Wednesday, February 10, 2016

G687 Book Review of Ginny Gall by Charlie Smith

Name of Book: Ginny Gall

Author: Charlie Smith

ISBN: 978-0-06-225055-1

Publisher: Harper

Type of book: overly detailed like Anne Rice books, 1913-1940s?, race, racism, trial, murder, broken family, community, trains, south

Year it was published: 2016


A sweeping, eerily resonant epic of race and violence in the Jim Crow South: a lyrical and emotionally devastating masterpiece from Charlie Smith, whom the New York Public Library has said “may be America’s most bewitching stylist alive”

Delvin Walker is just a boy when his mother flees their home in the Red Row section of Chattanooga, accused of killing a white man. Taken in by Cornelius Oliver, proprietor of the town’s leading Negro funeral home, he discovers the art of caring for the aggrieved, the promise of transcendence in the written word, and a rare peace in a hostile world. Yet tragedy visits them near-daily, and after a series of devastating events—a lynching, a church burning—Delvin fears being accused of murdering a local white boy and leaves town.

Haunted by his mother’s disappearance, Delvin rides the rails, meets fellow travelers, falls in love, and sees an America sliding into the Great Depression. But before his hopes for life and love can be realized, he and a group of other young men are falsely charged with the rape of two white women, and shackled to a system of enslavement masquerading as justice. As he is pushed deeper into the darkness of imprisonment, his resolve to escape burns only more brightly, until in a last spasm of flight, in a white heat of terror, he is called to choose his fate.

In language both intimate and lyrical, novelist and poet Charlie Smith conjures a fresh and complex portrait of the South of the 1920s and ’30s in all its brutal humanity—and the astonishing endurance of one battered young man, his consciousness “an accumulation of breached and disordered living . . . hopes packed hard into sprung joints,” who lives past and through it all.


There are characters, but I don't understand them nor are they standing out in my mind. There is Delvin who travels from one place to another on a train and also has an odd assortment of jobs, there is also the funeral director who looks after him and acts as a mentor, there is also a girl that Delvin likes but she doesn't seem to be as fond of him as he is of her, and there are some boyhood friends and some Caucasian characters that make things difficult for the town where Delvin lives. That is all I remember of the characters.


I have no clue what the theme should have been


The story is in third person narrative, from what I can say its from Delvin's point of view, although few other characters also let their voices be heard. The only thing I recall of the book is that its coming-of-age of Delvin from 1913 to 1940s if I'm not mistaken, and while some events are memorable, for me they aren't well connected and there is a detachment from everything in the book. And there is way too much detail in the story that spans for eons without stopping. I don't mind details, but I do mind it when those details detract from the plot and I'm left feeling confused and frustrated that I cannot understand what is going on.

Author Information:
(From TLC Book Tours)

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Photo by Daniela Sero Smith
Photo by Daniela Sero Smith

About Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith, the author of seven novels and seven books of poetry, has won the Aga Khan Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review,Harper’s, the New Republic, the New York Times, theNation, and many other magazines and journals. Three of his novels have been named New York TimesNotable Books. He lives in New York City and Key West.


For me in the past there were cases when I was very reluctant in handing out negative ratings towards a book, and this is one of those times. As I started to read the story, I recall going back and trying to re-read some sentences to understand the story instead of savoring the imagery, and even after re-readings, I still couldn't understand what was going on. If one takes a look at my book reviews, one can see that I'm big on reviewing lengthy novels (Gone with the Wind, The Poisonwood Bible and The Tale of Genji.) I also am big on reading and reviewing multicultural/diverse novels as well, both from America and translations from different parts of the world. Yet this book failed to capture me in every which way. If I was asked what the story was about, I would have to be honest and say that its about an African-American's man journey through US, but that's about it. My issue with the book is that the details detracted too much from the story, and for me they overshadowed the story completely. I would continue reading, but I had no idea what just happened to the characters. I also wonder if I might have read a different book than some of the other reviewers because almost all  of them recommend reading it, while I cannot do the same, and  my memories of the book include long and unnecessary details that span endless paragraphs and pages which will be exhaustive for a casual reader.

