The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim – A book review

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim – A book review

I love reading about history and historical fiction. I knew I would like The Kinship of Secrets based on the summary. But I was excited because I almost knew nothing about Korean history and I actually wanted to. Did The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim fulfill the promise? Read on to know more.

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About The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim book review Elgee Writes

Book Name: The Kinship of Secrets

Author: Eugenia Kim

Genre: Fiction – Drama, Literary, historical

Characters: Calvin, Najin, Miran and Inja Cho, Halmeoni, Harabeoji,

Setting: South Korea, Washington DC, The United States of America

Summary of The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

Just a short while after the World War II and the subsequent freedom from Japanese annexation, Najin and Calvin Cho move from Korea to the USA on the lookout for better prospective.

With a plan to return within two years, they take only their eldest daughter Miran with them, leaving the youngest Inja in the care of her aging parents and Najin’s brother.

Unexpectedly, the Korean War breaks out making it almost impossible for a reunion in the near future. Miran grows in an American suburbia, under the guilt and pressures of being the chosen one, while Inja’s problems are much bigger living in a war torn country with scanty resources.

When they finally get to meet after a decade and a half, would there still be a chance to family despite the horde of secrets between them? Would the years passed matter or just the familial bonds good enough form the rest of the story in The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim.

Book review of The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

I was not sure what to expect when I picked the book and frankly it took me a while to get into the story. But about 30 pages in, I was completely sucked in. The alternating narratives between the sisters worked very well in this case as did the straight forward narrative.

Kim ensures the reader can trace the disparity between the two girls and the parallel worlds they live in. I adored the much more simplistic life of Inja and her devoted love towards her uncle, despite the dire circumstances they faced.

And Miran always knew that she had a privileged life and bore the brunt of it. She feels like an outsider in her own house when they all speak Korean and grows up watching the packages sent to Korea.

I am usually “heartless” when it comes to fictional characters, but somehow the plight of the young girls made me sob like a baby. And the credit goes to the author for that.

The Kinship of Secrets was an emotional read with compelling characters that are quintessentially Asian. I was surprised to see the many similarities between the traditions and yesteryear’s habits (as heard from family) of Korea and India. The importance of family and putting others first seem to be a common thread.

The Kinship of Secrets is inspired by a true story, so do not miss out on the Author’s note at the end of the book. I am looking forward to reading her other book, The Calligrapher’s Daughter.

What worked for me

  • The alternating narratives works well and shows the contrast between the lives of the sisters.
  • I loved the author’s writing style and it invoked so many emotions in me. She also made reading the Korean history more fun.
  • Knowing that The Kinship of Secrets was inspired by true events made it all the more interesting.

What may have been better

  • I felt the pre-adolescent chapters could have been shorter.

Bottom line

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim is a poignant tale about sisterhood, family and secrets that keep them all together. If you are interested in an emotional read with lots of Korean history, you won’t be disappointed with this one.

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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – A book review

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – A book review

It has been a hot minute since I read Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson during our staycation last month. But I have been avoiding to pen down my review/thoughts for a while because I was not sure if I could ever do it some justice. Finally I braved to get on with it and here is my review of Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson!

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About the book

Red at the bone

Book Name: Red at the Bone

Author: Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: Fiction – Drama, Young Adult

Characters: Iris, Aubrey, Melody, Sabe, Po’Boy

Setting: Brooklyn, New JerseyThe USA

Plot Summary

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson begins with the sixteen year old Melody getting ready for her coming out party and fighting with her mother on the song that she chose.

Seeing her walk down the stairs in a dress her mother missed out on wearing stirs up emotions and memories for the whole family, which the reader gets to know from the number of alternating point of views.

Melody grew up largely as a motherless child with a doting father and supportive maternal grandparents. Her relationship with her mother Iris was turbulent at best.

Book review

Red at the Bone is an intergenerational family drama, that involves several intense themes like teenage pregnancy, motherhood, fatherhood, grief, ambition, classism, sexism, poverty and racism.

It walks us through the aftermaths of an unexpected teenage pregnancy in an African American family and the costs of the choices that each one of them makes.

And Woodson does a phenomenal job in keeping the readers on toes with her lyrical writing and acute observation of complex human emotions. Alternating between a number of point of views might seem overwhelming for a few but it worked so brilliantly for me.

I knew Red at the Bone had raving reviews but I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming emotions that swept me off as I began connecting to each character and the choices they make. And the fact that I could feel all these in just 200 pages is just mind blowing.

Initially I was not sure why Melody was so cold to Iris and later, about how Iris could treat Aubrey the way she did. But just within a chapter or two, I found myself thinking “maybe, that’s what I would have done too”. And that is a win for the writer on my books.

