March & April Book Bites

Gosh it’s been a month since I’ve written here, so, sorry about that! I simply didn’t get around to writing so now I’ll be combining March and April into one big update! Let’s go!

 

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March was a very interesting reading month. The first book I finished in March was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This book is incredibly popular since it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014. Sadly for me it was a huge letdown. The book is about Theo, a boy who loses his mother in a horrible explosion in a museum. It is a coming of age story in some ways, since we see the man he becomes, but also the way he developed (or not) after that tragic moment in his life. The best part for me was the role of the painting for which the novel is named: The Goldfinch. It is a small painting that Theo ends up connected to for the rest of his life. It is the thread that connects every part of the book, and also a beautiful metaphor for Theo’s life. Unfortunately, I felt like I didn’t gain much from this book, instead it made me feel hopeless and anguished, but with no actual lesson on how to make life better. I love books that give me perspective, but this one was a perspective that did not give me anything that I would want to hang on to. Simply disappointing…

  • Favorite Bite:

“Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch’s ankle, or think what a cruel life for a little living creature — fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place.”

  • Perspective Rating: 2/10 Yeah, didn’t gain much from the main perspectives provided…
  • Emotional Rating: 4/10 There were certainly very strong emotional moments that occurred mostly in the beginning of the book where Theo loses his mom and is completely lost that really got to me. But after that there was little connection to him or most of the characters.
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 Sure, I did highlight many phrases in the book because yes, the book is filled with beautiful imagery or interesting metaphors and symbols (mostly relating to the painting). But few of them were powerful (one of the few examples is mentioned above).
  • Overall Rating: 4/10. Yeah, not super impressed… It’s also a shame because the book is waaaaay too long! I feel like a few good editing sessions would have served that book well.

The Spark

Next I read The Spark by David Drake, which I reviewed here, and I really enjoyed it! It is about Pal, a young man who has lived his whole life in Beune and only dreams of going to Dun, the big city, to become a champion for the king. It is a take on an Arthurian legend, but with a very sci-fi world. I really enjoyed that the characters were complex, their intentions more than just power or love. The lack of cliches and stereotypes really took this book to another level for me as well! I will certainly look for more of Drake’s writing.

  • Favorite Bite:

“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.”

  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 This book doesn’t give a very original perspective but it didn’t give me enough to warrant a higher rating.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 There were definitely some emotional moments, I was able to connect to the characters and care about them but not much more than that.
  • Bites Rating: 5/10 There weren’t many passages to highlight, but it was fast-paced and
  • Overall Rating: 6.33/10 I really enjoyed this book! It was entertaining and it was filled with really interesting characters!

March 22, 2018 at 10:08AM.jpgThe next book I finished was a re-read of Ready Player one in preparation for watching the movie that came out. I knew that it wouldn’t be anywhere near the same as the book but I still wanted to go back to that world before watching the film.

So this novel is about Wade, a high school student who is obsessed with the OASIS, a virtual reality world. There’s no surprise there seeing how the real world is completely messed up, most people living in poverty and only a few in riches. All he wants is to be wealthy enough to get away from the planet that is rotting away. Thankfully there’s a game inside the OASIS, and if he wins the game and finds the easter egg within it, he’ll own the OASIS and he’ll be able to do whatever he wants with his life from then on. Definitely a great novel with much insight into the world of people who choose to live in virtual worlds more than in this real one.

  • Favorite Bite:

“I quickly lost track of time. I forgot that my avatar was sitting in Halliday’s bedroom and that, in reality, I was sitting in my hideout, huddled near the electric heater, tapping at the empty air in front of me, entering commands on an imaginary keyboard. All of the intervening layers slipped away, and I lost myself in the game within the game.”

