du beonjjae gihoe

It has been said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. After reading “The Korean Word for Butterfly” by James Zerndt, I would argue that this is not true.

After my inconsiderate review of “The Cloud Seeders,” (in which I’m now almost embarrassed to admit I suggested that had I paid for the book, I would have returned it for my money back, while still stating that I’d still like to read his other novel) Zerndt was kind enough to lend me a copy of “The Korean Word for Butterfly.”

Apparently, there was indeed something about Zerndt’s writing skill that kept me drawn into “The Cloud Seeders,” in spite of an overall distaste for the book. I suffered no similar disappointments regarding “The Korean Word for Butterfly.”

“The Korean Word for Butterfly” is a moving novel that addresses racial stereotypes, relationships, unplanned pregnancy and abortion. Each character is beautifully written and developed with clear motivations, ready to take wing from the page into the reader’s imagination.

The book follows the story of two young Americans, Billie and Joe, who falsely apply to teach English to Korean students, as well as several members of the Korean school system they meet along the way. Each individual character emerges fresh and new from their chrysalis, empathetically formed with a back-story that allows the reader to draw a deep connection. In the midst of Billie and Joe’s short tenure with the Korean school, tragedy strikes Korea when two young girls are run over by an American tank, and they find themselves struggling not only to maintain their charade but to learn how to cope with a new level of anti-American sentiment within this foreign country.

There are brilliant touches of classic irony interwoven into “The Korean Word for Butterfly.” Billie, who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and feeling alone in deciding how best to cope with this, unknowingly is drawn to try to befriend the school secretary, Yun-ji, who is also quietly deciding on her own how she will deal with an unexpected pregnancy from a brief fling with an American soldier.

Equally touching is the story of Moon, working at the school and clinging desperately to sobriety in an effort to regain his relationship with his ex-wife and his son.

As the novel reached its climax, and all too soon afterward conclusion, I found myself clinging to the characters, unwilling to watch them flit away.

I would highly recommend this book to those who enjoy classic fiction and are looking for fresh voices, as well as any readers who enjoy fiction on Asian culture. At $2.99, this book is a great buy for the Kindle.

According to Zerndt’s Amazon page, he is seeking a publisher for a third novel, “Where Cute and Crazy Meet at Midnight.” When available, this book will certainly be on my list to purchase. I hope that Zerndt has once again found the intoxicating voice with which he breathed life into the characters from “The Korean Word for Butterfly.”

(The title of this blog post is Korean for “second chances,” according to a Google translation.)

 

Loved it to Death!

Reading time is still coming at a valuable premium in my household, but I’m thankful for being able to find some really enjoyable free reading, when I do manage to find some coveted time with my Kindle.

Sunday I managed to finish my latest read, “Graveyard Shift,” by Angela Roquet, described on the cover as a “A Lovingly Sacrilegious Journey Beyond the Grave.” As promised, it simply didn’t seem appropriate to review this novel on a Sunday afternoon.

Although it may have been a bit rough around the edges, I found this first novel in the “Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.” novels to be an enjoyable introduction to a new fantasy realm I had never imagined before. Harvey is a reaper, one of a series created from soul material to assist “Grim” himself (who actually doesn’t do the dirty work himself, anymore). A familiar cast of characters appear in a new light throughout the novel, from the archangel Gabriel to the god Horus to Holly Spirit (no, that’s not a typo, rather a correction).

After three centuries as a reaper who has gotten by flying just under the radar, Harvey learns that perhaps she was created for a purpose just a little bit more unique than her counterparts. This first story in the series sets the scene for the series as she reluctantly accepts her new role and finds herself in a bit more trouble than she could have ever imagined.

At first, I found reading just a bit slow. But I still felt like I’d hit upon something of value in my free reading. I’m much more likely to continue a series that I feel would be of interest to both myself and my husband (two readers for the price of one!) than to simply buy a book for myself.

But as I got into the real meat of the book, those thoughts were forgotten. Roquet has artfully created a new paranormal fantasy realm re-purposing familiar characters in new and delightful roles. She skillfully wove a tale full of intelligent conflicts and following through with sometimes surprising resolutions. Roquet left just enough stones unturned to leave the reader eager for another romp through Limbo City without feeling actively manipulated to buy the next book in the series.

With that said, the ending of this first novel also felt a slight bit stilted.

I do look forward to reading more in the “Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.” series; and hope that Roquet has found that storytelling voice which provided such an enjoyable read in the heart of this novel and carries it through from beginning to end in future installments in the series.

This book won’t appeal to a very religious reader, but those who enjoy science fiction and paranormal romance are likely to enjoy the series. Covers of the second and third books compare the series to the “Sookie Stackhouse” novels or the “Undead” series, but I would draw a larger comparison to Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” novels.

Now off to get the husband hooked, so I can better justify buying the next books!

