Book Review — The Spark by David Drake

The Spark
The Spark and Ulysses were this month’s TBR jar picks!

So I received The Spark in a Page Habit box a few months ago and it was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.

David Drake was born in 1945, he’s a Vietnam War veteran and he’s known for being a major author in the military science fiction genre. The Spark is the first book that I read by Drake and I really enjoyed it!

The Spark is a take on an Arthurian legend, if you are familiar with the tale, you’ll see plenty of parallels, but the differences are what really caught my attention. First is the world where this story takes place. It is a world that has many towns and cities connected by a Road. The world is divided into Here and Not Here, two sort of parallel universes that connect or overlap in certain places, one of them being this Road that connects everything. There are artifacts from the Ancients (which seem to be today’s world since there are references to umbrellas, projectors, and weapons) that only certain people are able to fix and make work again, these people are called Makers.

“Since I’d come away from Beune, everything I’d seen was people in pyramids, somebody at the top and everybody else scrambling to get on top instead. Or at least to get off the bottom” — Pal

So, Pal is our main character, he’s a young man from a small town that’s not exactly governed by the Commonwealth but Pal’s dream is to become a Champion of Humanity (Pal’s also a Maker!). The Champions are selected at Dun Add, a city where King Jon rules the Commonwealth. The story begins as Pal arrives at Dun Add after traveling through the Road with the help of his dog Buck (people can’t see well in the Road and must see through the eyes of their animal companions in order to travel safely).

Truthfully, the part that I was dreading the most was that of the romance. Of course there must be a maiden in distress that needs saving! However, even though there was a woman who needed help finding her sister, there was no romantic love there! Even the one who might be Pal’s main love interest is not even considered so by him until perhaps the end of the novel. I liked this because it wasn’t the usual “Oh, they saw each other for the first time and now they are in love and will get married tomorrow after they slay the dragon” deal. Women are portrayed as individuals with purpose and their own dreams and desires. They aren’t always nice and pretty and princess-like, they are raw and real and troublesome too.

Then there was the violence. There are certainly deaths and some gory parts that stand out in my mind even days after reading them. Drake is really good at describing the battles and the fighting, he gives us enough detail to know what’s happening but not too much that we are overwhelmed.

“You can’t spend all the time thinking about how to stay safe and still live what I’d call a life” — Pal

So all in all, this book had a variety of interesting characters, three different adventures all rolled into one, and it was entertaining!

I don’t know if I’ll like other books by David Drake, but I now know that he can tell a story without going for the usual tropes and cliches that one tends to find in this genre. If I come across another of his books, I’ll likely give it a try.

Have you read any of Drake’s books? Which one should I read next?

February Book Bites

February was a slow reading month, but I did enjoy the three books I got to read! There were some pretty memorable bites as well. Lets take a look:

IMG_20180301_201140692.jpgFirst I read An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. This book is a science fiction novel that I acquired through the Page Habit subscription box for the month of October of last year. Solomon takes us on a trip on the HSS Matilda, a spaceship that has been traveling towards the Promised Land. People have left their world to go on this ship because their planet was dying. Now, they are separated by class and gender and are trying to survive the trip to this Promised Land when things start to go wrong. You can read a full review here.

  • Favorite Bite:

“Chemicals plus chemicals makes magic” — Aster

  • Perspective Rating: 9/10 I loved that we got a very original point of view, even if at times I didn’t fully connect with it I believe that it’s very valuable.
  • Emotional Rating: 5/10 I really wish I could have connected with the main character more. But every time that there was an emotional scene, she would change the topic. Even though I understand that it’s her own personality, for me it was very frustrating.
  • Bites Rating: 7/10 It had some great and poetic parts, but it wasn’t as much as it could have been.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 I really enjoyed this book, but it left me wanting more from the other character’s points of view. I will look for more books from Rivers Solomon for sure.

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I stayed on the science fiction track and read Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. When I bought this book it was purely because of the cover but when I learned that it involved women scientists going into a strange place called Area X, I was even more intrigued. The story is actually slower than I expected, told from the point of view of the Biologist, who is also an unreliable narrator. It’s very slow for the first 100 pages or so and then it picks up near the end. I’m working on a post where I compare the novel to the movie adaptation so that should be posted in the next few days.