  • Perspective Rating: 8/10 Definitely great to see the perspective of someone who is nerdy, a gamer, a loner, someone who isn’t super confident in real life but has a different persona in the virtual world.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 I connected with Wade in many levels, from his loneliness in the real life to his bravery in the OASIS ❤
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 I didn’t annotate this book very much, it was another one of those books that you just want to keep reading and there’s no time to pick up the pen to underline things XD (Not necessarily a bad thing!)
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 I really enjoyed this book, I can imagine myself rereading it multiple times in the years to come.

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Next I read one of the most amazing books I’ve read this year so far, “Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man” by Vincent Carretta. This is a non-fiction book for which I wrote the review here. Briefly, this book is about Equiano, a man who was a slave and was able to buy his own freedom and ultimately fought for the abolition of slavery in Britain. He was a man with incredible perspective, that of being a slave, a sailor in the British Navy, and a writer during a time when it was difficult to lead a life in any of these situations. It’s a beautifully researched book and one that gives one further appreciation of our lives today, and how far we still have to go.

  • Favorite Bite:

“The traditional definition of race as bloodline was increasingly replaced by the notion of race as species that became dominant in the nineteenth century. This “modern” concept of race, which was secondary during the early colonial American period, became primary.”

  • Perspective Rating: 10/10 Yes! So much perspective from this book, not just historical, also cultural, psychological, and social. The depth and breadth of this novel is extensive and it’s one you can definitely go back and dive deeper in various parts.
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 Gosh so much of this book was hard to read, the difficulties of living as a slave, the hardships endured while trying to buy his freedom, and the discrimination he encountered in places, or that he saw others endure while he was free, it all was definitely an emotional journey that was hard but worthwhile.
  • Bites Rating: 9/10 I was annotating left and right here! There were just a few chapters where I didn’t annotate, but there were so many facts and stories that blew me away and that I made sure to mark and tell people about those passages (too long to quote here).
  • Overall Rating: 9/10 This book is just so good, I recommend it to everyone because it teaches not only the story of a man, not only about history, it teaches about life and the prices some people have to pay to live it.

On to April!

April 03, 2018 at 01:58PM.jpgIn April I read the first installment of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King and I really enjoyed it! I wasn’t sure if I’d love it and I don’t think I do but it certainly got me thinking.  The Gunslinger is about a man who is hunting another for some unknown reason. The trip is really strange and creepy (as all King things are), but it was also interesting and wondrous. As we follow the Gunslinger we meet a variety of people who are super interesting, but we only get a snapshot of their lives, nothing more.

  • Favorite Bite:

“The eyes were damned, the staring, glaring eyes of one who sees but does not see, eyes ever turned inward to the sterile hell of dreams beyond control, dreams unleashed, risen out of the stinking swamps of the unconscious”

  • Perspective Rating: 5/10 There are some very interesting ideas here, but there’s no clear picture yet we shall see what happens with the rest of the series. I might add another Rating section to account for this.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 Given how disjointed and confusing it was at some points, it’s impressive how connected I was to the Gunslinger, the boy, and their fate.
  • Bites Rating: 8/10 There were plenty of moments where I had to underline or comment on the margins in this book. Moments of beautiful writing but also very interesting ideas.
  • Overall rating: 6.66/10 There’s definitely room for growth here for me, perhaps the rest of the series will make it all make better sense for me.

img_20180506_192005115_ll.jpgIn April I was looking for a lighter read and I found it in Neil Patrick Harris’ “Choose Your Own Autobiography”, which is modeled after the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. I never really read this books but I am a big fan of NPH’s work and I did need a lighter read so I picked this up from my bookcase. The book really is his autobiography, told with humor and filled with fun anecdotes about his life. As with other books of this style, it can be finished multiple times in different ways. I ended up finishing this book about 6 times but I think I haven’t read the whole book per se. I won’t try to do so now, instead I’ll be picking it up whenever I need a light and fun read, this book really is many in one.

