Staff Reviews of New Releases
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (publication date: February 7)
Goodreads Description:Pachinko 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.
Katherine's Review:(4 out of 5 stars) Overall this was very enjoyable book to read and Min Jin Lee has done a superb job of creating characters that I cared about. Because this book is multi-generational, readers get a nice sense of time and can see how the characters change and develop. I was little frustrated by the in-depth introduction of peripheral characters who are, after the introduction, not really mentioned again. My knowledge of the the history between Japan and Korea was negligible prior to reading this so I was pleased to find out more about the relationship between the two countries and what life could be like for Koreans living in Japan.
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (publication date: February 7)
Goodreads Description:You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we'd have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren's 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn't necessary.
Except Tom just can't seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that's before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.
But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.
Katherine's Review:(2 out of 5 stars) Although this book didn't work for me, I think there are a lot of people that will like it. I personally found the narrator (and main character) annoying and since his voice is all that we got in the book I had difficulty being excited to read it. The first half of the book was very slow for me and I had a hard time getting through it. Luckily, the second half picked up and I was able to read it more easily. I can definitely see this one being made into a movie - it was written in a way that I think would translate easily (and well) to the screen.
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (publication date: February 7)
Goodreads Description:Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.
Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.
Jill's Review:(3 out of 5 stars) I will still read anything Claire Fuller writes, but it will be based on my appreciation for Our Endless Numbered Days. I found Swimming Lessons predictable, and the dialogue & characters were not convincing. It could also be that I have academic womanizer fatigue syndrome!
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman (publication date: February 14)
Goodreads Description:At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It's a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state.) And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he's Chagall. When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence . . .
Katherine's Review:(3 out of 5 stars) Although I do not normally read romantic comedies, I enjoyed reading this one. It is light-hearted and rather predictable but I think it was well done for the genre.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (publication date: February 14)
Goodreads Description:On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son’s body.
Set over the course of that one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel - in its form and voice - completely unlike anything you have read before. It is also, in the end, an exploration of the deeper meaning and possibilities of life, written as only George Saunders can: with humor, pathos, and grace.
Jill's Review:(5 out of 5 stars) I have never read anything like this before, and I loved it!
The entire story takes place the night that Lincoln's son Willie is laid to rest. The narrators are some very entertaining ghosts (sounds odd but it works so well) and the story is supplemented with relevant & interesting historical snippets. The format is so creative that I'd have to say it is truly a work of art.
I was hesitant to read this at first, because a book about the loss of a child sounds sad and soul crushing. This book, however, is about hope & possibility and how the choices we make shape our lives.
It is an understatement to say that it is beautifully written & moving. I don't want to spoil any of the passages for you by including them here, and my humble thoughts can't do the book justice. You need to experience it for yourself!
Katherine's Review:(4 out of 5 stars) Very creative and unusual book! After my initial confusion about the way this book is structured, I enjoyed the mixture of voices that were shared by the ghosts. The ghosts also add humor to the story that otherwise could have been too sad and depressing so I am grateful for their part in the story.
Gilded Cage by Vic James (publication date: February 14)
Goodreads Description:Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.
Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?
Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.