Relationship Issues and Our Kindle

Apologies are due for the lapse in my blogging – life in our household has been especially hectic of late. Additionally, it seems my husband has finally discovered the joys of the Kindle (it was a joint Christmas gift to the both of us), and has been somewhat monopolizing it to play “Clash of Lords 2.” I’ve never played this game, but personally, I recommend avoiding it. Based on what I’ve heard about it, it seems that when you’re not actively playing the game, unless you’ve put up “shields” which will keep you from playing the game until they expire, you’re open to attack and losing everything you’ve worked for. This seems terribly frustrating to me (and frustrating to the hubby – we’ve had a few incidents where I “stole” the Kindle as he wasn’t directly playing, but he was trying to keep his game logged in during those times to avoid these attacks, and my time on the Kindle was enough to log him out, ergo, he lost what he was working toward). The games I play provide “bonuses” for the time you’re logged out (such as allowing other players to borrow your character and offering “pal points” to both the player who is using another character and the player whose character is used), so I find it quite petty for a game that offers only “threats” during the time a player is logged out.

But enough about games. This blog is about books.

I have actually read a few (or at least a couple), and we’re now working toward a more amenable schedule so that I can once again get a little screen time without fear of inspiring the hubby’s wrath.

One recent read, inspired by the relationship between my husband, myself and our Kindle, was “Men Fake Foreplay … And Other Lies That Are True” by Mike Dugan. I picked this book up as a free promotion a while back, it’s regularly priced at $3.99.

Dugan points out straight-away that the intention of his book isn’t to bash men (a sentiment that I found a slight bit disappointing as I started my reading, as I was in a particularly pessimistic mood regarding “mankind” at the moment). But he launched into his subject matter with such wit and humor that I soon found my mood lightening regardless, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book without even realizing that there was some pretty serious and thoughtful relationship advice.

Not to say that this isn’t an enjoyable read after the first half, but there’s a definite change of tone in the second half, and I found myself missing the zany zingers peppered with almost subliminal relationship advice as I moved into the more serious subject matter toward the end.

At $3.99, I feel that this is a great book for those who might be seeking a little light-hearted relationship advice which might help others have a little better understanding of their other half. Those seeking only a light-humorous read (the comedic antics that have earned Dugan an Emmy for his writing for television) may wish to wait for another book.

Either way, if you happen to stumble across this book as a free promotion, as I did, I’d definitely recommend adding it to your Kindle library.

Finding what you’re looking for

While I found an enjoyable read (albeit not quite what I was looking for) for my Saturday shorts, I also finished another e-book Saturday which was exactly what I was looking for.

A Winter Dandelion” by Amy Steiner was a delightful journey of recovery and learning to “let go and let God.” I’d highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with the struggles of being a caretaker to an older parent or loved-one. Full of poignant humor, this book is a journey that leads the reader through dementia and past abuse, past raising your own children, and ends in letting go and realizing that you have to let everyone make their own decisions and mistakes.

I found this book during a search, sorted by price, for “recovery fiction.” I had been looking over a couple of free books given to me by an author on the subject of stroke and missionary discipleship, and they just didn’t pique my interest the way I had hoped they might (I will return to finish these books at some point). What those two books did do for me was cause me to realize the hang-ups on my current writing project — the fear that a memoir dealing with stroke recovery may be too private and the fear that no one will find the work interesting.

And then I began to wonder, what about a work of fiction (perhaps even a series focusing on different scenarios, if successful), loosely based on my experience? Could it work? Would it be interesting?

I’ve read medical thrillers and medical romance, but I couldn’t recall any simple “medical fiction,” something that specifically dealt with the day-to-day details of dealing with a medical situation. I suppose there’s probably a lot of generic fiction that does deal with these issues, but I didn’t know how to find it specifically.

However, my search worked. “A Winter Dandelion” was exactly the sort of book I was looking for to tell me that a simple fiction dealing lightly with medical issues and recovery in the context of literature can, and does, work.

Published in 2011, “A Winter Dandelion” is Steiner’s only work available for the Kindle. I hope to see more from her in the future. Regularly priced at $2.99, I feel like this is a nice read for the price, and Steiner does periodically offer a free promotional period for the book.

The Wait is Over

Throughout the ages, the basic questions of humankind have been, “What is the meaning of life?” and “What happens when we die?” Alysha Kaye’s debut novel, “The Waiting Room,” changes that dynamic – it seeks to provide a possible answer to what happens after death, and will leave you asking, “What is the meaning of death?”

I am so thankful to Kaye for blessing me with a free pre-release copy of this book to review. It was a serious page turner and I had a hard time putting it down. It was also a book that I had a very difficult time not discussing with my friends and family, as I knew so many who would love it. (In fact, I had to dish – and share – this book with my mom.)

To put this book in a genre, I guess I’d have to call it a “paranormal romance,” but this book is so much more. It is a special, spiritual journey to a place that I’ve never found myself before, and would love to revisit.

