TBR: Forgotten Reflections by Young-Im Lee

1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul the villagers have been starving for as long as they can remember. Their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them as they are finally forced out of the Peninsula. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul and Jung-Soo dream of what their future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and Iseul has fallen for an alleged North Korean communist spy.

Men are conscripted and rice is taken to feed the growing army as the Peninsula is thrust into an international war that would determine if the strategic region will become communist or democratic. With nothing but the news of death and hunger awaiting the village of women, children and the aged, Iseul musters up whatever hope she has left to bring the village together to make paper. Soon, the village once known for its rice, becomes famous for its paper, becoming a beacon of hope for their battle-worn soldiers awaiting letters from their loved ones.

Yet spies and communists continue to roam South Korea, turning neighbors and families against one another. For years, Jung-Soo has been suspicious of his father’s allegiances. With a series of mysterious revelations about his father, Jung-Soo is forced to choose between his tainted communist past, and the future he hopes to have with Iseul after the war.

In the current international climate where North Korea takes center stage, “Forgotten Reflections” weaves an inspirational tale of family, lost memories, folklore and an unforgotten history, spanning three generations as South Korea rises from the ashes.

This book is getting a lot of good reviews on Goodreads.


TBR – The Sugar Baby Club by Teresa Lo

Sick of “hanging out” and hookup culture, college freshman Jasmine Lewis decides to try out a new kind of dating—sugar dating. After watching a documentary about sugar daddies, she and her roommate Kita Okoye sign up for Searching Sweet Sugar, a sugar dating site that promises to change young girls’ lives for the better.

After meeting a few salt daddies, terrible men who abuse the system, Jasmine and Kita land the sugar daddies of their dreams, men who shower them with money, Louis Vuitton, and vacations. Their newfound, glamorous lifestyle attracts the attention of girls in their residence hall, and soon, Jasmine and Kita find themselves running a makeshift dating agency from their dorm room.

So, if I end up reading this book I plan on taking notes.

Buy on Amazon.

BOOK REVIEW: Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century Edited by Travis Kurowski, Wayne Miller, and Kevin Prufer

A series of essays – most published originally somewhere else. A major theme of half of them is Amazon is the devil and crushing our voices. Especially Steve Wasserman’s essay (page 57) that  says “Amazon ought no longer to be permitted to behave like a parasite that hollows out its host. A serious Justice Department investigation is past due.” When, ironically, Amazon is giving diverse voices a megaphone that traditional publishing has never given them. The essays like that were laughable.

Not saying that Amazon isn’t a capitalist monster. I’m just saying that Amazon is a better monster to root for. *Searches for Godzilla GIF*

Also, there’s lots of criticism of the “white male gatekeeper” in the industry in these essays. Which I liked, but their points failed miserably. They keep pointing out the speck in the publishing eye while missing the log in their own. For example: Daniel Jose Older’s essay talks about the response to the need of diversity saying: “No one is demanding more tokens though. We’re talking about systematic upheaval.”

Systematic upheaval. Hm. Says the man who publishes within the system. Gets his essay published in a book ABOUT the system. Also, I thought he was a fantasy writer? Why is he in a book about Literary publishing? I have questions.

Older goes on to say: “Maybe the word hasn’t been invented yet — that thing beyond diversity.” But I’m here to say that word has been invented. A word that will bring about/has brought about “systematic upheaval.” That word is self-publishing. Getting rid of traditional publishing by the root (READ: Black Authors and Self-Publishing and Self-publishing offers hope for diverse authors shut out by traditional publishers).

I didn’t hear much about the James Patterson effect on publishing — the capitalist damage he’s done — or the slimy grey area of book packagers. Those issues weren’t addressed in this book (READ: Why Literature is no longer Art and The New Vanity Publishing: Traditional Publishing).

Moving on.

Jessa Crispin’s essay on ‘The Self-Hating Book Critic’ is very interesting in its spastic coverage, yet doesn’t land on any clear answers: “So I will keep at it, never quite getting it right.” I feel you, but try harder.

Her essay’s highlights:

“I want to tell them: this world is not for you, you are better without it. Outside the gates, not in. This world was in fact, in part, designed specifically to keep you out. It does not want you. It will not nourish you.

And just because you gain entry for one fleeting moment, do not think for a second that you haven’t stomped all over the even less desirables on your way in, don’t think the system has suddenly become tolerant… More interesting would be to exist outside the walls, and learn how to raid the city [traditional publishing literary critics] for whatever you need.

Literary critics have value. And yet sitting here I cannot come up with a single name of a critic who has played some sort of role in my life…I’m struggling here. And yet surely there have been some.

