books, REVIEWS

A Long Walk to Water By Linda Sue Park

edfThe last few pages of this book gave me multiple goosebumps. Linda Sue Park takes us on a couple of walks, one to survival and the other figuratively to survival (to water).

The narrative alternates between two eleven year old’s: Nya and Salva. Nya is a little girl who makes two trips to a drying pond to fetch water for her family. Her only break includes drinking a little water when she reaches the pond and the other is between her two daily trips back home for a few minutes. Nya’s narrative is very innocent which is intertwined with Salva’s coming of age narrative which also starts at the age of eleven. Salva is at the center of the book with Nya lending short breathers in between. Salva’s story starts in 1985 when South Sudan is under attack which leads him to abandon everything and head for Ethiopia under the unwilling watch of random strangers also heading to the same place.IMG_20181017_171059.jpg

What Salva goes through during the course of this ‘walk’ is horrendous and almost unbelievable, and when I finished the book, I turned the last page to a note from the author saying that this is all based on a true story. (I really need to stop this habit of not reading summaries of books I pick up!) Everything I read had a much deeper impact on me after I found this out and this has to be one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read in a long time! (Closest to it is Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini)

At the end of it all, I had so much more appreciation for what we have been blessed with in our daily lives, something like water which we don’t even think about. We complain if edfthe water we drink isn’t as cold as we want it to be not thinking twice there are people even today who would thank God for giving them even boiling hot water to drink. This book has the capacity to humble us and be thankful, and for that reason I recommend it to every single one of you. I think this should be required reading in schools and a book that should be reread every year.

A Long Walk to Water has a 4.24 rating on Good reads (30,000 reviews). If you’d like to order one, here’s my bookdepository affiliate link

Hope you guys enjoy it! Do let me know if its something you’d pick up? If there is any book you’d like to recommend, I’m all ears!

books, REVIEWS

Chapter 7: Argentina. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

A few months ago I approached Carolina to write an article for this series. And I was really happy when she messaged me about my piece on representation It was an interesting discussion which led me to revisit my stand on representation. After all, we are all a product of a number of variables viz. culture, family background etc. Because of this I was even more happy that I had included her to write a post for Argentine representation. I knew she wont just randomly recommend a book and will stand with full force behind her choice, I’m sure you’re going to love her recommendation!

Carolina can be found at the following links:

Instagram Twitter and she writes for Book Riot under Carolina Ciucci

Over to Carolina now!

It is said that every country has a body of literature that is so distinctive, it captures the spirit of its people. I don’t believe that’s true.  A country’s “people” is such a vague notion, after all. What people are we talking about? Gender, racial and class differences, among others, all come together to shape multiple communities within a nation’s borders.  So when Faroukh asked me to recommend one Argentine book for his blog, I immediately asked him if I had to choose only one. Unfortunately, he said yes. But he gave me the leeway to add some extra books as a footnote, so that’ll have to do.

To many people, us included, Argentine literature immediately brings to mind the Gauchesque genre. And the one work from this genre known to everyone, even those who don’t know or care about it, is El gaucho Martín Fierro. Published in 1872, it became a smashing success, to the point where author José Hernández included a second part, La vuelta del Martín Fierro (The Return of Martín Fierro), in 1879.

1534264445881-02.jpeg“El Martín Fierro”, as it’s typically known here, is an epic poem composed in the tradition of folkloric literature. Hernández was not a gaucho himself: as an educated man from the city, his story of Martín Fierro, a man belonging to an oppressed class who after much hardship becomes an oppressor himself, is told from imagination and research, not experience. Jorge Luis Borges and Leopoldo Lugones (do yourself a favor, read their work but steer clear of their politics) later deemed it the ultimate Argentine work of literature. Borges himself wrote some excellent short stories inspired by it.

What makes this poem so beloved in this country? A big part of its appeal lies in thesearch for a national identity. Argentina had only become an independent country in 1816, and was still struggling to distance itself from its colonizer’s culture. Add the 1880s immigrational wave, and the need for a national canon became imperative. The gaucho was a purely Argentine figure: he didn’t exist in Spain, Italy, or in any of the countries whose people were currently settling down here. That consideration contributed to its importance, to the point where Tradition Day was set on November 10, Hernández’s birthday.

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Ironically (or maybe not), Hernández became the spokesperson for gauchos despite being a moderately wealthy landowner of Spanish and Irish ancestry. It opens the door for discussions about cultural appropriation, the absurdity inherent to the concept of a single narrative, and the way that immigration is seen, depending on the ethnic and national identity of the immigrant – both back in the 19th century and today.