  • Favorite Bite: Okay too hard to pick! Basically the chapter starting on page 107, where NPH describes meeting his future husband, David, and which was annotated by David. Simply romantic and hilarious! ❤
  • Perspective Rating: 6/10 Not much perspective here but it’s awesome to see NPH’s perspective as a child actor and see what his life has been like so far (magical!)
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 There were some happy tears shed with NPH’s magical romantic relationship with David, so beautiful! ❤ ❤ ❤
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 Not lots of annotating here, but that’s because I was busy just flipping pages to the next part of the story XD
  • Overall Rating: 6.66 So it’s not a mind-blowing book, but it sure is one that gave my mind some rest after the complex and difficult reads I had previously gone through. 😉

April 24, 2018 at 07:23PM.jpgFinally, the book that I read both in March and April was Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood! It’s a fiction book based on the real life of Grace Marks, a woman convicted of murder in the 1800s in Canada. She was not given the death penalty because people thought that she was manipulated by a man (who was hung for the same murder). People thought she was innocent or crazy so she was treated differently. It’s an amazing work that shows much research and thought behind how the story is composed. If you like mysteries based on real life stories then you’ll definitely enjoy this, if you also like stories that tell a perspective not usually told, then you’ll find something worthwhile here as well.

  • Favorite Bite:

“Lying… A severe term, surely. Has she been lying to you, you ask? Let me put it this way– did Scheherazade lie? Not in her own eyes, indeed, the stories she told ought never to be subjected to the harsh categories of Truth and Falsehood. They belong in another realm altogether. Perhaps Grace Marks has merely been telling you what she needs to tell, in order to accomplish the desired end.”

  • Perspective Rating: 9/10 The perspective of multiple people of different ages in the 1800s in Canada is one I’ve not encountered before. It’s surprising to see how much of it still holds true today and how things were back then that could be unthinkable now!
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 There were aspects of Grace’s life that I could connect with and others I couldn’t, I did not empathize with her too much because it’s hard to tell if she’s being truthful, but I guess that’s the point 😉
  • Bites Rating: 10/10 I started annotating from the first page! The imagery and also the mood evoked throughout the book is tangible. I simply love Atwood’s writing.
  • Overall Rating: 8.66 It really was just the emotional attachment that I missed from this book. But it is powerful and definitely worth re-reading in the future. I shall watch the Netflix adaptation next and report back 🙂

So there you have it! 7 books read in the past two months! I need to figure out better how to keep up with a posting schedule so that time doesn’t just pass by for me XD

Have you read any of these books?

Book Review — Equiano, The African: Biography of a Self-Made Man

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Equiano, The African is one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read. Hands down. To even tell you everything that I learned would take much more space and time than we have time to talk about here, but let’s go over the highlights, shall we?

First, let’s talk about the author a bit. Vincent Carretta is a professor of English at the University of Maryland, and he specializes in 18th century history and literature. He’s published books about other important voices of black history, such as Phillis Wheatley, the first African American poet, and Philip Quaque, the first African Missionary.

In this book, Carretta takes us on a voyage through Equiano’s life by going through Equiano’s autobiography, and gives us the context surrounding specific moments of his life, some of which are incredibly original.

“Equiano’s autobiography is the most extended and detailed account of naval experience left by any eighteenth-century writer of African descent”

The book is divided into fourteen chapters, each cataloguing specific parts of Equiano’s life, such as the descriptions he gives of his birth in Africa, which is still under debate. Carretta argues that Equiano was not actually born in Africa and might have been born in the Carolinas in the United States. This hypothesis is very clearly laid out and Carretta also explains how, if this is true, Equiano was very clever in writing his autobiography and marketing it so that people wouldn’t suspect otherwise.

Equiano started as a slave, became a sailor, and after buying his own freedom, he even managed the transportation of slaves. Equiano didn’t view slavery as a bad thing at first, but through his experience and his spiritual and religious discovery, he became certain that slavery was a thing of evil. But the most interesting part of this book for me was how Carretta was able to put more than one perspective of the abolitionists of the eighteenth century as the framework for how Equiano himself came to that conclusion.

