top 5 tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2017

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

DECEMBER 12TH – Top 5 (OR 10!) new to me authors in 2017

I wasn’t initially going to do this topic since it slipped my mind this week, but I was #blessed with a snow day today and have nothing better to do, so why not!

I could easily do 10, but I think I like the challenge of narrowing it down to 5.

123715Agatha Christie.  It’s hard to believe I only read And Then There Were None earlier this year – I feel like I’ve been reading Christie for so much longer.  Since then I’ve read five more Christie novels – Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Three Act Tragedy, Sparkling Cyanide, and Crooked House – and none of them has received less than a 4 star rating from me.  I’m not even a little bit tired of her books, and I can’t wait to read even more in 2018.

7195John Boyne.  I know, I won’t shut up about John Boyne, but I just think he’s brilliant.  I’ve only read two of his books so far – The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The Absolutist, and no, I’ve never read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – but both of them ripped my heart out, which, if you know me, is something I particularly enjoy.  He also published this fantastic Guardian article today about why women are better writers than men which is worth checking out, particularly if you hate Jonathan Franzen.

Also this was the single most iconic moment of 2017:


recp_vsv_400x400Lisa McInerney.  Another Irish writer I discovered this year, when I read her genius debut The Glorious Heresies.  This book knocked the wind out of me in the best possible way.  McInerney provides a really brilliant exploration of crime and poverty in contemporary Ireland – her novel is is moving and profane and challenging and utterly fearless.  I’ve never read anything like it.  And her character Ryan Cusack still haunts me.  I can’t wait to hopefully read the sequel, The Blood Miracles, next year.

38185Mary Renault.  I’ve only read one Renault novel so far, Fire From Heaven, and it took me the better part of three months, so that probably doesn’t sound like the biggest endorsement ever.  But it’s one of those books that’s completely worth the effort that you need to put into it.  Renault’s research into the life of Alexander the Great is absolutely impeccable, and I have so much admiration for her as a writer and historian.  I didn’t want to rush straight into The Persian Boy, the next book in her Alexander trilogy, but I really look forward to getting around to it in 2018.

3p216vdmMin Jin Lee.  I haven’t stopped talking about Pachinko since I read it very early this year, but that’s only because that book ripped my heart out and positively haunted me.  I still find myself thinking about that novel and its characters – and since I’ve read about 90 books since then, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.  I haven’t gone back and read Lee’s debut yet, but I intend to, and I will definitely pick up anything she publishes in the future.

Honorable mentions to: Donal Ryan, Leigh Bardugo, M.L. Rio, Caite Dolan-Leach, Mira T. Lee, Josh Malerman, Maggie Stiefvater, Edward St. Aubyn, Kanae Minato, David Mitchell, Mohsin Hamid, David Vann, and Brian Friel.  And probably others.

Who’s your favorite author that you discovered in 2017?  Comment and let me know!

book review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee



Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

US pub date: February 7, 2017



A beautiful book from start to finish. Gentle, elegant, and deeply moving, this one will stay with me for a long time.

Pachinko tells the story of a Korean family through multiple generations, spanning nearly a hundred years and multiple locations. The novel begins against the backdrop of the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910, and as the story progresses, it explores the unique discrimination faced by Koreans living in Japan in the twentieth century.

Our story commences with Sunja, a young woman from a small Korean town who finds herself pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and seemingly out of options. When a traveling minister, a kind-hearted but sickly man, agrees to take her to Japan and marry her, the wheels of the story are set into motion, as we follow Sunja, her husband Isak, and the life they manage to create together while facing constant adversity.

This is a quiet book whose thematic richness is all the more powerful for the subtlety with which it is rendered. Questions of home, nationality, and cultural identity permeate this nearly 500 page narrative, manifesting and reinforcing themselves in the lives of characters across generations, but Min Jin Lee rather expertly leaves the reader to draw our own conclusions. Lee resists any temptation to simplify the complicated Japanese-Korean relationship, as the ambitiously sweeping narrative manages to paint a comprehensive picture of the Korean immigrant experience. Historical elements are integrated seamlessly into our story of the fictional Baek family, continuously edifying but never overwhelming the reader. While Lee’s careful narrative doesn’t dilute the intricacy of the topics which she showcases, it’s still a rather accessible introduction for readers who may not be familiar with the complex socio-political history of these two countries.

Lee’s writing is light and elegant, and for such a long novel the pace rarely falters. While it may not be a story filled to the brim with action, it keeps you turning pages, mourning and grieving and celebrating with these characters who feel as close as family by the end. I raced through this in a couple of days and now feel sad that it’s over.

Above all else a nuanced exploration of cultural identity, Pachinko is an incredible achievement. I cannot recommend this highly enough to fans of family sagas, historical fiction, fiction set in East Asia, or really any reader who just wants a good story.

+ link to review on goodreads