This month I finished four books and share a big announcement.
My student, Mark, and I read this together, and boy howdy, am I glad I had a reading buddy because this is a long book. There were times when I wanted to give up because it’s not a conventional novel. It’s not chronological. It’s absurd and confusing and over-the-top, but it also made me laugh out loud in many places. But the buildup to the ending really made the book for me.
If you read reviews first, you would have scrolled through pages of praise, so I thought this book was going to be amazing. It’s a fantasy novel based on the second war between Japan and China, and it starts off great. The first part of this 600+ pager was magic, martial arts, and a 13 year old protagonist who studied and fought her way to and through the most prestigious school in the country.
But then it’s starts to change in mood and tone. It gets dark, and then it just drops off a cliff with the “retelling” of the Nanjing massacre. It’s very graphic and violent. And this is where my love of knowing as little as possible about a book before I open it got me into trouble.
Like others, it’s easy to assume that TPW’s is a YA book, but it’s not. It’s grimdark, a genre defined as amoral, violent, and anti-Tolkien. Ironically, I had posted on IG the bookish question, “What kind of books won’t you read?” while unhappily discovering that I was reading exactly what I try to avoid.
On the plus side, I read outside of my comfort zone, and it really got me thinking about how ethics and morals have changed during recent years. I could write a whole post on it because I honestly have never read a story where the main character went from someone I rooted for to someone who chose genocide and revenge by the end. But since this is the first of a trilogy, maybe she transcends her anger and hatred, but I’m not going to read another 12,000 pages to find out.
Based on Amazon reviews, I’m not the only one who feels this way but Kuang definitely has her fans, too. She’s only 25 and has received more rewards and graduated from more ivy league universities than most achieve and do in their lifetime. In other words, she’s massively adored.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was recommended by my 16 year old Chinese student, and she really hit the target with this one. It’s about a young woman, Nora Seed, who is so depressed and unhappy with her life that she tries to commit suicide. But instead of going to heaven or hell, she ends up at The Midnight Library where she gets to choose a book that takes her to another life, another choice, or another regret to undo.
Well, you can imagine what a story like this does for the soul.
After the depressing Poppy War, I craved something light and easy, and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper delivered. It’s about Arthur Pepper who is dealing with the death of his wife and as he finally decides to clean out her stuff, he discovers a locked heart-shaped box. And this leads him out of the house, down adventuresome roads and making unlikely friendships.
It was a quick and enjoyable read, very beach-holiday, and something you could recommend to all ages.
And now for my announcement! If you read my latest newsletter, you already know that I’m going to be relocating from Central to Northern Thailand for a new opportunity. It’s a big change because I will leave behind years of teaching English at language schools to take on homeroom teaching at a small international school in a small town.
Long time readers might recall that I taught primary school students back in the States, so this won’t be completely new, but that was a long time ago. Yet, there’s something about completing a cycle, full circle returns, and going back to where my teaching journey originally began that has gets me excited about the mystery of life.
Thanks for reading along my friends. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by. What did you read in June?