This is for TLC Book Tours

Charlie’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, February 2nd: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, February 3rd: Worth Getting in Bed For
Thursday, February 4th: Puddletown Reviews
Monday, February 8th: The many thoughts of a reader
Tuesday, February 9th: I’m Shelf-ish
Wednesday, February 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, February 11th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, February 16th: Lectus
Thursday, February 18th: A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, February 23rd: Giraffe Days
Wednesday, February 24th: As I turn the pages
Thursday, February 25th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Friday, February 26th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, February 29th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, March 3rd: My Life in Books
1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

G681 Book Review of The Greatest Prospector in the Worldby Ken Dunn

Name of Book: The Greatest Prospector in the World; a Historically accurate parable on creating success in sales, business and life

Author: Ken Dunn

ISBN: 9781629030753

Publisher: Next Century Publishing

Type of book: USA, 1910-1930s? business, women, Chicago, Alaska, prospecting, being raised by someone, loss, gains, parables, entrepreneur

Year it was published: 2016


Laura Dunagan, was born in the gold prospecting days of rustic Alaska in the early 1900's. When Laura was 16 years old, her father was trapped under a mud slide while prospecting in a nearby river and died. Laura was forced to move to Chicago in the care of her rich Uncle Joe. Laura hated Uncle Joe because he forced her to leave the river, but also because he had left the family prospecting business to move to Chicago years before she was born. Laura discovers that Uncle Joe made his fortune selling insurance and was the owner of the largest insurance company in Illinois. While wondering through the mansion one day, she found Uncle's Joe personal den. In it, she discovered an entire new life that would lead her to heights that she would never had realized panning for gold in Alaska. Uncle Joe used the 6 gold prospecting rules for safety to prospect new clients for his insurance company and in doing so, discovered the secrets to wealth in selling.


The main characters include Laura, a young woman who at the beginning is an angry preteen but then grows up to become an extremely mature businesswoman. Laura is tomboyish and isn't afraid of expressing herself no matter what the world dares to think of her. There is also Uncle Joe who becomes Laura's mentor and gives her very sound advice and who sees her as a daughter he never had, and who also has a feud of sorts with her father. One of the other characters that also played a big role in Laura's life is one of her customers who helped Laura out a great deal by recommendations. Other characters didn't play a big role in Laura's life.


Life changes unexpectedly


The story is written in first person narrative from Laura's point of view. I have to be honest in saying that it wasn't until Laura began learning the parables that I actually felt drawn in. Prior to that, the story didn't really grab my attention. While the author did talk about some history, namely the prejudice that women experienced back then, (and how little has changed I fear) I felt a detachment when it came to characters living that history. I'm not sure, but something felt off when it came to the story.

Author Information:
(From iRead Book Tours)

Buy the book:     Amazon     Barnes & Noble    Book Depository 

Meet the author:  

Ken Dunn is one of the leadership training world’s up and coming great speakers and trainers. An incredible hunger to learn and teach others has led Ken successfully through five different professional careers in the past 25 years. 

Ken began a policing career at the age of 18. He was involved in the policing world’s most exhilarating and challenging disciplines, including undercover drug and surveillance work, S.W.A.T. team work, aggravated child abuse, frauds, aggravated assaults, illegal weapons smuggling and homicides. 

 Today, Ken regularly speaks to groups in the direct sales, mortgage, insurance and banking industries. He uses humor and his own experiences to inspire audiences around the world. Ken lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, Julie, and children Matthew and Laura.

Connect with the author:   Website    Twitter   Facebook


Personally speaking, the lessons in the book are great, but I do feel that the story itself needed a little more work. The lessons, or parables as they are called, are something one can use in any situation, be it friendship, career, interview and so forth. The story, while incorporating the parables in an entertaining way, there were a few things that seemed to bug me a little, one being that the characters aren't as deeply explored as they should have been, and the historical aspects are a little bit incorporated but it seems to be more in passing rather than something that should provoke discussion. For parables alone I'd definitely read the book.