Other authors and books you might like to read:

Jorge Luis Borges: basically everything, but my favorite is his short story collection El Aleph.

Julio Cortázar: again, everything. But Rayuela (or Hopscotch) remains my favorite.

Victoria Ocampo: founder of iconic literary magazine, Sur, Ocampo wrote poetry and short stories in the same vein of Borges and Cortázar.

Silvina Ocampo: See above.

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Alejandra Pizarnik: Poet and translator, Pizarnik’s writing is among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. I’ve tackled a good chunk of her poetry, but as a friend recently reminded me, I have yet to read her journals. I can’t wait.

Rodolfo Walsh: the true founder of the non-fiction novel (sorry, Capote. Walsh got there first), he was a complicated, controversial figure that remains in the collective mind decades after his forced disappearance and execution at the hands of our last military government.

Ernesto Sábato: another controversial figure, albeit for more mundane reasons, his novel El túnel (The Tunnel) is a masterpiece of literary realism. The rest of his work isn’t too shabby, either.

María Elena Walsh: a children’s writer, she played a big role in little Caro’s love of reading. I can’t remember much of her work anymore, but there is one poem I can recite from memory, twenty years later.

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That’s it for now! I hope you enjoy digging into some of these authors’ backlog. Let me know if you’d like any more recommendations – this is only the tip of the iceberg. Happy reading!

Thanks a lot Carolina for the recommendations!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order El Gaucho Martin Fierro via bookdepository, click here

This was Chapter 7 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Carolina Ciucci!
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
If you liked this post, please subscribe here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here

Check out Chapter 4: Palestine here

Check out Chapter 5: Kenya here

Check out Chapter 6: Pakistan here

 

books, REVIEWS

WARLIGHT by Michael Ondaatje

I’ve been sitting with my laptop open since half an hour trying to figure out how to start talking about this book. I recently heard a literature critic share that one of the things we need to figure out while reviewing a book is the intention of the author with the letters bound into words strung up together to tell the story. And that’s exactly what confuses me about this book. What was the point? WAS there even a point?

IMG_5357.jpgAt the center of everything we have Nathaniel who seems to be around 30 years of age when he is recalling what he went through since he was a teen with his sister. Nathaniel and Rachel’s parents leave them in the care of a very shady individual who the siblings nick name The Moth. Their parents are off to Singapore from London. But things get slightly confusing when they find their mothers packed suitcase at home a few months after she’s apparently left.

The book is set in the years following Worldwar II and it does add to the overall mood, but it doesn’t seem as effective as you’d expect, the effects linger in the subconscious but its not what the book is about so the war-like rustic feeling fades quite early (Just an observation, neither a good or bad thing, I guess)

Ondaatje has worked a lot on the character development and you can tell he has been meticulous with the editing of his early drafts, you do not get any information which doesn’t play a part in developing the narrative. Every character has a part to play in the overall narrative and they all come together by the end, except one, the shadow, the father.

I feel that Ondaatje wanted to keep a secretive and out of reach narrative when it came to the father but it frustrated me because the way each character is brought to a closure by the end you expect/almost want him to do the same with the father. Doesn’t happen and its very disappointing.

Another tool used with the characters is he’s given them nicknames (The Moth and TheIMG_5070.jpg Darter) which make them seem more than ordinary, its a smart thing to do and it definitely is effective in giving them an added dimension.

Nathaniel doesn’t have a regular childhood obviously but some of his reactions are very unusual. When they find their mothers suitcase, you’d expect them to have a million questions but they seem to just accept the fact and go on with their lives. Rose on the other hand does have a lot of issues making her seem more human than him. His character fueled sometimes by his quiet and nonreactive nature seems very bland and inhuman (Although he definitely is not). I think if there were more one to one conversations between the siblings, it might have changed the feeling of Nathaniel’s impersonal and robotic aura.

By the second half of the book we do find a change in narrative and its more focused on the mother and her relationship with Nathaniel. There are some passages where you just want them to connect more and feel some emotion towards him. But in the end its just not effective, and leaves a pretty hollow feeling.

One thing which I was absolutely stunned by in some places was Ondaatje’s writing IMG_5255.jpgmasterclass! There were several passages I read and reread and read again! Absolute genius!

I’d recommend this book to people who like character focused books with a hint of mystery or basically just love great writing! As for the book critics suggestion to understand why an author has written a book, I guess while writing this review I seem to have figured its a story Ondaatje wanted to tell, a story which has no fancy objective, a book where you sympathize with someone who has had a broken childhood. I’ll be honest in saying that when I finished this book, I barely gave it a 3 star but now I’m leaning towards a 4.