  • Favorite Bite:

    “We were neither what we had been nor what we would become once we reached our destination” — The Biologist

  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 It’s hard with this one because even though it is an interesting perspective, of a scientist who looks at things very pragmatically, there was little depth. I wanted to be able to go deeper into some of her insights but that was masked by the way that the story was told.
  • Emotional Rating: 6/10 It was very hard to empathize with the main character when she was so dull and unreliable most of the time. Near the end things got better in this sense but it was still lacking for me.
  • Bites Rating: 4/10 There were some pretty passages but not very often.
  • Overall Rating: 5.66/10 Yikes! I’m telling you that it was slow! That was my main issue, even though the psychological thriller is there, it got boring so that wasn’t good. I am still curious about the next installment of the trilogy so I’ll probably read that if I come across it.

IMG_20180301_201108753.jpgFinally I read Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett, another installment of the Discworld series. This was such a great book! It’s a take on Macbeth from the point of view of the witches, and it references quite a few other Shakespeare plays. This one is a tad more bloody than others, as well as more cheeky at times. The characters we follow are Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat. Pratchett manages a very clever novel full of interesting characters, from a violent cat to Death itself, and Hwel, a dwarf with all the inspiration to write plays like no one has seen before. Simply fantastic.

  • Favorite Bite:

    “It is true that words have power, and one of the things they are able to do is get out of someone’s mouth before the speaker has the chance to stop them” –Wyrd Sisters

  • Perspective Rating: 8/10 Pratchett has the ability to place you in someone else’s shoes without you really realizing that it’s happening. Here we get a few different perspectives on the aspect of destiny and fate. It’s inspiring and eye opening while making you laugh at life for a bit
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 I didn’t connect too much to the characters but when Death showed up I was just over the moon! I also love Greebo, the cat, and Hwel, a writer who really is a slave to the words.
  • Bites Rating: 8/10 It had many great quotations, but not all over the book.
  • Overall Rating: 7.66 Another great Discworld installment, I can’t wait for the next one! 😀

One thing that these three books had in common was the nature of, well, nature. Nature as a sentient being that can revolt on the humans when they decide to ignore it completely. Nature as a group of beings that evolve so that they can survive the harm being done to them by humans. Or lack of Nature and the effect that it has on humans. Each of these books teaches us to appreciate and take care of all living beings, be they animal, plant, or human. I loved these books for this message and for how they all seemed to group together to make that message seem even louder.

And so, even though this month was a tad slow, it was still a good month of reading. I am still reading Equiano: The African but I am taking my time because it deserves to be read a bit more closely. I am learning so many things about slavery and the world in the 1700s! Hopefully by next month I’ll be able to include it in the wrap up. I’m also still reading The Goldfinch with the book club and that will also be done by next month’s wrap up.

I read 3 books, didn’t buy any books, so I’m down to 100 books left in my TBR! XD

How did your reading go in February? What was your favorite book of the month?

Book Review — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

“It was a house that turned from the world and cast its gaze inward, a house whose women believed the very walls listened for sin, a house where we whispered the truth or didn’t speak at all” — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik.

Jasmin Darznik is an author who tells us the story of Forugh Farrokhzad, a woman who lived from 1934 to 1967 in Iran, a place where women didn’t have the freedom to pursue a life outside of marriage and who had to comply to what their culture and society deemed right. Forugh’s life was hard from the beginning as she grew up in a very strict household and which only got harder as she began to discover her love of writing. Forugh was a poet who expressed feelings that women had about their sexuality, their feelings, and their way of life. She broke barriers and eventually became a filmmaker who mixed her poetry with film and created a powerful message about people who had been cast aside without a second thought.

Darznik manages to tell us Forugh’s story through this novel that, although it is not 100% faithful to truth, it does tell us what it would have been like to feel what Forugh went through. This story then lets the reader into the world of women in Iran, from Forugh’s youth, to her untimely death.

The writing is beautiful:

“We were driven by forces we didn’t understand, moving toward a destination we couldn’t see”

There are so many messages to inspire, to make one think about our own society, about our own beliefs:

“The Golshiri men were learned aristocrats who spent their days in leisurely contemplation, but it was his mother, a woman unable to write even her name, who’d shaped his education”

Then there’s also the importance of telling our own stories, because our own stories can inspire others to break barriers and inspiring others in turn:

“And yet I’d never heard of a woman surviving away from her family, without a father or husband to protect her. It wasn’t just beyond hoping; it was beyond imagining.”

How important is it to view yourself in the stories you read? Do you identify with the main characters in your favorite books? Is your story told within the pages of books?