This is for iRead Book Tours


Feb 1 -   The Autistic Gamer - review
Feb 2 -   Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
Feb 2 -   Amie's Book Reviews - review / giveaway
Feb 3 -   misty103 @ HubPages - review
Feb 4 -   Room With Books - review / giveaway
Feb 5 -   Library of Clean Reads - review / giveaway
Feb 5 -   Corinne Rodrigues - book spotlight
Feb 8 -   Katie's Clean Book Collection - book spotlight
Feb 8 -   Olio by Marilyn - review
Feb 9 -   Svetlana's Reads and Views - review
​Feb 9 -   Puddletown Reviews - review / giveaway
Feb 10 - - review / giveaway
Feb 11 - Rockin' Book Reviews - review / author interview / giveaway
Feb 12 - Singing Librarian Books - review
Feb 15 - Bound 4 Escape - review
Feb 15 - Ali - The Dragon Slayer - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 16 - Readers' Muse - review / guest post
Feb 17 - 3 Partners in Shopping Nana, Mommy , + Sissy, Too! - review / giveaway
Feb 17 - Books Reviews, Nature Photos, and Everything in Between - review
Feb 18 - Zerina Blossom's Books - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 18 - Divas With a Purpose - review
Feb 19 - Griperang's Bookmarks - review / author interview / giveaway
Feb 19 - Heidi's Wanderings - review
Feb 22 - Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine - review
​Feb 22 - A Mama's Corner of the World - review / giveaway
Feb 23 - Deal Sharing Aunt - review / giveaway
​Feb 23 - IT Revolution - review / author interview / giveaway
Feb 24 - Laura Fabiani - Top 500 Reviewer - review
Feb 24 - Sahar's Blog - review
Feb 25 - Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine - guest post 
Feb 26 - Create With Joy - review
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Monday, February 8, 2016

G512 Book Review of Dissipation by Tang Ying

Name of Book: Dissipation

Author: Tang Ying

ISBN: 978-1-60220-213-9

Publisher: Better Link Press

Type of book: China, Malaysia, modern times, long lost love, reunions, friendships, motives, marriage, changes, reflections, Shanghai, 1990s? money, greed, finances

Year it was published: 2010


This short novel by one of China's leading female writers is an intimate portrait of a woman's life, caught up in a rapidly shifting world.

Dissipation is the story of Su Xiaohui, a young woman desperate to create a better life for herself. Leaving behind her friends and family in Shanghai, she travels to Malaysia, where her wealthy aunt and seemingly ideal husband offer her a chance to fulfill her dreams. But when her mother is taken ill ten years later, Xiaohui finally returns home. She finds herself in a bewildering city, infused with the images of a life she thought she had left behind. When loneliness leads her back to her former lover, her tenuous relationships with those around her are severely tested.

Dissipation asks a crucial question: Should we try to recreate the past? In heart breaking, beautiful language the novel describes Xiaohui, her experience of going back, and how she finds herself facing unexpected extremes of emotion and desire.


The main characters include Su Xiaohui who is best described as a beautiful and vain woman who has made a lot of mistakes in her life. She is uncertain and cares more for wealth than happiness. She seems to enjoy showing off her wealth and on the surface is settled into her life. Qinghua is one of her friends and seems to have a quite a few similarities to Su Xiaohui in that she is on the competitive side and has odd motives in doing what she's doing when it comes to her actions towards Su Xiaohui. She is seen as far more intelligent than Su Xiaohui, while Su Xiaohui is seen as the beauty. Zhang Lin is another friend who became a housewife with a small son and has dreams of opening up the restaurant with her husband. She is very kindhearted and always there for Su Xiaohui. Zhen Zhen is Su Xiaohui's competitor who has a young daughter and is married. She and Su Xiaohui were competitive with one another and enjoy trading barbs. Cheng Cong used to be Su Xiaohui's crush and the two briefly dated before he went abroad. If I'm not mistaken, her feelings for Cheng Cong never went away. Zhijun is another lover for Su Xiaohui who never saw him as a long-term partner, although he had stronger feelings towards her than she did for him.