“Opposition to the African slave trade was politically nonpartisan and religiously nonsectarian. Conservative Christians opposed it because it was sinful, political reformers because it denied the natural rights of humanity, social reformers because it was oppressive, and economic theorists because it was inefficient”

We get to explore the timeframe of the eighteenth century, when horrible things were done to many human beings who were seen as “others” or who simply had to pay some debt and went into the vortex of slavery to never get out. Equiano is our point of reference through which we can see how the world was back then, how far we have come, but also how some things remain the same. It taught me the origins and transformations of our biases based on skin color for example:

“The traditional definition of race as bloodline was increasingly replaced by the notion of race as species that became dominant in the nineteenth century. This “modern” concept of race, which was secondary during the early colonial American period, became primary.”

But it also taught me some really interesting facts, about naval ships at the time, how the politics worked under a monarchy previous to a parliament, and things like this:

“…Birmingham’s Lunar society, so-called because it met on the Monday nearest each full moon, when its amateur scientists and experimenters had enough natural light to find their way home following an evening of conviviality, conversation, and consultation… Mostly from humble origins, many of the self-described “Lunatics” were self-made men like Equiano himself.”

Carretta’s writing is enjoyable and flows really well. Even when talking about battles and dates and names of politicians I found myself immersed in the writing and invested in the people, so much so that I am definitely looking forward to reading more of his works (at least the two mentioned at the beginning of this post).

Equiano was a fascinating man, no matter where he was born, he left a legacy that will not be forgotten. He was part of many activists of the eighteenth century who fought to abolish slavery, and even if he didn’t get to see it all come true, he lived a life true to his values and to his beliefs.

This was but a taste of what’s in this wonderful book, I definitely recommend it if you like history, original perspectives, and, especially if you think that history has nothing left to teach you (because it does!). Also, if you think history is boring, read this, this was far from boring and I just wanted to know more about many of the people introduced in this book (like Phillis Wheatley!).

Do you like nonfiction books? What’s your favorite? I need recommendations! 😀

February TBR

Hi everyone!

February is here, I’ve drawn two new books from my TBR jar and I’ve picked two other books from my bookshelves for this month. There are some new subjects for me as well as some old favorites.

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Let’s start with the TBR jar, I drew two and I think my TBR jar knows that it’s supposed to be Black History month!

The first book to come out was Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man by Vincent Carreta. This is a nonfiction book that looks at Olaudah Equiano’s journey as he buys his freedom from slavery and ends up becoming a writer and one of the most influential African man in in the 1700s. I’m looking forward to learning about slavery in a context that isn’t US-centric.

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The next book that I picked from the jar was An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. This book is very exciting for me because it is a science fiction novel written by a person of color! I really enjoy science fiction but usually I find that I can’t connect with the characters because I don’t identify with them in their culture or ways of thinking. In this case this novel promises to be a new perspective in the science fiction genre that will hopefully allow more people to connect with this genre.

 

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The next book is another science fiction book that I’ve been wanting to read because it features four women scientists who go on an expedition to figure out if the world is finally safe for the human population after Nature basically took over. The book is called Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and it is the first installment of The Southern Reach trilogy. The exciting news is that there’s a movie adaptation coming out on the 23rd of February of this year. So I’ll be able to do a Book vs Movie post on it! The book promises to be scary and beautiful and simply exciting! Watch the trailer here.

img_20180204_104742410.jpgThe final book I’ll be reading this month is actually a re-read! I loved this book when I read it a few years ago and I’m looking forward to reading it again. I’ll be reading and watching Ready Player One by Ernest Cline as part of the Book vs Movie series. This book has been making the rounds for a while and it’s a favorite for many since it’s full of 80s pop culture, video games, virtual reality, and really unique characters. What I fear is that the movie has not taken care of these characters and has pursued a plot full of the usual characters and expected storyline. I really hope I’m wrong, but the trailers haven’t given me much to hope for…  You can see for yourself here.

So that’s the plan for February! What are you reading this month? Do you like to read or reread books before their movie (or TV) adaptations come out?