Red at the Bone is a powerful book that talks about the invisible threads of misery, secrets and anger that holds the family together.

What worked for me

  • To just say I loved the author’s writing style and her powerful words would be unjust. She is phenomenal.
  • Each and every character is etched to perfection. Sabe and Po’Boy’ were my favorites.

What may have been better

  • If you are not a fan of multiple POVs, watch out. Red at the Bone has five POVs (though very well done).
  • This is definitely not a plot intensive drama.

Bottom line

While this poignant story may not be entirely new or memorable, it is the impact of the lyrical writing and the emotions that the author packed into her words that makes Red at the Bone so powerful and popular.

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson is worth all the hype it gets and pick up this short book if you are into literary fiction.

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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – A book review

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi: A Book review

I was excited to grab a copy of The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi , as I heard it is an own voice book and that has received so much attention recently. To be honest, it was about how often does an Indian tale so well received by the “whites”, right? So let us get on to the review shall we?

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About the Henna Artist

Henna artist by Alka Joshi Cover

Book Name: The Henna Artist

Author: Alka Joshi

Genre: Fiction – Drama, History

Characters: Lakshmi, Radha, Malik, Kanta and Manu, Parvati and Samir, Dr Jay Kumar, Maharani Latika

Setting: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Plot summary of the Henna Artist

Radha, or the Bad Luck Girl, is an orphan, now that her mother is also dead and fearing for her life she sets out to find her estranged sister Lakshmi with the help of Lakshmi’s abusive husband Hari.

Lakshmi is a henna artist in the post independence Jaipur, serving the upper class women by painting on their body. She has already had her share of knock downs in her life, having escaped an abusive husband a decade ago, leaving her parents to face the shame and started her life from nothing.

All she is working so hard is to build a house for her parents and seek forgiveness from them. But when her husband Hari and her newfound sister Radha walk into her life instead of them, her whole plan goes for a toss.

Could there ever be a happy ending for the bad luck girl? Will the poor ones ever settle in happy life? The answers to these questions form the rest of the story in The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi.

Book review of the Henna Artist

The Henna Artist talks of the women of Jaipur, of different classes and their lifestyles. While the plot had much promise, it was quite predictable and very much like a fairytale.

The characters are pretty charming and interesting but were too superficial for me to have some emotional connection with them. Malik was adorable and a perfect sidekick, but Radha was too annoying.

What I would love to see was some character development for them, I didn’t understand how the naive, frightened Radha turned into a snobby, angry pest even if I count her “rebellious teenage” as a factor.

Ms Joshi’s writing style is engrossing and it almost took me to the 1950s Jaipur and its grandeur. It also gives a quick primer on the caste system and post colonial India, without talking about its ugliness.

Well, that was one of the main let downs for me. This book was entirely written for the white people who want to read about the “exotic India” and “spirituality”. I am astounded that someone could gloss over about a system that ostracizes someone for dyeing the hair of a person from the low caste, like it was nothing.

Moreover, the characters dotting over Jane Austen and Dickens sounded too unbelievable. My aunts who were young in 1950s and broadly educated but I am pretty sure they didn’t read English classics. Another attempt at appealing to the whites??

What worked for me

  • A strong female lead who is career focused and fights for her hard won independence and freedom. I liked other women characters like Kanta, Parvati and Lakshmi’s mother in law who had taught her about healing herbs who were also strong and distinct from the others.
  • The writing was engrossing and vivid, especially in the first part, with the colorful description of the city and their lifestyles.

What may have been better

  • The book seemed it was directed at people who are new to India and its culture, rather than Indians. I totally wish The Henna Artist was written for Indians, rather than making it a propaganda.
  • The plot is predictable and too much of fairy-tale vibe, which didn’t work for me given the mature themes it covered.
  • I wish the characters had individual arcs and they had been fleshed out better.

Bottom line

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi can be a good start for people who do not know anything about the Indian history and heritage with a predictable, fairy tale like ending. For people who know better, there are much better choices.

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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – A book review

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: A book review

I generally am not a fan of books about a chronically ill person aka Sick-lit, especially when it comes to young adult books. It has been done so many times and I am just tired of it. Yet, I picked up Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, all thanks to the gorgeous cover. How it fare on my scale? Read to know more.

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About the book

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Cover

Book Name: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Author: Jesse Andrews

Genre: Fiction – Drama, Young Adult

Characters: Greg Gaines, Earl Jackson, Rachel Kushner

Setting: Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThe USA

The plot

Greg Gaines is the master of moderation in his high school. He just wants to blend to the wallpaper and is a friend of everyone so that he doesn’t have to be friends to anyone in particular. His only true and close friend is Earl Jackson.