Be certain of your sacrifices.


The story is in third person narrative from Su Xiaohui's point of view. While I understood the plot a bit, I feel as if the author didn't really do a good job in mixing the past and present which confused me quite a bit. I also didn't really understand Su Xiaohui's motivations, and the ending really made me look at her far more negatively than I thought possibly. I also am wondering whether or not she will try to change her life in the future, which the author left for the reader to decide.

Author Information:
(From the back of the book)

Tang Ying is an award-winning author. She was born in Shanghai and graduated from the CHinese Language and LIterature Department of East China Normal University in 1982. She is currently a freelance writer and a member of the Chinese Writers' Association. Her first novel Why in SUch a Hurry was published in 1988, and since then she has published numerous short story collections, novels, and novellas. These works include the novel The First Time (2007) A Fei Street (2003), No love in SHanghai (2002) and novellas such as Empty (2005) Senseless Journey (2003) and Tell Laola I love her, which have appeared in the Best Chinese Novellas since 1990s. Her several novels have been adapted into films and dramas, among which the representative is the novella Beauty, made into the film The Hands in the Hairs. Tang Ying is also an accomplished film-maker and Director of Fringe Festival, which is an independent contemporary theater festival of Shanghai.

She has great ability for describing the fate of city women during times of change, as well as the emotional bonds formed by city residents undergoing the shock of social upheaval. Her works have contributed to the emergence of an urban literature previously lacking in China, and have come to be known as the representatives of a "new civic literature."


While I enjoyed reading the novella, I did feel that the story wasn't very clear cut as I had hoped, and I feel lost in some areas of it. For one thing what I couldn't understand is the reason why Su Xiaohui decides to move to Malaysia, or what her motives and emotions were around the time she moves there; what's also isn't disclosed is what exactly her husband is suffering from and what exactly her motivations are in seeking out friends and former lovers when it seems that she's rather selfish and cares enough only to show off in front of them. It also feels as if she's in denial about her life and is more angry at those who dare challenge it. The story itself seems more bitter than anything else.

This was given to me by Tuttle Company for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

G505 Book Review of Goodbye, Xu Hu! by Zhao Changtian

General Information:

Name of Book: Goodbye, Xu Hu!

ISBN: 978-1-60220-219-1

Publisher: Better Link Press

Year it was published: 2010


This collection of Chinese novellas presents two stories by the president of the Shanghai Writing Association address the question of how we must live with the past:

Goodbye, Xu Hu!
Twenty years ago, a man serving in the PeopleAEs Liberation Army met his first love, the energetic and charming Xu Hu. In those two decades both their paths diverged until a chance meeting in a restaurant in Shanghai. As the man recalls his time as a young soldier he wonders whether he and Xu Hu can rekindle the flame of their past.

No Explanation Is Necessary
Lao Wei on the surface appeared to be an ordinary hospital janitor. However, after a chance sighting at a subway station a writer learns that this simple janitor is much more than he appears to be. After returning to the hospital the writer learns of Lao WeiAEs past, his triumphs and failures and his loss. Lao Wei has the power to change his current circumstances, but can he regain everything? Including that which was most important to him?

Author: Zhao Changtian

About the Author:
(From the back of the book)

Born in 1947, Zhao CHangtian is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese Writers' Association, vice chairman of the Shanghai Writers' Association, vice president of the Shanghai Literature Development Fund, president of the Shanghai Writing Association, chief editor of Mengya Magazine and a part-time professor at East China Normal University. He joined Shanghai Writers' Association in 1985.