Forugh’s story inspires me to tell my story, to inspire others, and to become at least a bit like Forugh by standing up for what I believe in, and not allowing people’s expectations to keep me from doing what I love.

Needless to say, Jasmin Darznik touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined through Forugh’s life story. I hope to read more of Darznik’s writing and also to read Forugh’s own poetry and watch her film to see what she saw, if only for a few minutes.

 

January Book Bites

Hello everyone!

At the end of each month, I will update you on a few things, which books I read, the ratings for each, link to their reviews (if any), updates on challenges, prominent themes, and the best bites (quotations) for the month. Let’s take a look!

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The month started with a book from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series: Mort. It was a great way to start the month since it’s always fun to read Terry’s work. However, it also became a bit emotional since I kept remembering that Terry is no longer with us…

Mort takes us on an adventure with the anthropomorphic representation of Death and his brand new apprentice, Mort. I simply loved this installment and look forward to reading more of Death & company’s adventures

  • Favorite bite:

“‘WHAT IS IT CALLED WHEN YOU FEEL WARM AND CONTENT AND WISH THINGS WOULD STAY THAT WAY?’
‘I guess you’d call it happiness’ said Harga.” –Mort by Terry Pratchett

  • Perspective rating: 8/10 We get an amazing perspective of life from Death’s point of view. It certainly paints life in a new light!
  • Emotional rating: 8/10 I personally felt close to this book because of Terry and his death not too long ago. The isolation that Death feels also got to me…
  • Bites rating: 7/10 Although it has some really good quotations, I didn’t find myself annotating it all over the place.
  • Overall rating: 7.66/10 A great book overall and a good starting point in the Death books in the Discworld series.

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Then I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, which was a great book, with excellent writing and a very unique perspective I had not encountered before. We get inside the mind of a patient in a mental hospital in the 1960s as he is under various treatments (drugs, electroshock, etc). You can read more about the book and my comparison to the movie here.

This was the first book I read from my TBR jar and I was very happy with this selection!

  • Favorite bite:

    “All I know is this: nobody’s very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down” — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

  • Perspective rating: 9/10 The perspective from a person with mental health issues is priceless. It’s incredibly well written, which makes the experience that much more immersive.
  • Emotional rating: 6/10 I didn’t become too emotionally invested in the story or the characters, but it was heartbreaking to see what did happen to patients back in the 60s that ended up in mental hospitals with no proper regulations.
  • Bites rating: 8/10 I annotated quite a bit and there were quite a few quotations that left me thinking for a while…
  • Overall rating: 7.66/10 Another excellent book that could have used a bit more emotional connection with the rest of the characters and the overall story. Either way, a great book.

IMG_20180131_182300284The third book I read was Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich (you can read a full review here) and it was simply amazing! This was the first book for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge to read a book by a Native American author. This book tells the story of five women who have been married to the same man. These women meet at a crucial point in their lives and start to tell their stories surrounding their husband.

  • Favorite Bite:

“It was like that now, in the space around us — the emotional messages flew so thick and fast I couldn’t read them as the whizzed by and my brain felt pricked, torn by the hooks of question marks and darts of commas.” — Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich

  • Perspective rating: 10/10 One of the main points of this novel is perspective, how do different people see one person and their role in their lives? Who is that person if not the accumulation of the perspectives of everyone who knows them? It’s one that definitely leaves you thinking.
  • Emotional rating: 9/10 This novel takes you on a roller coaster of emotions, from despair, broken hearts, love, passion, lust, and hate. However, it remains impersonal so that the perspective changes aren’t too jarring so that takes the one point away from this rating.
  • Bites rating: 10/10 I’ve written, highlighted, and even drawn on some of the pages in this book! It’s got bites that I can go back to and savor that part of the novel in an instant. Delightful!
  • Overall rating: 9.66/10 Erdrich easily became a new favorite! This book is just the beginning in my journey through her novels and I can’t wait to explore more!

January 22, 2018 at 01:17AM.jpgSong of a Captive Bird by Jazmin Darznik was the fourth book I finished this month and wow! Darznik tells the story of Forugh Farrokhzad, a poet from Iran who became an inspiration for generations to come as she broke barriers set by her society, at the same time as Ken Kesey’s patients were trying to overcome the Big Nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (talk about perspective!). This was the second book I read for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge and the full review is here.