If you’d like to buy this book, please use this Affiliate link, it helps me too!

books, REVIEWS

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

IMG_4884Since the past year or so I’ve been hearing a lot about Own Voices and their importance. So I was really interested in reading So Lucky by Nicola Griffith sent to me by @mcdbooks
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It’s a book about Mara Targelli who you might call the ideally empowered woman in today’s world. Head of a huge company, a martial artist and fierce and straight forward in her dealings. Mara finds out she’s suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and things start to go south for her.
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You can read the summary for broad details of the book, I usually don’t get into those in the review so I don’t take away much from your experience.
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This book is not just about MS and what people go through when they suffer from it. It’s more of a social and political commentary on what happens with the disabled in society IMG_4934.jpgat large.
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Mara doesn’t want to be called the victim of her circumstances and wants to take hold of her life without the help of anyone, she readjusts her home to be self sufficient for her and starts an online campaign to help other people like her. Nicola Griffith gives a really good insight on how everyday life is affected by MS and it’s really helpful in educating us about it. I personally had no clue about how MS affects someone and this book made me research a lot about MS and I can say I do have a general understanding about it now.
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It’s also an interesting reflection on Social Media and how it can be empowering and can sometimes even a negative effect.
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Mara’s character is what holds the book together as the rest of the characters aren’t as involved and could be thought of as props to tell Mara’s story. The writing is very IMG_5191.JPGcomforting and not too complex. There is a certain hint of suspense in the second half of the book but it’s never the focal point.
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Overall a very good experience and maybe an important one at that. I’d urge you to pick it up, I think we could all benefit from reading about such topics. I’ve added HILD by Nicola Griffith on my TBR as well, its a memoir focussed on her experiences with MS.

What do you think? Would you read this book? If you have any good recommendations for books dealing with MS, I’d love you to comment below!

For a link to buy the book from Book depository, click here

 

 

books, REVIEWS

Book Review: Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

Giovanna and Tom Fletcher collaborate to bring us the story of Eve and Bram.

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The premise:

img_1679The premise is very interesting, Eve is the first girl to be born in 50 years and obviously all eyes are on her in hopes that she can carry forward the human race once she comes of age. Eve is taken care of by a corporation based in a tower where she lives in ‘The Dome’ and is disconnected from the outer world. The only friend she has is Holly (An AI bot controlled remotely by ‘pilots’, one of them being Bram.)

 

The world:

The planet is drowned in water and the world outside the Tower is in shambles. There is a huge disconnect between what goes on inside it and what’s on the outside. The outside world barely gets mentioned until we reach the latter part of the book, which seemed like a big mistake.

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World building:

Normally when it comes to the dystopian genre you would expect efficient world building. But since the first half of the book is based inside the Tower and what’s outside img_3773it only comes in play in the second half, there is a huge disconnect. We’re kept in the dark (probably unintentionally) and it doesn’t work. Unless you’re only interested in what happens between Eve and Bram, you’d want to know more about this dystopian world.

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Narration:

Chapters are divided between Eve and Bram and it seems like each author wrote one of the characters chapters, there isn’t any cohesion between the two. This isn’t that bad a thing because each of the characters chapters is easily distinguishable and you could say each character has a voice of its own. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if the tower and what’s outside had alternate chapters.

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Characters:

The characters are all extremely predictable. There’s no depth to any of them. Character img_3862development is non existent and sometimes even forced. I think there wasn’t a single one of them that had a distinct identity, it seemed that all of them were set to default character settings and let go.

The execution:

I expected this to happen and the answer is yes, the book turns into a Damsel-in-distress-where-is-my-savior plot. It was almost unbearable in the last 100 pages where every movement was thoroughly explained and there was nothing left for me to think about. Every thing was extremely dramatized and the one time something was kept a secret, it seemed forced and well, it wasn’t really a plot twisting secret.

Over all, I think I’d have enjoyed this and maybe even recommended it if I was a teenager. Unfortunately I’m no longer one.

 

books, REVIEWS, Tips, Tricks and Tutorials

How The Forty Rules of Love taught me a lot about reviewing books.

This might become a post on how to review books, hang on tight!

A couple of years ago I started reviewing books on Instagram. I never did a full fledged detailed review. Mostly bite sized reviews that fit an Instagram caption which didn’t really have a set format.

