Subscribing to online booksellers is a bad idea. HAHA! Because I was subscribed to many of them, my book pile started growing up again just when I wanted to step on the brakes. I am guilty; I simply cannot resist the urge to buy books. In fact, in the past week, I purchased 11 more books which are to be delivered next month. This is on top of the 15 books I received in August. Maybe I can never ever fulfill my yearly resolution of reading more than I purchase. Tsk.
Anyway, here’s my haul for August. Of these 15 books, I managed to read a single one only because it is part of my 2020 Top 10 Books I Look Forward to List. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to reading the books in this diverse set. Happy reading everyone!
Title: If I Had Your Face
Author: Frances Cha
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 268
Synopsis: “Kyuri is an achingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a Seoul “room salon,” an exclusive underground bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake threatens her livelihood.
Kyuri’s roommate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the heir to one of the country’s biggest conglomerates.
Down the hall in their building lives Ara, a hairstylist whose two preoccupations sustain her: an obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that she hopes will change her life.
And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to have a baby, though she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise it in Korea’s brutal economy.”
Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Del Rey
Publishing Date: 2019
No. of Pages: 334
Synopsis: “The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it – and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatan to the bright lights of Mexico City – and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.”
Title: Gorky Park
Author: Martin Cruz Smith
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 1981
No. of Pages: 365
Synopsis: “Once in a long while a novel appears whose plot is so original, atmosphere so authentic, characters so vivid, execution so skillful and premise so true that it reverberates long after the reader has finished its last page. Gorky Park is such a novel.
When three mutilated bodies are discovered in the deep snow of Moscow’s Gorky Park, and chief Homicide Investigator Arkady Renko is beaten to the site by a KGB agent, Major Pribluda, he knows that these are no ordinary murders. As head of the Homicide Department of the Moscow Town Prosecutor’s office, Arkady’s cases generally are typically Russian (which is to say that they involve approximately equal doses of vodka, jealousy, boredom and despair). Usually, too, the KGB leave Arkady alone; it is understood that his job consists of picking up the everyday corpse, while political crimes are left to them.
But these victims, Arkady soon realizes, are part of a seemingly motiveless crime both ruthless and bizarre. And though his every move in the case is monitored by the KGB, he is puzzled that they don’t take on the case themselves, especially when, strangely, a New York City detective obsessed with avenging one of the victims beats Arkady almost to death, and a powerful American businessman who basks in a luxurious bathhouse with the Kremlin’s appratchiks also appears to be implicated in the brutal murders. Even more unsettling to Arkady is his interrogation of Irina, a dissident at Mosfilm, the Soviet film studio. He falls in love with her, even though he cannot trust anyone in an investigation that reaches to the highest levels of the Communist hierarchy.
Arkady is an anomaly in Soviet society: too vigorous in his pursuit of justice, too intelligent to accept Party doublethink, too cynical to believe that there is a happy ending for someone like himself in such a world, and too sensitive and honest to be able to avoid falling in love even when it clearly will be to his cost. Finally, he is too brilliant an investigator not to solve the Gorky Park murders, though the personal price he pays is devastating, and though the deaths reveal more corruption in Soviet – and American – society than he had thought possible.”
Title: Portnoy’s Complaint
Author: Philip Roth
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 1969
No. of Pages: 274
Synopsis: “Portnoy’s Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933-)] A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: ‘Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful; as a consequence of the patient’s “morality,” however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.’ (Spielvogel, O. ‘The Puzzled Penis’, Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p. 909.) it is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationship.”
Title: The Hours
Author: Michael Cunningham
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publishing Date: 1998
No. of Pages: 226
Synopsis: “In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, who is recognized as “one of our very best writers” (Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times), draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters who are struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair.
The novel opens with an evocation of Woolf’s last days before her suicide in 1941, and moves to the stories of two modern American women who are trying to making rewarding lives for themselves in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.
Clarissa Vaughan is a book editor who lives in present-day Greenwich Village; when we meet her, she is buying flowers to display at a party for her friend Richard, an ailing poet who has just won a major literary prize. Laura Brown is a housewife in postwar California who is bringing up her only son and looking for her true life outside of her stifling marriage.