  • Favorite Bite:

“‘More words to sharpen your tongue and keep away any husband who’d have you!’ [Forugh’s mother said].
She was right in her way, because it was my preference for books and for the world inside my head that left me so incapable of accepting the usual and the ordinary.” — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

  • Perspective rating: 10/10 Yes! Another perfect perspective rating because Forugh’s life sheds light on a perspective I never imagined that I could know about the life of a woman in Iran as she breaks stereotypes and becomes a successful poet and filmmaker. Not only that but a woman who goes through hardship like nothing I could ever imagine (mental hospital, jail, divorce, affairs, etc).
  • Emotional rating: 10/10 I connected with the main character in ways I can’t even explain, her fears were mine, her worries were mine, the hopes and dreams were my own. I hoped the best for her and, even though she dies young, I was happy that her legacy is strong and lives with many women in Iran and all over the world.
  • Bites rating: 10/10 I was only disappointed that the copy I have is in kindle format so I couldn’t actually highlight and draw hearts and tears all over the margins. (I acquired this copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review). I will definitely be buying it so I can reread it and properly annotate it once it comes out!
  • Overall rating: 10/10! Perfect score for a perfect book in my opinion. I loved everything about this book and I can’t wait to read the final version.

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The last book I read was The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, which was set in Tel Aviv and tells the story of a renowned surgeon whose life gets turned upside down when his wife dies at a suicide bombing attack. The most shocking thing for him is that his wife is the one blamed for being the suicide bomber and so we take the journey with him as he goes to figure out if his wife did commit such an atrocity, or if his wife is just another victim of the attack. A difficult book to read but one that gave me plenty to think about so it is valuable in that sense. This was the third and final book for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge.

Favorite Bite:

“‘One should always look at the sea. It’s a mirror that can’t lie. Among other things, looking at it has taught me to stop looking behind me. Before, every time I looked over my shoulder, I found my old sorrows and my old ghosts, still intact. They were preventing me from regaining my taste for living. Do you understand what I mean? They were spoiling my chances of rising from my ashes'” — The Attack by Yasmina Khadra

Perspective rating: 7/10 While the perspective was very unique, I felt like it was unfair that we din’t get to hear straight from the woman who is the one who is at the center of this story. We got to hear from every man around her, how she affected their lives, but nothing from her at all. I wish we could have heard this story from her own point of view.

Emotional rating: 8/10 While emotions ran high while I read this book, it wasn’t in a good way, I found myself stressed and anxious. So, it is effective in what it is set out to do, to put the reader in a most difficult perspective with many moral questions and introspective meanderings.

Bites rating: 6/10 The thing that I wished with this book was that it was better translated. This book is translated from French and sometimes the language seems forced in order to make it seem more adorned than it needs to be. At times we end up with beautiful language, but that’s at moments when simplicity would have worked best.

Overall rating: 7/10 A good book that could have benefited from a better translation, will probably not look for more books in this subject for a while though…

What a month! An emotional roller coaster through mental hospitals and war torn countries as I followed strong women and men in search of happiness and just a bit of hope.

There is one more book that I drew from my TBR and I Did Not Finish it… After The Attack I just couldn’t handle Sanctuary by William Faulkner, a story about a kidnapping and rape of a woman. The language was violent and quite gross so I decided that I will draw two new books for next month and I’ll put back Sanctuary for another month.

I read 5 books from my TBR and I only bought one new book so now I only have 103 books left to read! XD

How was your reading month? Have you read any of the books listed here? What was your favorite read this month?

 

Book Review — Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich

“My prayer is a tale of burning love”–Sister Leopolda

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I’ve finished Tales of Burning Love, as part of the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge, and it was an excellent read! This book has plenty of layers, perspectives, and delightful bites.

Tales of Burning love is the fourth installment of Louise Erdrich‘s “multi-generational epic on the long-lasting effects of colonialism on Ojibwe peoples and communities”, as stated on Goodreads.

The plot of the book is centered around Jack Mauser and his wives. We start the novel with Jack and his first wife, June Morrisey, a relationship that lasts only a day and ends with June’s death. The novel then jumps to a few decades later when Jack is now newly married to Dot Nanapush, his accountant, who has no idea that he has been married before. As the novel goes on we meet Eleanor Schlick, Jack’s second wife, a literature professor and writer, Jack’s third wife Candace Pantamounty, a dentist, and Jack’s fourth wife Marlis Cook, a cunning woman who Jack didn’t quite like at the beginning and for good reasons. The novel jumps back and forth between his wives and what they are doing in the present, and Jack’s life with his new wife. However, the climax of this novel comes when all four wives end up trapped in a snowstorm and are forced to keep each other awake so as to stay alive. In this way we get their points of view on Jack, how they met him, and what kind of a man he was to them.

