Wrapping up 2020 with my final book haul post. My attempts at holding the temptation to purchase more books before the year ends were futile at best (what can I expect, haha?). It just finalizes the fact that I have yet again failed on one of my reading resolutions for the year – reading more books and buying lesser books. This is ironic because restrictions were imposed due to COVID 19 but I guess, the accessibility of buying books online made the restrictions a superficial defense against buying more books. LOL. Before I lose myself again in words, here are the books I purchased during the last month of 2020.

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: T.J. Klune
Publisher: TOR Books
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 396

Synopsis: “A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker is by-the-book caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records for the company. But his quiet life is about to change.

Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to an orphanage on a distant island and determine whether six dangerous magical children are so dangerous, in fact, that they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

When Linus arrives at that strangest of islands he’s greeted by a series of mysterious figures, the most mysterious of which is Arthur Parnassus, the master of the orphanage. As Linus and Arthur grow closer, Linus discovers the master would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world has to burn. Or worse, his secret comes to light.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place – and realizing that family is yours.”

Title: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
Author: Cho Nam-Joo
Translator: Jamie Cheng
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 163

Synopsis: “Set in modern-day Korea, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 mesmerizingly diagnoses the endemic misogyny and institutional oppression that is relevant to us all.

Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that person. In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul lives Kim Jiyoung. A thirtysomething “millennial everywoman,” she has recently left her white-collar desk job in order to care for her newborn daughter full-time – as so many Korean women are expected to do. But Jiyoung quickly begins to exhibit strange symptoms that alarm her husband, parents, and in-laws: She impersonates the voices of other women – alive and even dead, both known and unkown to her. As she plunges deeper into psychosis, her discomfited husband sends her to a male psychiatrist.

In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung’s entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist – a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission. Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behavior is policed by the male figures around her, from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women’s restroom and post their photos online. In her father’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child – to put them first.

Jiyoung’s painfully common life is juxtaposed against a backdrop of an advancing Korea, as it abandons “family planning” birth control policies and passes new legislation against gender discrimination. But can her doctor flawlessly, completely cure her, or even discover what truly ails her?

Rendered in minimalist yet lacerating prose, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 sits at the center of our global #MeToo movement and announces the arrival of writer significance.”

Title: The Beauty of Your Face
Author: Sahar Mustafah
Publisher: W.W. Norton& Company
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 298

Synopsis: “A Palestinian American woman wrestles with faith, loss, and identity before coming face-to-face with a school shooter in this searing debut.

A uniquely American story told in powerful, evocative prose, The Beauty of Your Face navigates a country growing ever more divided. Afaf Raluman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter – radicalized by the online alt-right – attacks the school.

As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dreams of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam.

The Beauty of Your Face is a profound and poignant exploration of one woman’s life in a nation at odds with its ideals, an emotionally rich novel that encourages us to reflect on our shared humanity. If others take the time to really see us, to look into our face, they will find something indelibly familiar, something achingly beautiful gazing back.”

Title: Shine
Author: Jessica Jung
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Inc
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 344

Synopsis: “What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment – one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple. Train 24-7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy, right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girl’s Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success – and love – might be even higher.

It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.”

Title: Utopia Avenue
Author: David Mitchell
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 571

Synopsis: “Utopia Avenue is the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folk singer Elf Holloway, blues bassist Dean Moss, and guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet, Utopia Avenue embarked on a meteoric journey from the seedy clubs of Soho to a TV debut on Top of the Pops, the cusp of chart success, glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome, and a fateful American sojourn in the Chelsea Hotel, Lauren Canyon, and San Francisco during the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell’s kaleidoscopic novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue’s turbulent life and times; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of voices in the head and the truths and lies they whisper; of music, madness, and idealism. Can we really change the world, or does the world change us?”

Title: Berta Isla
Author: Javier Marias
Translator: Margaret Jull Costa
Publisher: Vintage International
Publishing Date: July 2020
No. of Pages: 480

Synopsis: “When Berta Isla was a school-girl, she decided she would marry Tomas Nevinson – the dashing half-Spanish, half-English boy in her class with an extraordinary gift for languages. But when Tomas returns to Madrid from his studies at Oxford, he is a changed man. Unbeknownst to her, he has been approached by an agent from the British intelligence services and has unwittingly set in motion events that will forever derail the life they had planned.

With peerless insight, award-winning, internationally bestselling author Javier Marias explores the complexities of a relationship hollowed out by fear and deception – the very bedrock of a spy’s profession. Astutely and hypnotically told, Berta Isla is a gripping novel of intrigue and missed chances – not only an espionage tale, but a profound examination of a marriage founded on secrets and lies.

Title: Kitchen
Author: Banana Yoshimoto
Translator: Megan Backus
Publisher: Grove Press
Publishing Date: 1993
No. of Pages: 150

Synopsis: “When Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen was first published in 1988, “Bananamania” seized the country. Kitchen won two of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, climbed its way to the top of the best-seller list, then remained there for over a year and sold millions of copies. With the appearance of the critically acclaimed Tugumi (1989) and NP (1991), the Japanese literary world realized that in Banana Yoshimoto it was confronted not with a passing fluke but with a full-fledged phenomenon: a young writer of great talent and great passion whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of twentieth-century Japanese literature.

Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, kitchens, love, tragedy, and the terms they all come to in the minds of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Told in a whimsical style that recalls the early Marguerite Duras, “Kitchen” and its companion story, “Mooonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a masterful storyteller. They are the work of a very special new writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.”