Some of Zhao Changtian's most famous works include: Collections of Stories: Exterior Image, Gate of Heaven, A Nostalgic Journey; Novels: Dream of Sangharama, Desntiy, Not a Confession, The Accident. Collections of Essays: Transition Years, Mid-autumn, Autumn Waters on a Clear Day, Contemplating the world with six eyes, City that never ages, looking up; Biography: Lonely Foreigner; Film Scripts: Look Life in the Face, Seeking Maria.

His novel Not a Confession was awarded at the third Shanghai Grand Awards for Excellent Novels and Novellas. His film script Look Life in the Face won second prize at the fifth Xia Yan Film Writing Awards. The film itself won a national Huabiao Film Award, also known as Stele Award.

1. Goodbye, Xu Hu!

One Sentence Summary:

In first person narrative, a young man by the name of Zhou Shuting meets up with a long-lost love in an unlikely place and begins recounting the past and present that the two have and are sharing. But what will happen when the chance to rekindle their romance comes again?

2. No Explanation is Necessary

One Sentence Summary:

In a first person narrative, a young writer who is in a hospital for his father begins a curious relationship with Lao Wei who at first appears an ordinary janitor, but then as the writer gets to know him more and more, Lao Wei becomes something else entirely.

Personal Opinion:

I personally liked both of the stories, that of Goodbye, Xu Hu! as well as No Explanation is Necessary, although if I'm really pressed to choose a favorite, I'd go for Goodbye, Xu Hu! Although the stories themselves are complex and very well written and also the author did a good job in leaving no stones un-turned, its amazing that the messages of the stories are of simple nature, which I will not spoil. The book, only 205 pages long, is also good for people who are looking for an intellectual read but do not have a lot of time to commit to reading.

This was given to me by Tuttle Company for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

G511 Book Review of When a Baby is Born... by Cheng Naishan

Name of Book: When a Baby is Born...

Author: Cheng Naishan

ISBN: 978-1-60220-215-3

Publisher: Better Link Press

Type of book: Beauty, Cultural Revolution, wealth, abandonment, first love, deep love, crush, 1960s, 1980s, Gobi Desert, China, travel, life, marriage, mining

Year it was published: 2010


This fascinating novel by one of contemporary China's most prolific writers offers insight into a chaotic period in modern Chinese history.

The early sixties of the last century saw the exodus of Shanghai's educated youth to the wilderness of Northwestern China. They were mainly engaged in farming there, working in appalling conditions. Tang Dawei, a high school student from a wealthy family, volunteers to go in order to flee the merciless criticism and unbearable social pressure that follow an "incident." Dawei settles down in the Gobi Desert, where he goes through countless hardships and ordeals to transform himself into a "tough guy." However, China's open door policy, of the early eighties, brings about dramatic changes in his life. After achieving academic success and professional recognition, he is eventually vindicated.

His dramatic life experience is interwoven with three relationships he gets involved in. The first relationship is with his first love, Xiaomei, who is a pretty but rather dependent girl destined to lead a comfortable but dull life; the second one is with his wife, Spring Flower, who is a peasant girl struggling alongside him with incredible courage, tenacity, and love; and the third one is with Xiao'an, a young engineer who, under his guidance, breaks loose from the shackles imposed on her and embarks on a new independent life.


The main characters include Tang Dawei who, early in life, suffered from abandonment and who voluntarily goes to live and work in Gobi Desert during Cultural Revolution. He is introspective and seems to be a bit closed off on the outside, although on the inside he is a very open and protective indivdual. There is also Xiaomei who happens to be Tang Dawei's first love and who wasn't good at math and sciences. She is also extremely beautiful, pampered and knows very little of what is going on in the world. Spring Flower is Tang Dawei's life and she has lived a very difficult life at the point of willingly depriving herself from feminine beauty and tokens. (Many-a-time Tang Dawei mourns that Spring Flower is past her prime age of using feminine things and showing off her beauty.) But she is very loyal and sticks very close to Tang Dawei. The last woman is Xiao'an who is both beautiful and intelligent as well as extremely optimistic and cheerful, but she also suffers from unrequited love.