It’s incredibly interesting how Erdrich manages to have an omniscient narrator and have each character also as an independent narrator as each tells their own story. The personalities of each character really shine through in Erdrich’s writing. For example:

“All I had to do was make myself available because I knew from his look, from his approach, from the way he had walked toward me down the aisle of glass, that he could be interested in me. I knew.” –Eleanor Schlick

“I developed hopes from this. We might bond on the trip. He might fall in love with me for real and ever. I’d melt him, warm him, fill him with cheese sandwiches and heat him up with thermos coffee” — Candice Pantamounty

Jack Mauser is described by each of the women in particular ways, and this made me think of how each of us is seen differently by every person that we meet or know. The perspective of us from each member of our family is different, not to mention the perspectives of the people that we have other meaningful relationships with. Each person sees us in different time frames, in our childhood, as we grow into adolescence and into adulthood. I am so curious as to how different people in my life see me, as well as how the one perspective I have on the people I know is different from others. It’s just mind-blowing!

The title of the book, Tales of Burning Love, is echoed throughout the book with the language that Erdrich uses. She often gives us the imagery of fire or heat, both literal and figurative. There are many instances where the characters are saved or doomed by fire, just as they are by love and desire. The idea that love is fire, it can warm you and protect you, save you, but also burn you and even kill you, is thoroughly explored in this book. In that sense, it is not just romantic love, there’s also the idea of familial love that can be a safety net or a dangerous fire one must keep at bay. She says:

“Love — which the young expect, the middle-aged fear or wrestle with or find unbearable or clutch to death — those content in their age, finally, cherish with pained gratitude”

Although this book talks about love and relationships, I’m not sure that “romantic” would be the best way to describe it. The characters are driven by this love, but it’s not sweet or nice most times, it is driven by lust, by power, by money, and by revenge. Love is complex and dynamic, and this novel explores this theme with beautiful writing and complex characters.

There are a few other themes throughout the book, such as religion and spirituality, gender equality, sexuality, the opportunities that Native American people have in this country, their rights and their culture. If you are interested in any of these topics do read this book because it will give you a very unique point of view.

I leave you with my favorite image from this book, one that I wish I could transport myself to every time I read:

“One night, in a moon drift, the late August air billowing and succulent, in the lush scents of turned dirt and growing plants and ancient skunk musk and the sweet pink rugosa roses, the screen door unlatched, Eleanor read in a pool of lamplight by the citronella candle.”

Final rating: 5/5 stars

Bites that inspire — Solidified light

Some bites of books trigger inspiration to write. When I read Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood two years ago I came across the following bite that sparked the short story below. I’ve been tinkering with it since then and I like how it is now. I hope you enjoy it!

“The body is pure energy, solidified light.”
–Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood–


Purple and neon lights flashed inside the club, scintillating and glittering as if they were the music itself enveloping her. Her silver hair reflected the light as she stood in the middle of the empty dance floor. She swayed to the music, to a beat from long ago.

“How long has she been like this?” the policeman asked the woman at the bar.

“Since I came in an hour ago, she broke in through the back, broke the glass and let herself in. She turned on the music and the lights, I just found her like you see here there, not sure at what time she broke in.”

The music stopped, the lights froze.

“Okay lady, time for you to go back home. What’s your name? Where do you live?” The policeman said as he approached the woman who had not stopped swaying, she wrapped her arms around herself, one across her chest, another across her waist. She smiled softly as she swayed, as if the music were still holding her to the movement.

“Ma’am, my name is Curtis, what’s your name?” Curtis said softly, placing his hand on her shoulder.

She stopped slowly and opened her eyes as if waking from a dream. “What?”

“What’s your name?” Curtis asked again.

“It’s Leonore young man, nice meeting you. I’ll just head home now.” Leonore sighed, looking around once and heading towards the front door of the club.

“Wait! Hey lady! Who’s gonna pay for the door?!” the young woman exclaimed, looking from the policeman to the woman.

But the woman was already on her way out the door and as soon as the young woman and the policeman walked outside into the afternoon sun, she was gone.

