Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: The Birth of South Korean Cool

It was very easy to pick this week’s BotW – I raced through Euny Hong’s the Birth of South Korean Cool and found it absolutely fascinating.  It had been on my to-read list for a while after I heard it recommended on one of the podcasts that I listen to – so long in fact that I can’t remember which podcast.  But where ever the recommendation came from – it was a really good one.

Paperback copy of the Birth of Korean Cool

The book’s subtitle is “How one nation is conquering the world through pop culture” and that is exactly what the book sets out to prove – and it makes a compelling arguement.  Euny Hong moved to South Korea in 1985 when her father got a job at a South Korean university.  He and her mother had left 20 years previously to go to graduate school and, like many of their contemporaries had never gone back.  The South Korean government was trying to get them back as they worked on their plan to transform the country from a third world military dictatorship into a first world democracy.  Euny grew up as South Korea remade itself – on a scale that I really hadn’t quite comprehended.

Across chapters on schooling, han, kimchi, K-Pop, K-Drama and more, Hong looks at all the work and planning that went in behind the scenes and the (relatively) long game masterplan from the South Korean government to transform itself from the inside out.  First published in 2014, some of the details in this about the relationship with North Korea have obviously dated a little, but that is not the main focus of the book and doesn’t affect the central thesis so it didn’t cause me any problems.  I was staggered at the lengths and the risks and the investment that the government went to – I can’t imagine the British government doing anything similar – let alone the American one.  But it paid off – it is paying off – and now armed with all the information and background from this book I’ll be watching more closely to see how the Korean revolution continues to unfold.  I’m not a big pop music listener, but the Korean revolution has even got to me – I’ve been buying some Korean beauty products for a couple of years!

I got my copy secondhand because it seems to be out of print in the UK, so if you want a physical copy that may be your only option – unless you have an amazon.com account where they still seem to have stock.  It is available on Kindle and Kobo though – but it’s £9.99 at time of writing, so you might want to add it to your watch list and see if there’s any variation going on.  I’m off to try and find some K-pop playlists so I can match up the names in the book with some songs.

Happy reading!

books, stats

May Stats

New books read this month:  34*

Books from the to-read pile: 6

Ebooks read: 27

Books from the Library book pile: 1

Non-fiction books: 1

#ReadHarder categories completed: 7

Pop Sugar categories completed: 12

Most read author: Sue Grafton – four more from the Kinsey Milhone series! (Colin Watson close behind though with three more Flaxborough books)

Books read this year:  157

Books bought:  11 (6 books and 5 ebooks)

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 561 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics (3 this month)

Book of the Week, reviews, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Clean

Taking a break from the run of romance novels as Books of the Week to go for something completely different: Juno Dawson’s new YA novel Clean.  There were a couple of strong contenders for BotW, but this blew me away when I read it.  You will be hearing more of some of the other books from last week though – there’s one on there that’s not out in the UK yet that’s definitely going on one of my summer reading list posts at the very least.

Cover of CLEAN by Juno Dawson

Clean is the story of Lexi Volkov, the socialite daughter of a Russian hotel millionaire who definitely isn’t hooked on hard drugs and really doesn’t need to be in rehab.  Or at least that’s what she’d thinks.  She’s been checked into an exclusive treatment centre by her brother after nearly overdosing and the book follows her as she works her way through her treatment.  This is a Young Adult book, but it is dealing with a properly adult subject matter and in a very upfront way and realistic way.  I think this is one for the older end of the YA market – probably over 14 – maybe a bit older – although I was definitely reading stuff like this by GCSE sort of stage.  I found this so readable that I wanted to keep going – but had to take a break or two because it is a lot to take in and deal with.

Lexi is a brilliant character – at the start she is very abrasive and incredibly hard to like – and that’s by design I think.  It’s her addictions and the selfishness of the addict speaking rather than her real personality.  I only really started to like her about two thirds of the way through – may be later – and started really wanting her to succeed but even then she had her moments.  The book is also packed with interesting characters and great representation.  I don’t have any experience of inpatient treatment, but the book felt like was based on fact and reality – even if sometimes I wondered if there shouldn’t be some more staff around.  But then a bit of artistic licence is definitely allowable, and anyway as I’ve said – I don’t know anything about the reality of an expensive private rehab facility. I did have a few other minor quibbles and thought the ending was really clever – but I can’t say much more about any of that without spoiling things and breaking my rules about that sort of thing.

What I will say though is that this probably needs a trigger warning for pretty much everything – and not just for the drug taking and drug addiction.  As I said earlier, it’s definitely for the older end of the YA market, and I needed to take breaks while reading this.  But then as I’m a massive wimp who often doesn’t read books like this because they’re too dark for me, that’s probably not surprising.

I got my copy of Clean via NetGalley, but it’s out now and available in all the usual formats – Kindle and Kobo (and only £2.99 at time of writing) as well as paperback from all the usual sources.  I’d also expect to be able to find this fairly easily in an actual bookshop and may be even the supermarkets..  I’ve got another of Dawson’s earlier YA books sitting on the TBR shelf along with her non-fiction adult book The Gender Games and this has made me thing that I really need to get to them sooner rather than later.

books, stats

April Stats

New books read this month:  39*

Books from the to-read pile: 7

Ebooks read: 30

Books from the Library book pile: 1

Non-fiction books: 5

#ReadHarder categories completed: 7

Pop Sugar categories completed: 12

Most read author: Sue Grafton – the first SEVEN books of the Kinsey Milhone series!

Books read this year:  129

Books bought:  2 books and  13 ebooks (1 book preorder, 3 ebook preorders)

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 566 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics (3 this month)

books, stats

March Stats

New books read this month: 28 *

Books from the to-read pile: 11

Ebooks read: 17

Books from the Library book pile: 0

Non-fiction books: 4

#ReadHarder categories completed: 4

Pop Sugar categories completed: 9

Most read author: Ben Aaronovitch (one novella and one comic)

Books read this year: 90

Books bought: 5 – 2 books and 3 ebooks

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 536 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics (2 this month)

books, stats

February Stats

 

New books read this month: 28*

Books from the to-read pile: 11

Ebooks read: 16

Books from the Library book pile: 1

Non-fiction books: 3

#ReadHarder categories completed: 3

Pop Sugar categories completed: 3

Most read author: Dorita Fairley Bruce, Tamsen Parker and Colin Watson (2 books each)

Books read this year: 62

Books bought: 9 ebooks and 5 books

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 521 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics (0 this month)

books, stats

January Stats

Another January, another slightly tweeked Stats post – this time to add in the second reading challenge I’m doing this year.

New books read this month: 33*

Books from the to-read pile: 18

Ebooks read: 14

Books from the Library book pile: 1

Non-fiction books: 4

#ReadHarder categories completed: 3

Pop Sugar categories completed: 2

Most read author: Angela Brazil

Books read this year: 33

Books bought: 5 – 4 ebooks and 1 book

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 515 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics (6 this month)