Title: Black Rain
Author: Masuji Ibuse
Translator: John Bester
Publisher: Kodansha International
Publishing Date: 1979
No. of Pages: 300

Synopsis: “Black Rain is centered around the story of a young woman who was caught in the radioactive “black rain” that fell after the bombing of Hiroshima. Ibuse bases his tale on real-life diaries and interviews with victims of the holocaust; the result is a book that is free from sentimentality yet manages to reveal the magnitude of the human suffering caused by the atom bomb. The life of Yasuko, on whom the black rain fell, is changed forever by periodic bouts of radiation sickness and the suspicion that her future children, too, may be affected.

Ibuse tempers the horror of his subject with the gentle humor for which he is famous. His sensitivity to the complex web of emotions in a traditional community torn asunder by this historical event has made Black Rain one of the most acclaimed treatments of the Hiroshima story.”

Title: Anthills of the Savannah
Author: Chinua Achebe
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publishing Date: 1988
No. of Pages: 216

Synopsis: “Anthills of the Savannah is a searing satire of political corruption and social injustice – and a potent reminder of the problems still facing Africa today.

In the fictional West African nation of Kangan, newly independent of British rule, the hopes and dreams of democracy have been quashed by a fierce military dictatorship. Chris Oriko is a member of the cabinet of the president for life, one of his oldest friends. When the president is charged with censoring the oppositionist editor of the state-run newspaper – another childhood friend – Chris’s loyalty and ideology are put to the test. The fate of Kangan hangs in the balance as tensions rise and a devious plot is set in motion to silence a firebrand critic.”

Title: The Thief and the Dogs
Author: Naguib Mahfouz
Translator: Trevor Le Gassick and M.M. Badawi; Revised by John Rodenbeck
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publishing Date: June 2008
No. of Pages: 158

Synopsis: “Naguib Mahfouz’s haunting novella of post-revolutionary Egypt combines a vivid psychological portrait of an anguished man with the suspense and rapid pace of a detective story.

After four years in prison, the skilled young thief Said Mahran emerges bet on revenge. He finds a world that has changed in more ways than one. Egypt has undergone a revolution and, on a more personal level, his beloved wife and his trusted henchman, who conspired to betray him to the police, are now married to each other and are keeping his six-year-old daughter from him. But in the most bitter betrayal, his mentor, Rauf Ilwan, once a firebrand revolutionary who convinced Said that sealing from the rich in an unjust society is an act of justice, is now himself a rich man, a respected newspaper editor who wants nothing to do with his disgraced former friend. As Said’s wild attempts to achieve his idea of justice badly misfire, he becomes a hunted man so driven by hatred that he can only recognize too late his last chance at redemption.”

Title: If You Leave Me
Author: Crystal Hana Kim
Publisher: William Morrow
Publishing Date: 2018
No. of Pages: 414

Synopsis: “An emotionally riveting debut novel about war, family, and forbidden love – the unforgettable saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea and the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that still haunts us today.

When the Communist-backed army from the North invaded her village, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother and ailing brother, was forced to flee to a refugee camp along the coast. Now, for a few hours each night, she escapes her family’s makeshift home and tragic circumstances with her childhood friend Kyunghwan.

Focused on finishing school, Kyunghwan doesn’t realize his older and wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has his sights set on the beautiful and spirited Haemi – and is determined to marry her before joining the fight. But as Haemi becomes a wife, then a mother, her decision to forsake the boy she always loved to ensure the security of her family sets off a dramatic saga that will have profound effects for generations to come.

Richly told and deeply moving, If You Leave Me is a stunning portrait of war and refugee life, a passionate and timeless romance, and a heartrending exploration of one woman’s longing for autonomy in a rapidly changing world.”

Title: Asymmetry
Author: Lisa Halliday
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 2018
No. of Pages: 271

Synopsis: “Alice, a young editor living in New York City during the early days of the Iraq War, begins a surprising and tender affair with the famous older writer Ezra Blazer. Locked in a holding room at Heathrow Airport in late 2008, the practical economist Amar, raised in Brooklyn but on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is interrogated by immigration officials and reflects on his past. Years later still, a BBC journalist conducts an interview with Blazer about his life, love, and legacy. How do these moments connect? How do these characters impact one another’s lives?

A stunning novel by Whiting Award winner and rising literary star Lisa Halliday, Asymmetry explores and challenges the imbalances that strike and sustain us – from age and power to geography and justice – and the ways in which we try to find our place in the world. With astounding prose and remarkable insight, Halliday transforms three seemingly disparate narratives into a rich and riveting story of love, luck, and the inextricability of life and art. Funny and compassionate, timely and alive, Asymmetry is an experience readers won’t soon forget.”

Title: How We Disappeared
Author: Jing-Jing Lee
Publisher: Oneworld
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 341

Synopsis: “Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked. Only three survivors remain, one of them a tiny child.

In a neighboring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is bundled into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel. In the year 2000, her mind is still haunted by her experiences there, but she has long been silent about her memories of that time. It takes twelve-year-old Kevin, and the mumbled confession he overhears from his ailing grandmother, to set in motion in a journey into the unknown to discover the truth.

Weaving together two timelines and two life-changing secrets, How We Disappeared is an evocative, profoundly moving and utterly dazzling novel heralding the arrival of a thrilling new literary star.”

And that ends my book haul for 2020. How about you fellow readers? What books have you purchased in the past month? I hope you get to enjoy them and the journey they have in store. Happy New Year! And as always, happy reading!