A River in Darkness

I really like memoirs, but it seems like most of them are just the same struggles- abuse, depression, drugs, etc. Those stories are important, and I have no problem with them, but I feel like I’ve read enough of them to last me awhile. I have started branching out and trying to read books written by and about other cultures, beliefs, ethnicities, etc from around the world. I received this book from the Kindle First program and was expecting a harrowing tale of escape. I didn’t get that, but I was riveted by the story anyway.

The author, Masaji Ishikawa, is half Japanese (from his mother) and half Korean. As a child, his father was emotionally and physically abusive, but the family had a stable life in Japan, but when Masaji was 13, his father forced the family to move to North Korea. The family gave up their stability for extreme poverty. They were the lowest caste and worse, returnees, which is the lowest of the low. His family went through hunger like you can only imagine surviving on weeds at times, sickness, struggle, and misery. Life in North Korea is nothing like what the pictures lead us to believe. Unless you are in the upper class or extremely wealthy, life is pure torture.

Masaji survived over 30 years and had a family of his own. He was fortunate enough to escape (because the punishment is death if caught) and made his way to Japan, always looking over his shoulder. However, he is still fighting to get his wife and children out of North Korea.  The majority of the story is about living in North Korea and the hardships rather than the escape, which made the entire book harder to stomach. The horrors that the North Koreans face is astounding. This was a very moving book that will stick with me for a long time.

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Red Queen

Hoooo, boy. I just don’t even know what to say here. That’s not true. I know exactly what to say, but it’s not good. I really REALLY wanted to like this book. A friend recommended this one to me after learning about my frustration with recent YA books.  So many of them are just awful. Terribly obnoxious main characters, uncreative plots, etc. I was expecting this one to be great. However, I was so disappointed.

Mare is a Red, meaning she has red blood, an is poor and looked down upon, as all Reds are. She is trying to avoid being drafted by the army, so she conconts this crazy plan which doesn’t work. She’s caught by the Silvers, so named because they have silver blood and are wealthy, but in the process she learns she has powers, as many Silvers (but no Reds) do. Here’s the big gaping plot hole: The Silvers decide to tell people she’s a Silver, but didn’t know her true identity and was raised as a Red. Do you see the hole? If she had ever cut herself as a kid, she would immediately know what color her blood is. Assuming she is raised as a Red, wouldn’t one cut to see silver blood make her think “hm, this isn’t what I was expecting…” and then she would have confronted her parents? Because NO ONE wants to be a red when they are really a silver…..

The rest of the book was okay. Mare poses as a Silver for awhile, crazy things happen where the secret Red Guard tries to overthrow the government, Mare is betrayed by someone, then doubly betrayed by another. It’s just ridiculous. Once again, another YA book is hyped and doesn’t live up to the expectation. Once. Again.

Please, readers out there, find me a good series. I’m begging you.

A Study in Charlotte

I’ve been listening to this book for a couple of months, so I’m going to do my best to remember it well enough to give it a review, but I will simply say this book was so much fun. The premise is a clever one, imagining that Sherlock Holmes and his assistant/caretaker Watson were real people and have modern-day descendants. The story is told from the perspective of James Watson, a new student at a private school in the Northeast. He runs into Charlotte Holmes and the chemistry begins. They strike up an uneasy friendship but are forced into trusting each other due to some unpleasant events that happen on the campus.

Charlotte is stubborn, an addict, but brilliant. Jamie is just trying to figure out what is happening, how involved Charlotte is, and what has happened in Charlotte’s past with the Moriarty family since Charlotte refuses to talk about it at all.  And as Sherlock has his brother, Mycroft, Charlotte has an older brother, Milo, who is smug and annoying, but a fun character.

Charlotte uses her keen sense of perception to follow the clues and solve the crimes. The author, Brittany Cavallaro, wrote a tight plot that kept me guessing. Of course, there were red herrings, as to be expected in a story as this, but the chemistry between Jamie and Charlotte, not romantic, but more like one between the actual Sherlock and Watson was the best part. I had no idea what to expect with this book but really loved it.