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My primary goal was to review books without giving anything away. No spoilers, no reveals. Just purely what I felt about the pace, characters, plot and feel of the book. Enough to make the readers decide for themselves if they’d like to pick a book. This still has not changed.

Over time, I graduated to a simpler format for my reviews. I start with my thoughts on the book, writing, plot etc. and end with listing things I liked and things I didn’t really like. This seems to work best for me, I’ve had comments on ‘negative’ book reviews where readers have been intrigued by the book, despite the negative review.

I have no authority over literature of any kind and that’s another thing I’m careful about while writing a review – to make sure I don’t sound authoritative about a book, a genre or a subject.

In case you’re interested, my reviews are here

img_2217A few reviews after my first, I read a book which I really disliked and wouldn’t recommend to anyone I knew unless they like to read books on the subject. This was The forty rules of love by Elif Shafak. I will not get into why I didn’t like it, let’s just say I was in a pickle on how to write the review without sounding hateful.

So I tried, and I think I did a decent job in pushing forward my thoughts on the book. This was when I did not have many followers, probably somewhere around 1000 and the response was really good. I think the comments section had 100+ comments which was unthinkable for me at that level.

Funny thing was, a lot of people said they liked my ‘honest’ review. I didn’t think much of it but over time I found that some bookstagrammers (especially bigger ones) stay away from posting negative reviews because they want their pages to only have positive content (I respect that) but later I also found that a lot of people get hate over writing negative reviews from readers who love that negatively reviewed book. This can be really problematic for reviewers and in my view it’s best to stay away if you can’t handle online hate (it can be tough, trolls online sometimes forget there is a real person behind an account and they keep knocking for months and stalk every single word you post, it’s a serious problem)

Recently one of my friends who is white was bullied into deleting a review of a book written by a POC. Since their following is quite high, they deleted it because of fear of backlash from people. Unfortunate, but this is life I guess.

Fortunately I have a very thick skin and I can take a hit or two (trust me, I get hate in all shapes and forms mainly because I say what I feel and seldom sugar coat things)

Anyways, over time, I started receiving books from publishers. I remember I had received and didn’t like the first book sent by a major publishing house. I made sure I reviewed the book like I would review any other book and gave it 2 stars on goodreads. I know it can be daunting to stay honest, especially when you’re dealing with publishers and generally would hope to be on their reviewers list. Trust me, your negative review on a book will not effect your relationship with the publisher (and if it does, stay true to yourself and write what you feel). I have spoken to publishers about this as well, and for them reviews matter, they don’t want reviewers to just give positive reviews because of a free book. (And again, if they do, you’re better off staying away from such publishers)

Over the next months I reviewed a lot of other books I didn’t like and I think one positive effect this has had is my reviews are expected to be honest and straight forward whether it’s a book I’ve picked myself or a book sent by a major publishing house.

Another thing that I do is I do not DNF books. I’ve realized if I do not like a book and review it, it makes for great conversation and enhances my learning of literature. There is a possibility I missed out on some things while reading it and it gives me a chance to grow.

So that’s it, some of my thoughts on reviewing books, maybe they will help you in developing your own reviewing style. If you have tips to share, please leave in the comments below. We could use insights from everyone 🙂

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Happy Reading!!

Faroukh

books, REVIEWS

We Are Okay by Nina Lacour

If you’re looking for a perfect mix of Character, plot and atmosphere, We are okay is more than just okay, pick it up if you are picky about the YA you read.

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‘The trouble with denial is that when the truth comes, you aren’t ready.’

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#theguywiththebookreview presents We are okay by Nina LaCour

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Most of the YA fiction I’ve picked have somehow always been about a troubled teen who is extremely whiny and irritating. This led me to think maybe that’s what YA is mostly about and I’ve pretty much stayed away from the genre as it was never relatable to my experiences in life.

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The book revolves around a girl who is trying to get away from everyone and deal with grief. We aren’t told what she is dealing with and this usually irritates me when there is no context to a depressed character but Nina brilliantly balances the characters emotional state with atmospheric writing. She transports you to an almost unforgivingly cold New York and the focus, while being on the protagonist is also on the setting. Which is refreshing!

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What I liked:

▪️Character driven but not overwhelmingly one dimensional, the plot and setting play an equal if not more important part.

▪️A very heartwarming and empowering ending.

▪️Easy to read, a good book to read after one of your more mentally taxing reads.

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What I didn’t like:

▪️Could’ve been a teeny tiny bit longer, but hey, 1 book added towards the good reads challenge, so I’m not really complaining 😂