Love is beyond beauty


Its written in third person narrative from Tang Dawei's point of view and although a bit straightforward, I did find the time shifting confusing and couldn't understand if the book takes place on the train and its he recalling the details and memories of his life, or if the recall takes place at different times. But yes, the story is more character and psychology driven rather than plot driven and the memories are best described as bittersweet. I do wonder if the story hints at how things were back then for women through these three characters; that Xiaomei is beautiful but not modern nor hardworking, while Spring Flower is modern and hardworking but lacks beauty, and ultimately these two attributes come together in Xiao'an.

Author Information:
(From the back of the book)

Born in 1946 in Shanghai, Chen Naishan majored in English at Shanghai College of Education. She later became a middle school teacher. She started writing in 1979, using Shanghai as teh background for most of her works. Her representative works include The Blue House, Poor Street, and The Banker. Her works have frequently been adapted as television dramas and movies.

Since 1990 the author has divided her time between Shanghai and Hong Kong. She has devoted herself to producing memoirs of modern urban culture in Shanghai over the last few years, publishing a series of Shanghai related books, including, Shanghai Tango, Shanghai Lady, Shanghai Fashion and Shanghai Taste.

She is currently a member of the Chinese Writers' Association, and she sits on the councils of the Shanghai Writers' Association and the Shanghai Literature Foundation.


This was definitely an interesting read because while there are things that are going on in the story, the primary focus are the characters, or at least one character, that of Tang Dawei who examines three primary relationships he had with three women and how these women differ from one another. I also would like to know who wrote or composed the song When a Baby is born... because I'm curious about listening to it and its referenced quite a few times in the book, but the song represents the change that Tang Dawei's life went through. Its a short book, about 171 pages long, but at the same time its a bit of a philosophical book, especially when it highlights the differences between the Cultural Revolution generation and that of 1980s.

This was given to me by Tuttle for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review for Tree of Souls The Mythology of Judaism by Howard Schwartz Book 3 Part 1.10

General Information:

Name of Book: Tree of Souls

ISBN: 9780195086799

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

Year it was published: 2004

Overall theme:

"With only one God, heaven would be a barren place, at least in mythic terms. Yet the actual Jewish view of heaven is quite different. There are seven heavens, filled with angels and other divine beings, such as the Messiah [Not jesus!], who is said to have a palace of his own in the highest heaven. The clestial Temple can be found there- the mirror image of the Temple in the earthly Jerusalem- as well as an abundance of heavenly palaces, one for each of the patriarchs and matriarchs and sages, where he or she teaches Torah to the attentive souls of the righteous and the angels..." (xliii)

"Drawing on the full range of Jewish sources, sacred and nonsacred, ten major categories of Jewish mythology can be identified: Myths of God, Myths of Creation...Each of these categories explores a mythic realm, and, in the process, reimagines it. This is the secret to the transformations that characterize Jewish mythology. Building on a strong foundation of biblical myth, each generation has embellished the earlier myths, while, at the same time, reinterpeting them for tis own time." (xlv)

 Book Three: Myths of Heavens

 Part I: The Translation of Enoch

191. Enoch Walked with God

 Issue: Basically a brief retelling of Enoch's life from the Hebrew Testament (Tanakh) about how long he lived and what children he had.

192. Enoch's vision of God

 Issue: Enoch was given a vision and description of the vision follows, how the mist summoned him, and lightning beckoned him. After the first house, another house was shown to Enoch, and he envisioned himself entering the house and seeing G-d sitting on the throne.