Greg and Earl bonded over making movies, their version of foreign classic movies. They know that their movies are not good and not for others’ view.

Everything changes when Greg’s mother pushes him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel. Rachel Kushner has been recently diagnosed with leukemia and she is dying.

What happens when the duo is forced to make a movie for the dying girl, forms the rest of the Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

My initial thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, dying girls and grief stricken boyfriends are definitely not my cup of tea. Well, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not about that. The book is hilarious at parts, funny in other parts and meh among the others. And it is entirely upon the reader on finding what makes them laugh.

Yes, the dialogs are witty, sometimes crude and vulgar. But nothing more than what teens would be speaking.

What I loved about the book is that Greg doesn’t end up becoming Rachel’s best friend or boyfriend and speak the philosophies of life. He is still the crude teen that doesn’t want to befriend anyone else but Earl.

I really liked Earl and his over the top brothers. I love his earnestness and him wanting to help his mother as much as possible.

What worked for me

  • The characters behave their age and are realistic. Greg doesn’t become a romantic nor Earl becomes a star, overnight.
  • Mostly the book is funny and witty. Most of the time. Even when it doesn’t, the format keeps it interesting.
  • There is no romance angle, so that is a yay from me.

What may have been better

  • I love self deprecating humor but there is a thing called overload. At some point when the “wittiness” falls flat and the tone lackluster.
  • If Greg is gonna say that this is a stupid book one more time, I might have lost it.

Bottom line

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews is a hilarious young adult book involving a cancer patient but doesn’t revolve around her. Read it for the mostly funny writing and eccentric characters.

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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – A book review

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – A book review

Have you ever picked up a book, and within minutes you know that it is going to stay with you for a long time? One such book for me would be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Read my book review of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi to know how it fared for me.

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The first time I heard about Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was in 2018. Immediately, I knew there was only two ways this could end for me – either I am going to hate it and DNF, or I am gonna find a book that would recommend the heck of it to everyone I know.

About the book

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi book cover

Book Name: Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Genre: Fiction – Drama, History, Literary

Characters: Maame, Cobbe Otcher, Effia Otcher, James Collins, Quey Collins, Nana Yaa Yeboah, James Richard Collins, Akosua Mensah, Abena Collins, Ohene Nyarko, Akua Collins, Asamoah Agyekum, Yaw Agyekum, Esther Amoah, Marjorie Agyekum; Big Man Assare, Esi Assare, Ness Stockham, Sam, Kojo Freeman, Anna Foster, H Black, Ethe Jackson, Eli Dalton, Willie Black, Robert Clifton, Carson Clifton, Amani Zulema, Marcus Clifton

Setting: Ghana, AfricaAlabamaThe USA

The plot

The book begins in the eighteenth century Ghana where the slave trade by the whites is at its peak. Effia and Esi are half-sisters born in different villages in Ghana. And it is through the lives of their descendants that we get a glimpse of history of Black lives in Africa and America over the centuries.

Effia becomes the mistress to an Englishman and lives in the comparative comfort of his castle, where unbeknownst to her, Esi among thousands of other African slaves is entrapped and sold to the America.

Esi and her family form the American history as a part of Alabama’s cotton plantations, Civil War, the coal mining and the twentieth century’s Harlem dope houses, to the present day. On the other hand, Effia and her descendants stay back in the continent to initially take part in the slave trade enthusiastically to finally fight their enslavers over the course of generations.

To know more about this family saga coupled with the history of Black lives in America and the slave trade in Ghana, you will have to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

My initial thoughts

First off I have to say Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is going to be painful, hard and intense. This plot driven multi-generational family saga has too many characters and many African words to be an easy read.

The chapters are quite short, as is the book itself, and for a few it might read like a collection of short stories.

Okay now that I have warned you about everything that could put you off and have done my part to cast away the weak hearted’s, let us talk about Homegoing earnestly.

The subject matter of this semi autobiography, a risk you take when reading an Own Voice book, is the history of slavery and the drastic mistreatment of the Blacks over the centuries. True to the nature of the subject, Homegoing is painful and makes you wonder if we have moved forward at all.

Homegoing follows the seven generations of Effia and Esi alternatively, over two continents Africa and America – that is fourteen perspectives with our 250 years cover ground. And Yaa Gyasi does it effortlessly and so intricately in about 300 pages that I can’t believe that it is her debut novel.

We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

Personal rambling

I would go as far as telling that Homegoing had such an impact in me that I, not only had a book hangover for the next two days but also made me introspect on the effect of British oppression had on us as Indians and me as a person, in such a way that I had never thought of before.