With rare ease and assurance, Cunningham makes the two women’s lives converge with Virginia Woolf’s in an unexpected and heartbreaking way during the party for Richard. As the novel jump-cuts through the twentieth century, every line resonates with Cunningham’s clear, strong, surprisingly lyrical contemporary voice.”
Title: Life and Fate
Author: Vasily Grossman
Translator: Robert Chandler
Publisher: Perennial Library
Publishing Date: 1987
No. of Pages: 871
Synopsis: “Life and Fate is fiction on the epic scale: powerful, deeply moving, and devastating in its depiction of a world torn apart by war and ideological tyranny. At the center of the novel, overshadowing the lives off each of its huge cast of characters, stands the battle of Stalingrad. Vasily Grossman presents a startlingly vivid picture of this desperate struggle for a ruined city, and of how the ebb and flow of the fighting affect the lives and destinies of people far from the front line. With Tolstoyan grandeur that finds room for intimate detail, and deploying a multitude of superbly realized characters, Grossman delivers a message of terrifying simplicity: that Stalinism and Nazism are one and the same in their falsehood, cruelty, and inhumanity.”
Title: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
Author: Marina Lewycka
Publishing Date: 2005
No. of Pages: 323
Synopsis: “’Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcee. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface the sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.’
When their recently widowed father announces he plans to remarry, sisters Vera and Nadzhda realize they must put aside a lifetime of feuding in order to save him. His new love is a voluptuous gold-digger from the Ukraine half his age, with a proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, who stops at nothing in her single-minded pursuit of the luxurious Western lifestyle she dreams of. But the old man, too, is pursuing his eccentric dreams – and writing a history of tractors in Ukrainian.
A wise, tender and deeply funny novel about families, the healing of old wounds, the trials and consolations of old age and – really – about the legacy of Europe’s history over the last fifty years.”
Title: Women Without Men
Author: Shahrnush Parsipur
Translator(s): Kamram Talattof, Jocelyn Sharlet
Publisher: Feminist Press at the City University of New York
Publishing Date: 2004
No. of Pages: 131
Synopsis: “A modern literary masterpiece, Women Without Men creates an evocative and powerfully drawn allegory of life in contemporary Iran. With a tone that is stark and bold, yet magical, as its elegantly drawn settings and characters, internationally acclaimed writer Shahrnush Parsipur follows the interwoven destinies of five women – including a prostitute, a wealthy middle-aged housewife, and a schoolteacher – as they arrive, by many different paths, to live in a garden on the outskirts of Tehran. Reminiscent of a wry fable and drawing on elements of Islamic mysticism and recent Iranian history. Women Without Men depicts women escaping the narrow precincts of family and society – only to face daunting new challenges.
Shortly after the novel’s 1989 publication, Parsipur was arrested and jailed for her frank and defiant portrayal of women’s sexuality. Though still banned in Iran, this national best-seller was eventually translated into several languages, delighting new readers with the witty and subversive work of a brilliant Persian writer.”
Title: Poor People
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Translator: Hugh Aplin
Publisher: Hesperus Press Limited
Publishing Date: 2002
No. of Pages: 130
Synopsis: “Written as a series of letters, Poor People tells the tragic tale of a petty clerk and his impossible love for a young girl. Longing to help her and change her plight, he sells everything he can, but his kindness leads him only into more desperate poverty, and ultimately into debauchery. As the object of his desire looks sadly and helplessly on, he – the typical ‘man of the underground’ – becomes more and more convinced of the belief that happiness can only be achieved with riches. Theirs is a troubled, frustrated love that can only lead to sorrow.
Poor People is Dostoevsky’s first original work. As both a masterpiece of Russian populist writing, and a parody of the entire genre, it is a profound and uneasy piece, with many glimpses of future genius.”