At the beginning of the book, we meet the main character, Jude, a few hours after his first death. He is in “The Waiting Room,” where people are sent after death until a suitable life can be found for their reincarnation. Except, while others are passing through, usually on their way to their new lives in 15 minutes to an hour, Jude is different. Jude waits, as no one else ever has. For 52 years. Until his wife, Nora, comes to the waiting room with him and they are reunited.

Jude has been told that his condition is unprecedented and no one can say what will happen. He is told that even those who come into the waiting room together and who leave the waiting room together for new lives won’t necessarily know each other again.

However, although nothing sets Jude and Nora apart from other loving couples, they are the exceptions – allowed to walk through life after life together. Like other couples, over time, they have their share of arguments (OK, so maybe “like other couples” isn’t the right terminology when the largest of these arguments takes place in death).

While the storyline took twists that left me a little disappointed, I believe that feeling stemmed from the fact that I had wanted answers as much as the main characters, and began to see that I wasn’t going to find any, either. I found myself both uplifted and downhearted as the waiting room evolved – I had been transported to such a familiar place with such familiar characters by Kaye that I didn’t want to accept some of the changes.

Kaye has written a powerful novel that will leave you with both a smile on your face and a tear in your eye, questions in your heart and eager to read more of her work.

Get this book for Kindle today for just $3.99. Or, if you can wait just a little longer, a print copy is available for $9.99 – and this is a book you’ll likely be delighted to have in your library. Be sure to follow Alysha Kaye, as well, for updates on this book and future projects – this is an author from whom you’ll definitely want to hear more.

Another unsettling short

After a hectic week, I realized that I’d barely even started any of the larger collections of short stories that I have on my Kindle awaiting review. But a search for short stories later, sorted by lowest price, added some new free reads to my collection and provided a topic for my leisurely Saturday blog.

I selected “The Snow Owl” by Jon Hartling. Without revealing the entire plot of this very short tale, it is a well-written story of a very mysterious young boy and his relationship with his father. I found it to be quite touching, though slighty disturbing, and I connected with the story deeply as a parent.

Hartling’s words left me wanting to read more, longer stories. A second selection, “Firebug,” is also available for free on the Kindle, and two other titles are available for 99 cents, though I really wouldn’t pay for stories so short.

All four short stories were released in 2011, then Hartling seemed to fall off the grid. I was so touched by his words that I did a quick Internet search to determine what had happened. In his last personal update on his Facebook author’s page, he mentions that he is working on a young adult fantasy novel (the first of a promised trilogy), but is busy in his personal life. However, this was in April of 2012 and his last Facebook post was in May 2012.

I do hope that Hartling returns to the pen (or the computer, as the case may be) at some point, as his stories are quite enjoyable.

 

A breath of fresh air in YA Paranormal Romance

I found “Xoe: or Vampires, Werewolves and Demons, oh my!” through WordPress, when I began following Sara C. Rothle’s blog. I immediately put it on my reading list, because I expected that it had potential as a popular read, since YA paranormal romance seems to be such a hot genre in the past few years. If you’re following my blog, you may have noticed Sara’s suggestion that I add her book on my blog post that already included her book in my current reading list!

What I didn’t expect was that I would personally love this book. Although I did mark it to read fairly soon and planned, as usual, to try to be the most fair about the writing, YA paranormal romance is just not my thing. I have never read the “Twilight” books, nor have I watched any of the movies. The closest experience I have ever had with them is as a “second-hand” listener, when my mother-in-law played portions of the book on tape on a few road-trips. I never felt enough interest to pick up or borrow the books, borrow the tapes or watch the movies. I added “Xoe” to my list of books to read soon because I felt it was a genre that might be of interest or relevance to my readers, not because it was really a “must-read” of my own.

I was in for a pleasant surprise – finding a book that provided a breath of fresh air into the staleness of my opinions of the YA paranormal romance genre.

“Xoe: or Vampires, Werewolves and Demons, oh my!” introduces three teenage girls – Xoe, Lucy and Allison – who are in store for some major life changes, and not only from puberty. Throughout the pages, the reader is introduced to a cast of supporting characters that range from new friends to villains and from human to super-natural. All of this is managed with what I felt was a real respect for the difficulty that is the teenage years, without being overly “angsty.”

As previously mentioned, I have not read any of the Twilight books – they just don’t appeal to me – and so I can’t make a fair assessment of whether this series would appeal to the same reader. I have shared a link to this book on Amazon with friends and family who I know enjoyed the Twilight series and have asked them to let me know what they think if they read it. If I hear back, I’ll be sure to update with comments, and if anyone who has read the “Twilight” series reads this book, as well, I’d be interested to hear your take on it here. I would suspect it would have similar appeal, and might even be a more enjoyable series.

I am really amazed to find myself thinking that this is a series I’d like to come back to in the future. Simply because of that, I’d say this book is a must-read for any fan of the YA paranormal romance genre. And if you’re looking for a fun, easy read, and enjoy any fantasy, I’d strongly suggest this book, even if the genre isn’t your favorite. Like me, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised!