Triple Book Review!

I’m about to prove the old adage is true that good things do come in small packages. In fact, GREAT things come in small packages because I’m going to review three extraordinary books by a couple of brilliant authors. Each of these books masterfully conveys an epic story, all in under 200 pages!

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33. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

I’ve become obsessed with Gabriel García Márquez after reading his Collected Stories and his phenomenal One Hundred Years of SolitudeChronicle of a Death Foretold is another brilliantly written work. Shortly after their wedding, a bride is returned to her family in disgrace due to being impure. Forced to name her first lover, the bride’s twin brothers announce their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister. The narrator interviews several of the town’s residents in order to understand how the murder took place. Why didn’t anyone intervene and try to stop it from happening?

Rather than a traditional murder mystery, García Márquez has given us something that is quite different. We already know the identities of the murderers and when the act occurs. This is a story that portrays the shame of a society who let the murder happen. Through a series of interviews, the narrator puts the pieces of that fateful day together in a gripping work that does not fully come together until the final page.

34. When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

In this lean and heartbreaking first novel, Julie Otsuka tells a story about one of the darkest times in American history. After seeing a sign at the post office, a woman returns home and methodically packs her family’s belongings. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans, the family has been uprooted from their home and sent to a camp in the Utah desert.

In order to make this story a personal one, the narrator from each chapter is a different member of this one specific family. Otsuka brilliantly never refers to any of the characters by name, illustrating their complete loss of identity. She conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience from the barbed-wire fences to the omnipresent fear and loneliness.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading When the Emperor was Divine for its unique writing style. I liked that Julie Otsuka came out and exposed all the “hidden truths” that happened to Japanese-Americans during this time. This work is a fresh take on one of the most shameful periods of American history.

35. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

The fact that I immediately read her second novel speaks to how much I love the writing of Julie Otsuka. The Buddha in the Attic tells the story of a group of young Japanese women brought to America as picture brides at the turn of the century. In eight unforgettable chapters, this books traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from the difficult journey by boat, to the frightening first nights as new wives, to their experiences raising children who would ultimately reject their culture and language. Otsuka crafts a unique novel that is at once beautiful yet emotionally devastating.

Once again, this book is written in such a unique writing style. Devoid of specific character names, Otsuka attempts to capture the feelings of an entire group through using “we” to tell the story rather than “I.” The language is simple but raw, packed with so much emotion. Despite being another slim book, it is definitely one that weighs on your soul.  I believe these should be the types of books we should have been reading in our history classes in high school. Both works by Otsuka are relevant to this time where racism plays a part in society and how that reflects on our government and what they do about it.

Do yourself a favor and read at least one of these books. Better yet, read all three! They are all heartbreaking in their brilliance.

“We forgot about Buddha. We forgot about God. We developed a coldness inside us that still has not thawed. I fear my soul has died.We stopped writing home to our mothers. We lost weight and grew thin. We stopped bleeding. We stopped dreaming. We stopped wanting.”-The Buddha in the Attic

 

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know your thoughts! Let me know with a comment below. 

 

2019 Reading Goals: Third Quarterly Check-In

Winter is coming! Let’s check on my reading progress!

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#1 Read and review at least 75 books (37/75): This year, I changed my overall total from 50 to 75 books. Honestly, I’m doubtful I will achieve this goal. I expect to finish somewhere around 60, which is fine by me.

#2 Read more of my own damn books and slow down on the book buying: Don’t ask.

#3 Read 20 Books off my Classics Club list (12/20): Considering my plans for the remainder of 2019, I’m feeling quite confident on reaching my classics goal for the year.

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#4 Read at least 6 books for the Back to the Classics Challenge (9/12): I plan to finish all 12 categories, but so thrilled to have completed my personal objective already.

#5 Read at least 10 books for the TBR Pile Challenge (6/12): Although I’ve slowed down lately for this challenge, I think I can step it up before year’s end.

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#6 Read from 5 different countries for the European Reading Challenge (5/5): Mission accomplished!

#7 Read all 6 major novels for the Jane Austen Challenge (2/6): I’m strongly considering adjusting this goal through 2020. I love Lady Jane with a passion, but there is just too much to read! Sorry Mr. Darcy.

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#8 Read one book for each century of the Dewey Decimal System for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge (2/10): Nonfiction books have not been my friends so far this year.

Finally, here are my three favorite books for the third quarter of 2019:

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov

Three months to go! Time to get reading!

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How are your reading challenges going? Let me know with a comment below!

32. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams

Since I had been reading so many emotionally draining books lately, I thought it would be a good idea to read something light and comical for a change. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was just what the doctor ordered. I love British comedy and have been a huge fan of Douglas Adams for years, particularly his work on Doctor Who and also his detective novels featuring Dirk Gently. If science fiction combined with Monty Python is your cup of tea, then hitch a ride with this extremely funny book.

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Photo Credit: Natalie Getter

Arthur Dent is having a bad day. First, the girl he flirted with at a party ran off with another guy. Then, he finds out that his house is about to be bulldozed. If these problems seem bad enough, Arthur soon learns that it can get much worse. As it turns out, his best friend Ford Prefect is an alien who has been posing as an out-of-work actor for the past fifteen years. Arthur soon learns that planet Earth is about to be demolished in order to make way for a galactic highway. Ford is actually a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a survival guide for handling the dangers of the universe. The electronic book contains many useful facts (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”). Together Arthur and Ford begin one of the most ridiculous journeys in space, encountering an array of odd characters. There’s Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed President of the galaxy. Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend, is in fact the girl Arthur tried to pick up at a party (awkward). Marvin is their brilliant robot companion, who unfortunately suffers from chronic depression.

Arthur soon learns that space can be quite dangerous with his first encounter with an alien race. The hideous Vogons are a race of aliens who torture their victims by reciting really bad poetry. Fortunately, Arthur and Ford are rescued by Zaphod who commands the Starship Heart of Gold, which is powered by the “Infinite Improbability Drive.” Zaphod heads for the legendary planet Magrathea, where roaming Arthur discovers someone working on a replacement Earth as well as the truth behind who really was in charge of Earth in the first place. All in a day’s work for a newbie hitchhiker.

This book probably sounds silly. Well, it is. It’s very silly. If British humor isn’t your bag, you may not enjoy this one as much as I did. As a huge fan of shows like Monty Python and Red Dwarf, this book was a blast for me. I was reminded from reading this book that science fiction doesn’t have to always be serious. It can be light and fun. Despite all this silliness, there are some words of wisdom to be found within these pages. For example, we humans tend to take life a bit too seriously sometimes. Arthur learns late in the book that his own lifestyle needs a makeover and sometimes it’s good to just go with the flow. Sometimes, we need to be able to laugh at ourselves. Between all the funny parts, I found this to be a creative and intelligently written classic.

Filled with humorous characters, I found The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to be an imaginative intergalactic adventure. I look forward to catching up with Arthur and his pals on more of their journeys in space.

“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”

 

Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts! Let me know with a comment below. 

Quick Fire Fantasy Tag

It’s been a while since I did a fun tag post, and I thought this one sounded interesting. Plus, I love talking about my favorite fantasy books so it’s a total win!

The Rules

5-Star Book

Hardcover The Eyes of the Dragon Book

My book blog would not be in existence if not for the inspiration of Stephen King. The Eyes of the Dragon was the first Stephen King novel I ever read and actually holds the record for the one I’ve read the most. This book is pure fantasy through and through and tells the story of a peaceful kingdom and the evil machinations of the King’s magician Flagg. When I first read this book, it was nearly in one sitting. I immediately reread it and dreamed of being the hero Peter attempting to escape from the tower. I still have my copy sitting on my bookshelves.

Always Going to Recommend

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From the moment I started reading the works of Charles de Lint, I was completely enamored. A master of urban fantasy, his stories set in the fictional town of Newford are as close to pure magic as you will ever find. I highly recommend Dreams Underfoot as these short stories setup the mythology of his later novels. Every story in this collection is beautifully written with just the right blend of fantasy elements with real human problems. De Lint is a real magician if ever one exists.

Own It But Haven’t Read

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The Gormenghast series has intrigued me for years. I certainly love the idea of reading a story set in a huge Gothic castle filled with over-the-top characters. However, this trilogy has sat on my shelf for years. My plan for next year is to read the trilogy in its entirety!

Would Read It Again

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My best friend introduced me to The Sword of Shannara series, and I still find it to be a fun and entertaining read. The first book follows a group of people brought together to retrieve a magical sword, which is the only weapon that can defeat the evil Warlock Lord. The only person who can wield the mythical Sword is Shea, a descendant of a legendary hero. While this does receive a lot of criticism for being a little too close in plot to The Lord of the Rings, I still love this book so much as the epitome of pure fantasy.

In Another World

The Dark Elf Trilogy: Homeland, Exile, Sojourn (Forgotten Realms): Salvatore, R. A.; Easley, Jeff

The Dark Elf Trilogy begins a series of stories following Drizzt who rebels against the evil ways of his people. After escaping the horrors of his homeworld below the surface, he struggles to find acceptance in the world above. These books bring back memories of high school and spending my weekends playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends.

Back on Earth

This is Harry Potter for the grownups. While there is a school of magic and lots of adventuring, Grossman succeeds here in taking these expectations and turning them completely around. There are plenty of dark secrets. Also, all the characters are true to life and have very real flaws. I liked that the main character is not a special hero. He’s just an ordinary person who is thrown into this magical life. Sometimes he makes very bad choices. There are no magical solutions. No happy “everything is fixed” ending. As a result, Lev Grossman has created a refreshing take on the fantasy genre.

There are so many other fantasy novels I would love to discuss, but I’ve reached the end of this post. As far as who to tag, I’m leaving it up to anyone who feels like it. Thanks for reading!

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31. ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison

My first thought upon the news of Toni Morrison’s death was at how ashamed I was to have never read any of her work. I said to myself, “My God this is Toni Morrison, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century! I have to go out and buy one of her books!” Flash forward several hours, and I was the proud owner of two of her novels, Beloved and Jazz. I decided to read Beloved as I felt it was the more popular of the two. The result was an emotionally rewarding reading experience that showed me how Morrison became not only a Pulitzer winner but a Nobel Laureate as well.

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Photo Credit: Natalie Getter

Beloved is a hard novel to read. While it is not a long book or difficult to understand, it is an emotionally devastating book that left me feeling drained. Every time I thought this book had done its worst to me, I was proven wrong in my next reading session. This is a novel about trauma, on a massive scale with the horrors of American slavery as well as on a personal level with the nature of memory and regret. Morrison permeates these pages with such raw emotion, that it just felt so heavy. I had to put the book down often and just quietly process my feelings about the words I just read.

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.”

One of the best opening lines in modern literature sets the tone as one of horror. The story follows an African-American family living in a small house in Ohio several years following the Civil War. They are haunted by a mischievous and at times violent spirit of a baby. It drives away the two young boys of the family, leaving Sethe, her mother-in-law Baby Suggs, and her daughter Denver alone with the spirit. Both Sethe and Baby Suggs were former slaves who escaped to freedom, but the family appears to be shunned by their surrounding community for reasons that will not be fully disclosed until much later in the novel.

While Beloved begins as a ghost story, Morrison transforms it into a brilliantly written trauma narrative about the horrors of slavery. The incorporation of supernatural elements allows Morrison to explore the true haunting of the human soul and the guilt that occurs with having to make difficult choices. The haunting turns from an unseen spirit into a flesh and blood entity, taking the form of a young woman named Beloved who enters Sethe’s life yet to consume her with guilt. Soon, we learn the nature of how Sethe’s first child died. As a result of this terrible event, Sethe is forever haunted by the death of her baby, as well as her life as a slave, the life that brought her to such drastic measures.

“Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it’s not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place–the picture of it–stays, and not just in my remory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean, even if I don’t think if, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.”

Beloved is work by an extraordinary author. There is a reason Toni Morrison’s novels are hailed as classics. Her prose flows like poetry, taking devastating material and turning it into some truly beautiful writing. She has a gift for capturing different voices, as the format and style of writing changes between chapters and sections, depending on the point of view of the narrator. The result is a masterful work that comes together in such a heart-achingly beautiful way. I was brought to tears several times.

While researching the book, I found this great online article on Tor.com about the novel as a work of horror. The author argues that Beloved has never been accepted as a work of horror, while Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is often looked at as a work of science fiction. This article reminds me of a debate from a few years ago surrounding Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant as a work of fantasy. While I’m not completely sure how I feel about the subject, I have always said that the best horror brings its terror from a human perspective. The true terror of Beloved has nothing to do with the supernatural itself but of the severe cruelty and dehumanization of an entire people. As Morrison states in her dedication,”Sixty million and more,” meaning that the aftershocks of slavery can still be felt today. Despite what genre you view it, this novel is in a class all its own. I look forward to reading Jazz in the near future.

“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

 

Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts! Let me know with a comment below.