…There were books that got into my hands thanks to critics, and there were books I was able to think my way through thanks to some assistance.”

OK, but maybe you’re thinking about criticism all wrong. Too much from the perspective of the New York Times. Criticism/reviews, to me, are just a part of a conversation. Conversation always has meaning. For sure, though, the ultimate criticism of literature is just another book of literature — for doesn’t all literature build upon itself — respond to itself? Good literature should. It’s pretentious to think your “art” of reviewing is equal to writing another novel. It’s not. But it does have meaning.

The essay on “The View from a University Press” by Donna Shear had a good quote on authority I might use for my library instruction-ing:

“Notice that no mention is made of ‘peer-reviewed publication,’ or reference at all to being published by university presses, as there would be in other disciplines. This is because publication with a commercial or independent press is its own recognition of the value of the work. That work has beaten out thousands of others, risen from the slush pile, and has been rewarded with publication by a major or well-respected independent press. Essentially, this stands in for peer review. And after publication, reviews and sales act to further validate the success of the work.

So, yeah, this book. Interesting conversation, but one that clearly listening to “outside” voices.

Book Review: The Size of the World by Ivana Skye

There are seven Seas, and Theia will cross them all. There is the Darkness beyond the Seventh Sea, and Theia will reach it.
But, in the Second Land, there is also Tellus. And soon Tellus is not only offering her skills as a guide to Theia, but following her out of her city … and kissing her.
Now this journey belongs to both of them. And soon they may belong to each other.

I was pitched this book as a novella, so when it came to me looking like a thick novel-length book I was a bit surprised. But then when you look inside you see that the pages are more flash fiction. And they read like poetry. Prose poetry, perhaps.

There is a lack of detail that makes you continually curious. It leaves you wanting more and lets your imagination fill in the purposeful blanks. I’m still not entirely sure what I just read, though it feels like an allegory–something with deeper meaning. I can’t really tell you how to interpret something like this, because I’m not an authority on anything it covers. My best guess is that it is an expansion on “I would cross the seven seas for you” but instead of “for” it’s “with”? Maybe it’s commentary on something else. Or nothing at all (in which case I would be bothered).

It starts with a girl who wants to cross the seven seas. And she meets another girl along the way and they fall in love. And some people think she is the Messiah. And the concept of “names” is very prevalent: the girl Theia falls in love with (Tellus) has the most names. Like Gandalf in LOTR, she has more than one, yet names have an oral magic to them. Some names she only tells to certain people. That concept was very interesting.

Ivana Skye is a linguist, which is pretty cool and it made the whole book make sense. The things she does with language and the lack thereof–the restraint of telling–is very beautiful.

The formatting and layout in the book is very pretty as well–there are alien-like gears decorating the pages like on the cover. Speaking of alien-like, I couldn’t tell if this was really fantasy or science fiction. It seemed like we were on another planets. Maybe the gears were affecting me. But it was interesting how you could interpret the story both ways–the seas could be the space and stars between planets; the ships they use as space ships. I don’t know if I’m taking too many liberties here, but that’s just where my mind went sometimes. Like Disney’s Treasure Planet.

There is a heavy dose of romance in the book, so if you don’t like that (which I normally don’t) this book isn’t for you. Yet it always comes off as more poetic than cheesy. Sex scenes are not explicit, just implied.

A very easy, quick read. Recommended for teens and up. Also recommended to librarians to build their LGBTQIA and Indie collections.

View on Goodreads.

Buy on Amazon.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

BOOK REVIEW: So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid

This was a very short little book – 144 pages (now out of print, I think). It had a lot of good quotes and observations on the state of the publishing world and I think every English Major should be required to read it so they consider the weight of what the literary world is doing – how it adds and subtracts from the world.

I disagree with Zaid on 2 points in this work, though. At one point, he says that the world is overpopulated with humans as well as books, but that one is the greater legacy than the other (children). I disagree entirely with this. Even if you write something that barely anyone reads or enjoys, you have connected with a specific group of people who understands you. You get no guarantee that a child will ever understand you, or that they will continue your legacy (once they stop breeding, your DNA becomes a dead legacy). A book lasts longer than generations. Ask Homer.

If humans vs. books, the lesser of two evils is more books. More books means more variety and option. More humans means less of everything. That was such a stupid statement on his part. Too romanticized and too whimsical. It risked undermining all his other observations for me.

