighbor against neighbor as the mine plans an expansion to an untouched mountain.

If the mining company’s operation goes forward, there will be more at stake than livelihoods or the pollution of the land: Di has discovered a dragon lives deep within Sawtooth Mountain, and he is not happy with this encroachment upon his lair. When catastrophe strikes, Di must choose between her family’s best interests and protecting the dragon – the last surviving bit of magic in Di’s shrinking world.

In every fight, sides are chosen. And there can be no yearning for what has been left behind.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Di returns home when her father is nearly killed in a strange incident in the mines. She’s not happy about it. She was off living her dream as a violinist, and coming back home means she’s gotta give up that dream and be stuck in her small hometown, where she feels like she’s suffocating. On the one hand, her relationship with her mother seems to be even more strained, but then she’s got her ex-boyfriend Jason, who proves to be more supportive than she realizes.

When she gets a job at the mining facility where her dad worked, she meets and befriends a dragon by the name of Afakos. The dragon loves her violin music. There’s a connection between the beast and her father’s accident… something Afakos isn’t hesitant to admit.

But there’s also a bigger threat when environmental rioters come in and protest against the planned blast mine, which would progress the industry, but also kill off all the wildlife in the area – an area which Afakos has made his home.

So now Di is torn between walking away and stopping the blast mine process to spare Afakos. It makes for a great read all in all.

I’m fond of Di’s character for the most part. I really honed in on the parts with her and a side character, Julie, who shows her a taste of magic. I’ve been in her shoes for that role – the curiosity of learning something you never really knew existed. It reminded me of Sweep at times, which is a series I also enjoy. The Wiccan elements really hit home for me, though I’m not sure how I feel about not knowing Julie’s fate.

One thing I couldn’t relate to was Di’s bitterness at coming home. I also grew up in a very small town but I never had that “oh god, I must get out” feeling. And personally, if I got a call telling me my dad was in the hospital and in very bad condition, I would have no qualms about returning. So I found it very frustrating that Di was acting like a child having temper tantrums at some points.

I like the romance between Di and Jason, and the small but crucial attraction she has to the leader of the protesters. Though the romance doesn’t take over the story, Jason plays a key role in helping Di realize her place in her small world. Plus, he seems like a genuinely sweet guy.

The writing is wonderful. It flows well and you can tell the descriptions just fit in all the right ways. This obviously isn’t Laura Bickle’s first novel, so I’m enjoying reading some of her new work and new ideas. I wouldn’t take this as a natural fantasy, more of a contemporary about family and growing up with fantastical elements (dragon, of course) added to it. Although it didn’t hook me enough to read all through the night, it was still a book I would read again eagerly.

Overall, I give it a four.

Other recommendations…

Sweep by Cate Tiernan; Starlight by Chelsea Campbell; Sublime by Christina Lauren.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Stork by Wendy Delsol

A cute start to a new series.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

StorkTitle: Stork
Author: Wendy Delsol
Series: Stork #1
Publish Date: October 16, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Source: Provided by Publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionSixteen-year-old Katla has just moved from Los Angeles to the sticks of Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, she learns to her horror that she’s a member of an ancient order of women who decide to whom certain babies will be born. Add to that Wade, the arrogant football star whom Katla regrettably fooled around with, and Jack, a gorgeous farm boy who initially seems to hate her. Soon Katla is having freaky dreams about a crying infant and learns that, as children, she and Jack shared a near-fatal, possibly mystical experience. Can Katla survive this major life makeover and find a dress for the homecoming dance?

Drawing from Norse mythology and inspired by The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, debut author Wendy Delsol conceives an irreverent, highly entertaining novel about embracing change and the (baby) bumps along the way.


Luna Lovebooks says…Luna_Lovebooks_100

I can definitely say that I have never read anything quite like this. An L.A. city girl is thrust into small-town life with many more surprises thrown in along the way.

The history described in this book is so creative and the mythos is new to me. I enjoyed getting lost in the unfamiliar world of the Stork Society and its unique customs. The symbolism in the dreams that Katla was having, and in the novel in general, were well thought out. I do wish a bit more time was spent on the society itself, but I also understand that we needed to get introduced to the players of the future novels.

Katla can be a bit brat-ish at times but she is only 16 so I will give her a pass. She has high fashion on the brain and, at times, thinks her sense of style is the only way to go. But she takes to her new duties like a champ. The romance between her and Jack can be a bit eye-roll inducing but it is cute none the less.

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There are some plot points that I guessed pretty early but there were many more that leave you with questions that I hope will be answered in future installments. I added this novel to my personal keep shelf and will be on the lookout for the next novel. I give Stork 4 feathers.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

My Life with the Lincolns by Gayle BrandeisEnchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.