Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun
Publisher/Year: Riverhead, 2008
What it is: Set in the 1980s, a Korean immigrant named Joon is growing up in the Bronx. After her parents’ marriage falls apart and her father leaves, Joon’s mother falls into a deep depression exacerbated by mental illness. A young Joon is left to fend for herself, and at the age of thirteen she ultimately runs away to escape the fraught relationship she has with her mother. The book is told in fragments that chronicle many of her hardships over the next few years.
Why I read it: Find out here!
What I thought: First off, one of my roommates in grad school was a Korean named Joon, so I kept thinking about her even though she has no similarities to the book’s Joon! I miss her. Anyway. I loved this book. I didn’t know much about it when I first picked it up, but I was quickly swept away by Mun’s raw prose. It’s a small book (literally — the spine is like seven inches long and the font is nice and roomy), but the impact is powerful stuff. It’s tense and heartbreaking and unflinching in its realism. I’m happy I discovered this author.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Publisher/Year: Random House Audio, 2011
Length: 13 hours, 39 minutes
Narrated by: Jim Dale
What it is: Le Cirque des Rêves appears unannounced from one day to the next. It’s closed all day and open all night, and audiences are drawn to the unique performances that seem like pure magic. Two magicians are using the circus as their stage for a magic competition that they were each bound to as children, but neither competitor knows exactly what the competition entails; everything gets further complicated when the two magicians fall in love with each other.
Why I read it: I succumbed to the hype.
What I thought: Meh. I think part of that meh is that the audiobook narrator was miscast (even though he’s really, really talented); not to sound ageist, but he sounded too old for this particular narrative and its mostly-youthful characters. But a lot of that meh is the last half of the book; the first half builds an interesting story, but by the end I was going, “is that it?” I do have to hand it to Morgenstern, though: her imagery is amazing. I wasn’t terribly wowed by the book, but I can’t wait to see the visuals they create in the film adaptation. (I just said some sacrilege, I know. Sorry.)