Title: Dream of the Red Chamber
Author: Tsao Hsueh-Chin
Translator: Chi-Chen Wang
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publishing Date: 1989
No. of Pages: 329
Synopsis: “For more than a century and a half, Dream of the Red Chamber has been recognized by sophisticated readers in China as the greatest of its novels. In it we experience the lives of two households in Peking, belonging to the same family, in which five generations live together with their innumerable retainers, servants, relatives, and other hangers-on. One generation is the particular concern of the author: a group of sisters, half sisters, and cousins, among whom is one boy, the hope of the great house of Chia. The love of this boy and his cousin – a Romeo and Juliet story – is the central theme of the novel; but around them is woven the complex life of the two great palaces and of the capital itself. What emerges is a rich portrait of one of the world’s great civilizations.”
Author: Don DeLillo
Publishing Date: 2003
No. of Pages: 827
Synopsis: “Nick Shay and Klara Sax knew each other once, intimately, and they meet again in the American desert. He is trying to outdistance the crucial events of his early life; she is an artist who has made a blood struggle for independence.
Underworld is a story of men and women together and apart, seen in deep, clear detail and in stadium-sized panoramas, shadowed throughout by the overarching conflict of the Cold War. It is a novel that accepts every challenge of these extraordinary times – Don DeLillo’s greatest and most powerful work of fiction.”
Title: The Big Sky
Author: A.B. Guthrie Jr.
Publisher: Time-Life Books Inc.
Publishing Date: 1977
No. of Pages: 378
Synopsis: “A classic portrait of America’s vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction.
Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.’s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersmen live as trappers, traders, guides, and explorers. The story centers on Caudill, a young Kentuckian driven by a raging hunger for life and a longing for the blue sky and brown earth of big, wild places. Caught up in the freedom and savagery of the wilderness, Caudill becomes an untamed mountain man, whom only the beautiful daughter of a Blackfoot chief dares to love. (Source: Goodreads)”
Title: House Made of Dawn
Author: N. Scott Momaday
Publishing Date: 1994
No. of Pages: 212
Synopsis: “House Made of Dawn is about the struggle of a man who cannot understand or be understood, a man who is integrated with neither the traditions of his Indian heritage nor the ways of the white world. When Abel, a mixed-blood Indian who does not even know the tribe of his own father, returns to the Walatowa Pueblo reservation after serving in WWII, he feels removed from the traditions of the reservation. He drinks, kills an albino Indian who has humiliated him, and is promptly sent to prison by a court that has no understanding of his motives or his cultural identity.
After his release from prison, Abel begins a difficult emotional journey that takes him from an assembly line in Los Angeles back to the reservation – and to a reunification with the customs of his ancestors.
In 1969, House Made of Dawn became the first novel by a Native American to win the Pulitzer Prize; it is considered a classic of the Native American renaissance.”
Title: The Late George Apley
Author: John P. Marquand
Publisher: Time Incorporated
Publishing Date: 1963
No. of Pages: 402
Synopsis: “Sweeping us into the inner sanctum of Boston society, into the Beacon Hill townhouses and exclusive private clubs where only the city’s wealthiest and most powerful congregate, this novel gives us, through the story of one family and its patriarch, the recently deceased George Apley, the portrait of an entire society in transition. Gently satirical and rich with drama, the novel moves from the Gilded Age to the Great Depression as it projects George Apley’s world and subtly reveals a life in which success and accomplishment mask disappointment and regret, a life of extreme and enviable privilege that is nonetheless an imperfect life. (Source: Goodreads)”
Title: I’ll Be Right There
Author: Kyung Sook Shin
Translator: Sora Kim-Russell
Publisher: Other Press
Publishing Date: 2013
No. of Pages: 321
Synopsis: “Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When after eight years of separation Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to relive the most intense period of her life. With profound intellectual and emotional insight, she revisits the death of her beloved mother, the strong bond with her now-dying former college professor, the excitement of her first love, and the friendships forged out of a shared sense of isolation and grief.
Yoon’s formative experiences, which highlight both the fragility and force of personal connection in an era of absolute uncertainty, become immediately palpable. Shin makes the foreign and esoteric utterly familiar: her use of European literature as an interpreter of emotion and experience bridges any gaps between East and West. Love, friendship, and solitude are the same everywhere, as this book makes poignantly clear.”