My heart broke when Marcus tries to find his ancestors and could only reach till his grandfather H. I wished I could tell him the tales of his forefathers and that he finally reached his place in Ghana. Rarely, I get all emotional over books and I keep it objective and the point in my review, but guys, this book!!

In reality, that is literally what was done to him and the other millions of Blacks, we have uprooted them for personal gains, erased their history, not to speak of the atrocities their ancestors had to go through as slaves and second and third class citizens, and now we are still shooting them cuz of the color of their skin.

What worked for me

  • I loved how each story connected to the next generation so that we don’t miss the flow at all. I loved how the stone traveled generations to reach the other half of the family.
  • The writing was simple but yet so empathetic. It was so realistic that it made me feel like I know Ghana and the coal mines in Alabama, personally.
  • The way the slavery and colonialism, racism and the violence of it all were written made an impact in me that my history texts never it.
  • I loved that everyone I know who read this book had a different favorite character. Each of them were so well written that I can’t pick one how much ever I tried.

What may have been better

  • I wish the stories of the recent generations were little bit longer. Obviously, they were great as they are but I just wanted to spend a little more time knowing them.
  • If you are not a fan of plot driven books, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi may not work for you.

Bottom line

If you are mildly interested in knowing the history of slavery, British colonialism or history of Black slaves in the USA, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi should be your choice.

This historical fiction about seven generation family saga will satisfy both your fictional and history thirst! I will be reading more from the author definitely.

Go pick Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi already. Get your quota of reading towards Black lives matter and books by BIPOC about BIPOC or whatever other counts you have, but READ THIS BOOK.

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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – A book review

Daisy Jones & The Six – A book review

I picked Daisy Jones & The Six mainly because Bookstagrammers kept posting raving reviews about it. Despite being recommended to pick the audiobook, I picked the physical copy. Did I make the right choice? Let us check how did that turn out for me, shall we?

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About the book

elgeewrites Daisy Jones & The Six - A book review Daisy Jones The

Book Name: Daisy Jones & The Six

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Fiction – Romance, History

Characters: Daisy Jones, Billy and Graham Dunne, Camila Dunne, Simone, Warren, Eddie, Karen, Teddy Price

Setting: Los Angeles,The USA

The plot

Daisy grows up as a precocious young girl with absentee parents and a love for music. As she turns twenty her voice gets her the recognition she was craving for. But what she wants to do is write songs, rather than sing them.

Billy and Graham Dunne start a band called Dunne brothers with few of their friends and are slowly in the rise to their stardom.

Soon Billy is addicted to pills, alcohol and other women, and it is his wife Camilla’s grit and steadiness that brings him back to his sense and to the band. As they start getting famous, they reluctantly invite Daisy to join their band.

What follows is the electric chemistry between pill riddled Daisy and currently sober Billy and how the band ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ breaks apart.

My initial thoughts

Daisy Jones & The Six would mark my first tryst with Taylor Jenkins Reid and I can say she has left a positive impact and I would definitely be reading more from her.

I really liked the premise and Reid’s writing made sure to make me feel like I watched a movie about these rockstars and their pill addiction, boozy parties and shows. The interview format of narrative was a clever idea too.

Again, my issue was just the same thing. I didn’t feel connected to the characters at all, because they felt like stars being interviewed. This is totally a “it is me, not you” thing, with the interview format narration. We don’t get to see what these characters are apart from the roles they play in a band, which is a sore disappointment.

I loved Camilla and Karen, strong ladies who seemed badasses on their own merit. While I wish I had such an emotional connect with Daisy too, all I could think was ‘omg she is a dumpster fire’.

I have been hearing that the audiobook does a better job than the physical copy, so if you are into audiobooks, you should try that.

What worked for me

  • I loved the plot and couldn’t stop imagining Cooper and Lady Gaga for obvious reasons.
  • Daisy Jones & The Six took me to the 70s setup of rock n roll, sex crazed and pill popping era and Reid’s writing shines through. Billy and Daisy were the epitome of all the glitter and issues of the era.
  • I loved the strong, female characters like Camilla, Daisy, Karen and Simone. It is obvious that a woman wrote these characters.

What may have been better

  • While I love the narrative format for its cleverness, I think it didn’t work for me personally.
  • The placement of the songs from the band could have been better, I almost skipped those pages.

Bottom line

Daisy Jones & The Six is a popular historical fiction, and for the right reasons. If you want to be transported to the world of rock n roll and understand what happens after the show ends and behind the screen Daisy Jones & The Six is a great pick.

While the interview format didn’t work for me, I enjoyed Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing style. I will be seeing more of her.

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