It made my mind shoot in anger to thoughts like: What if the aliens could read all the books? What if time was nothing to them? Maybe then all books would matter. And what about the robots? Maybe the robots want all our books. Maybe our books will help better them. How selfish of him to think that books are less than humans. Some stories are certainly worth more than whole countries. Wars have been started in the name of stories and books and authors (religious books not the only ones). Don’t tell me that a single human is worth more than books. There are greater readers than us out there.

The second beef I have with this book is his blind faith that publishing will automatically equal diversity. At the very end he crams it in without it being fully supported by his argument. Half of his argument actually works against the idea of diversity–pointing out the publishing industry’s flaws.  I was left thinking “Wait, what? How did we get here? How did we get to diversity?” But then again I’m not so sure he defines diversity in the book, so we might be talking about two different “diversities.”

He covers sports and other forms of entertainment–comparing them to the book in ways I had never considered. It’s worth a read. And doesn’t take up your time. He makes a point of it not to, because he practices what he preaches.


Panda turds: Collected droppings to 12/10/16

Books I’ll Never Read #7 – Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings

This is a book that NPR tells you to just skip over– to read the second:

The Wall of Storms is an 852 page sequel to a 640 page book, so let me cut to the chase: It surpasses The Grace of Kings in every way, by every conceivable metric, and is — astonishingly — perfectly readable as a standalone. I loved it so much that I’d go so far as to say if you were intimidated by the size and scope of The Grace of Kings, you needn’t wait on reading it to dive into this one. Beginning several years after The Grace of Kings concludes, the focus is chiefly on a new generation of characters and how they deal with a fierce invading force from across the ocean, beyond the fabled Wall of Storms.’

Beyond that, I’ve seen reviews comment on the lack of female representation in the first book. If I’m going to read anything by Ken Liu, it’s not going to be this one, I guess.

I’m also curious to know why a debut novel got to keep so many pages. Liu clearly has an “in” somewhere in the industry letting him get away with what other debut authors cannot. And that speaks more for his networking skills than for his work. I want to read something of quality. Not of exclusivity.

Another reason to hate book packagers: The “Talent” of Paper Lantern Lit is very, very white #WeNeedDiverseBooks


Good to see that the “story factory” is churning out the same old issues in publishing. Paleness.

Paper Latern Lit is a book packager. What are book packagers? Book packagers are people who tell you to write what they want you to write in order for you to get discovered/eat/get writing credentials. You have little to no creative control and likely don’t get to use your own ideas for stories. They’re basically reiterations of James Patterson not writing his own books. And Paper Latern Lit is basically the female version of Full Fathom Five. Though maybe they’re not as mean to their writers.

Here’s more on how Paper Lantern Lit is crummy for new writers.

Let’s make one thing clear: Book packagers do NOT produce works of “collaboration.” They are not works by co-authors. Those are works done by people with equal say and with equal creative control. Book packagers do not offer this. In fact, they are making the publishing industry far worse–for diversity, for new authors, and for readers. 

This little librarian says: stay away from books by Lauren Oliver, Lexa Hillyer, and these!

The story sharks

The ones too lazy to write their own stories. Female James Pattersons. Whatever.

Instead of resorting to defending this business as a “necessary evil,” let’s create an entirely new publishing landscape–one that doesn’t need book packagers for new writers to break into the industry.

Tell publishers that we need diverse voices–something that Paper Latern Lit clearly can’t give beyond “female”–by not buying or promoting works from book packagers:

Don't buy these books.

Don’t buy these books.

The reading world will be a much richer place without them. The publishing industry will be fairer. Reader will know who really wrote their books.

Librarians are conflicted about James Patterson, a case study:

On the Facebook ALA Think Tank Page, this thread was posted. Librarians can’t seem to agree on WHY they don’t like how James Patterson makes them feel.

What I found most interesting is those willing to defend him simply because he donates money. Other defenses were that I was “elitist” for not liking him, presuming I didn’t like him because he “writes” (major quotes here) genre literature and not “High Art”–which is far from the case, being a hardcore SF fan. And the least surprising argument for me was the “there is nothing wrong with collaboration” argument…which is the part of the defense I should have tackled first, as it drives home the sad reality of publishing (see the end).  Here are some highlights:


Initial reactions:



My favorite point here. THIS. All this.

My main comment and its sub comments:

blog1 blog2

In which it is argued Patterson is not good nor evil, though still admitting he is part of a problem (undeniable):


Saying that anyone who is against him must be a snob proves not the case:


The “But he does give credit!” argument:


The “admitting that we do agree in some parts” portion & the “but he’s just collaborating!” argument: blog6

Why the collaboration argument doesn’t work for James Patterson: blog7