Leonore opened the front door to the house, stepped in and placed her keys on a conch by the phone near the door. She walked down the hallway and opened the first door on the left which led into the library. The walls were lined with books, around the desk were more books organized in neat piles. She sat behind the desk, took a large book from one of the piles and opened it. Inside were lists dating back years. She wrote down:

“August 16, 2070
ºSend payment to club — door”

She closed the book, sighed and took the next book in the pile, larger than the last. It was filled with ticket stubs from museums, movies, and buses. There were some pressed flowers and a napkin from a club could be seen sticking out. She got to a page that was half full, no longer with stubs but small notes. The last three read:

“Went to the park, watched sunset holding your hand”

“Took a trip to the zoo, ate curly fries and fed the ducks. We laughed so much”

“Went to our favourite restaurant, still can’t finish the lasagna without your help”

She took a pen and wrote:

“Broke into our favorite jazz club, we danced all night, it was hard to find the rhythm without you”

She looked at the book, smiled, and closed it slowly; she sat back and watched as the sunlight poured through the window.


Happy Saturday everyone! 🙂

Best 7 books of 2017

Hello all!

As 2017 has now ended, I’d like to list the best 7 books I read in 2017!

First, some stats:

  • I read 72 books and DNFd 2 books*
  • I read more than 2100 pages! O.O!
  • 26 of the books I read were written by women (~37%)
  • 12 of the books I read were written by people of color (~16%)

Now let’s get on with the books!

#7. Moloka’i by Alan BrennertScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 20.40.58

Moloka’i was a beautiful book that I read at the beginning of the year. It was recommended by my good friend Romy over at The Footnote and I immediately agreed to read it because I remembered the joy and heartbreak in her eyes as she read the first chapters of the book. So yes, this book will break your heart and it will show you a side of Hawaii that you might not have considered before.

Essentially it is a story about a girl who is sent to live in the island of Moloka’i where all the lepers are sent to live until they die from the disease. Moloka’i really was used for this purpose so the story told here is one that probably did happen to many people in the past.

“She already felt dead in everything but name. What remained to be taken from her? She longed to be enfolded, welcomed, into the earth – to breathe no more, love no more, hurt no more”
— Moloka’i by Alan Brennert —

#6. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

IMG_20171231_212110811.jpg John Steinbeck is definitely one of my favorite writers. I must thank my boss from when I worked in the mailroom in college because she gave me three boxes full of classic books, including all the works by John Steinbeck. I’ve read a few of his works and The Winter of Our Discontent did not disappoint at all.

We follow a man who finds himself at a moment in his life where he could continue as he is and be okay in terms of money, his family, and his job. But an opportunity arises where his life could become more interesting, he could get quite a bit of money in return, and therefore bring his family into another level of comfort. However, this opportunity is not exactly aligned with his values and really make him question who he is and what he believes.

I loved this book also because it portrays mental health in a way few classics do so. The idea that our decisions will not just create consequences in physical or monetary ways, but also to our mental health. What about does decisions that we have anxiety about, or those that later on cause us to fall into despair? That introspective is thoroughly explored in this novel and that’s one of the main reasons I loved this book.

“When a condition or a problem becomes too great, humans have the protection of not thinking about it. But it goes inward and minces up with a lot of other things already there and what comes out is discontent and uneasiness, guilt and a compulsion to get something–anything–before it is all gone.”
— The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck —

#5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 21.15.15Homegoing was the second book we read when my boyfriend and I joined a book club in Mexico City. I was very excited for it because it would be the first book I would read by a Ghanaian author. This book provided a new perspective on the enslavement of people in Africa, their journey to the United States, and the journeys of the following generations. It’s an ambitious book that delivers small stories that form the epic tale of the generations that follow two half-sisters, one who is married to an Englishman in charge of sending slaves to the Americas, and the other who is a slave sent to the United States.

It’s a book full of hardships and sorrow but also full of hope and bravery. Men and women who strive to do the right thing even when everything goes against them, and the horrible ways in which their culture was obliterated by men and women who thought they were superior based on the color of their skin. I highly recommend this book because it extends the landscape of slavery and the ways that it has permeated our society, not only in all the places where it existed, but also through time itself.

“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
–Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi–

#4. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

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There are books that are so emotionally charged that I don’t know what to do with myself for days afterwards. Goodbye Days was one of those books.

This book is about a teenage boy who sends a text message to his best friends around the time when they get into a car accident that ends up killing them. It’s a book about grief, mental health, friendship, and family. It’s about forgiveness and doing the right thing even when you would rather run in the opposite direction as fast as you can.