193. The Metamorphosis and Enthronement of Enoch

Issue: Story begins with reason why G-d called Enoch to him. In heaven angels wanted to cast him out, but G-d wouldn't let them. Afterwards G-d brought Enoch to ten gates of understanding. G-d then turns Enoch to an angel and metamorphosis and changes Enoch went through follows. G-d renamed Enoch to Metatron and gave Metatron a throne as well as other gifts. G-d then let everyone know about the new angel Metatron. Metatron learns secrets and other things about heaven thanks to G-d and is called the Lesser YHVH. All the people gathered there trembled before Metatron as he was crowned. Metatron then became the holy scribe and judge.

To be continued...

Monday, February 1, 2016

G686 Book Review of Stingray by Kim Joo-Young

Name of Book: Hongo/ Stingray

Author: Kim Joo Young (Inrae You Vinciguerra and Louis Vincinguerra are translators)

ISBN: 978 1 56478 959 4

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Type of book: 1950s, small farming village, missing father, South Korea, travel, abandonment, survival, rumors, seasons, memories, creations, secrets, growing up, coming of age, moving on

Year it was published: 2013 (original 1998)


Hailed by critics, "Stingray" has been described by its author as "a critical biography of my loving mother." With his father having abandoned his family for another woman, Se-young and his mother are forced to subsist on their own in the harsh environment of a small Korean farming village in the 1950s. Determined to wait for her husband's return, Se-young's mother hangs a dried stingray on the kitchen doorjamb; to her, it's a reminder of the fact that she still has a husband, and that she must behave as a married woman would, despite all. Also, she claims, when the family is reunited, the fish will be their first, celebratory meal together. But when a beggar girl, Sam-rae, sneaks into their house during a blizzard, the first thing she does is eat the stingray, and what follows is a struggle, at once sentimental and ideological, for the soul of the household.


Main characters include Se-Young, a boy on the cusp of becoming a man who is struggling with trying to make his mother happy and also who wants things for himself that may conflict with his mother's interests. He is best described as lonely and someone who desires friends and companionship from other people. He also attempts to become a little rebellious throughout the story. The other character is Se-Young's mother, a woman who is frozen by one moment and who is also complex. Due to her situation she tries what she can to be very isolated from everyone in the village to prevent gossip from spreading, and I really feel as if I couldn't really understand her motives or desires. There is also Sam-Rae, a young woman who lives with Se-Young and his mother, and for whom Se-Young develops feelings for. Sam-Rae is rebellious and a bit of a troublemaker although I think she wants for Se-Young and his mother to think of her as a good person.


Until something goes right, one is frozen forever


The story is in the first person from Se-Young's point of view and it focused more on the turmoil and loneliness rather than the outside factors of life in a small village. That is, there is some mention, but the book didn't focus on the community and instead the reader seemed to be isolated along with Se-Young and his mother, awaiting for the father to come back and make things right. The summary is correct, but it only corresponds to maybe the first chapter rather than all three concurring chapters.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Kim Joo-Young was born in 1939, and graduated from the Sorabol Art College, majoring in creative writing. He made his literary debut with Resting Stage, which won the 1971 New Writer's Award. A leading and popular exponent of "documentary" fiction, set in meticulously researched historical periods, Kim has also served as the director of the Paradise Culture Foundation in Seoul since 2005.

Inrae You Vinciguerra has, along with her husband, Louis Vinciguerra, translated four Korean novels into English.


While I enjoyed the story a great deal, I'm not really sure what to make out of it, although tragic would be a word I would use to describe it. Basically, a young man by name of Se-Young, along with his mother, are awaiting for his father to come home. While they are waiting for the father to come home, numerous people dance in and out of their lives, much to the mother's dread. That is how I understand the story. While reading it as well, for some odd reason I had imagery of nature of Tale of Genji, especially when the narrator described the nature scenes and recounted the memories he had with his father. In beginning, perhaps due to similar circumstances the main characters found themselves in, I also wanted to compare this book to The House with a Sunken Courtyard, but it seems as if the similarities are more on the surface because in The House with a Sunken Courtyard the character of mother is far different than the mother in this novel.

This was given to me for an honest review by Dalkey Archive

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)
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