Zentner has the amazing ability to describe the environment, a park, a bench, a house incredibly well. But he can also describe things such as music, synesthesia, complex emotions, and grief, in a way that you can almost feel it yourself. Just with that in mind it’s a book that guarantees an amazing journey.

Be prepared for tears and laughs and the desire to never again text people you love when you suspect that they might be driving. Hug your friends and keep them safe!

“For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”
— Goodbye Days, Jeff Zentner —

#3. It by Stephen King

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As you can see from the picture, It by Stephen King is a very big book. It was a gift from my boyfriend and it was the first Stephen King book I read. This makes the top three simply because I am incredibly impressed with how cohesive and well-planned this book was. The book starts off with our main characters as kids but it transitions to them as adults throughout the book. We also get glimpses of other times in the town of Derry that seem to be irrelevant but then turn out to be central to the problem that our main characters face. The mythology behind the book is subtle and yet it’s quite clear what the intention is for each of the supernatural elements that we encounter. Yes, the book is scary in some parts, and some elements will creep into your dreams or might scare you subconsciously when you least expect it (I ended up being slightly afraid of balloons for a few weeks…).

So even though the book is a horror book it is also about friendship and love, about believing in yourself because you are brave enough thanks to the friends that surround you and will always have your back. It’s about realizing that even though you are only one person, you can make a difference.

“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that’s what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.”
–It, Stephen King–

#2. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

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Good Omens get spot number 2 because it was so good in so many ways! First of all, we get two amazing authors, Pratchett and Gaiman, who are both hilarious and witty. Then we have the plot, which is that the apocalypse is just around the corner, and the antichrist is nowhere to be found. The characters are so rich and complex that you feel like you’ve known them your whole life within just a few pages. Add to that the mythology of the apocalypse and all that comes with it: the four horsemen, the angels and demons, the humans, the witches, and the aliens (of course!).

This book is full of social commentary (as all of Pratchett’s and Gaiman’s books usually are) and it makes you think about the things that we as a society place importance upon. That is, religion, politics, borders, money, status, careers, the planet, friends, family, ourselves. Perhaps there is something within our priorities that perhaps isn’t that important and which should be replaced with something that should be prioritized just a bit more. Good Omens lets us take a hard look at ourselves through a journey full of fun twists, mysteries, and laughs.

“Anyway, if you stop tellin’ people it’s all sorted out afer they’re dead, they might try sorting it all out while they’re alive. ”
–Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman–

#1. The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh

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Number one goes to The Locust and The Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh! Al-Shaykh is from Lebanon and in this book she tells her mother’s memoir. Her mother, Kamila, lived in Lebanon at a time when she was not allowed to learn how to read and had to obey what the men in her family thought was best for her.

I loved this book because even though I read it back in July, I find myself still thinking about it. In part because it mirrors what my mother lived when she moved to the United States, not being able to read, write, or speak english is a disadvantage that she still deals with even today (she’s learned some but she’s still anxious whenever she is in a situation where she must speak english). I can see my mother’s story in many parts of this book, the misunderstandings that came about with the rest of our family and myself when she came to the United States and was far away from us mirrors that of Al-Shaykh’s uncertainty at the beginning on whether her mother’s story was actually interesting enough to write about.

I loved this book because it resonated with me in ways no other book has and I feel like it helped me understand my mother in ways I couldn’t before.

“I was never so desperate to read and write as I am now, if for no other reason but to write my story. Let me tell you how it hurts when a piece of wood and a piece of lead defeat me.”
–Kamila in The Locust and the Bird, Hanan Al-Shaykh–


So there you have it! Those were the best 7 books I read in 2017!

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2018, I hope to increase the number of books by POC authors I read and to expand my perspectives as much as possible.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them, or if there’s one that you really want to read now.

Happy New Year and happy reading everyone!

*As for the two books I DNFd (Did not finish), they were Rayuela by Julio Cortázar and Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski. Both had the same problem, they were gimmicky to me, exploring a very strange structure (going from chapter 4 to chapter 72 and so on, or reading the book from both ends), which didn’t provide anything to the actual plot (if there was one…), and which ended up confusing me so much to the point of being too frustrated to care about what would happen in the book anymore. Rayuela lasted about 100 pages while I got to the half way point of Only Revolutions before putting it down. I don’t recommend them but if you are adventurous and want to try unusual book structures then do check them out.