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

Chapter 5: Kenya. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

We’re finally back with Chapter 5 of this series I’m extremely excited to finally cover Kenya which has been on my list since a long time. If some of you don’t know Bill from @Kenyan_library on Instagram, I’d highly recommend his account! His pictures are really imaginative and captions are always engaging. As goes with series Bill is going to recommend us a book based in Kenya and I really hope this is a good entry for you to African literature if you’ve still not read any based in the continent. If yes, I hope its a great pick for you from Kenya! I’m going to hand this over to Bill, take over buddy!

Instagram: @kenyan_library

Blog: kenyanlibrary

Twitter: @kenyan_library

Hello Friends, I’m Bill of (Kenyan_Library on Instagram/Blog) so happy to be part of Faroukh’s amazing project Traveling Bibio, thank you so much for having me. Let’s take a trip to Kenya through a recent favorite book that captures the true Kenyan Spirit.

20180429100836_IMG_2054.jpg

In the past, I have struggled to connect with Kenyan Literature and it didn’t help that my English teacher wasn’t as enthusiastic about it either. Majority of the books I came across were predominately politically driven and that just didn’t suit my contemporary taste. So I took upon myself to try out Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo crossing my fingers that this might be the book that finally reignites my interest in Kenyan Lit. I loved it!

IMG_2743.jpg

Synopsis

Following The Oganda family after the son (Odidi) gets gun downed in the streets of Nairobi we see the reputation of this vile action through the family’s grief & memories IMG_20180608_111118which opens the door to a dark past pelted with generational secrets that still haunt them in the present. At the same time, a young Englishman arrives at the Ogandas’ house, seeking his missing father; a hardened policeman who has borne witness to unspeakable acts reopens a cold case, and an all-seeing Trader with a murky identity plots an overdue revenge. In scenes stretching from the violent upheaval of contemporary Kenya back through a shocking political assassination in 1969 and the Mau Mau uprisings against British colonial rule in the 1950s, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, buried deep within the shared past of the family and of a conflicted nation.

Why You Should Read It

20180429100653_IMG_2049.jpgThe lyrical poetic narrative style is so cinematic & intertwined with so much emotion that you will feel every character’s pain, happiness, without being directly told. The first couple of pages might seem confusing but give yourself time to get used to the flow of the writing then  you won’t stop reading. The politics doesn’t overpower the story but lingers in the background which balances the narrative, putting emphasis on the family saga. Lush description of the beautiful Kenyan Landscapes and the local street life are brought to life through the 20180429100801_IMG_2052characters eyes, as well as the local slang and deep Kenyan proverbs make the experience feel authentic. It has its dark moments, you will weep at the author explores the injustices that take place through the hands of corrupt leaders and the poor state of living but you will also experience the local everyday life of a Kenyan, Using the public transport matatus, cuisine etc. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Thanks a lot Bill for your great recommendation!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order DUST via bookdepository, click here

This was Chapter 5 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Bill Muganda!
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 consider subscribing 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

Here’s a picture of a bookstore in Kenya 🙂

IMG_20180608_113238.jpg

 

 

 

books

Chapter 4: Palestine (The Traveling Biblio Chronicles)

Welcome to Chapter 4 of the Traveling Biblio Chronicles!

IMG-2668.JPG

Dounya Hamdan is taking us on a lovely little trip over to Palestine! I found Dounya’s account a few months ago on instagram @doonz____ and i love how she focuses her energy on life and things that are close to her heart, especially towards the cause of Palestine.

I’m really excited to hear your thoughts about this post that Dounya has written for us.

Dounya has shared a link to a donation site which works towards funding Palestinian refugee families in the Gaza Strip. As of right now $616,738 have been raised (Goal was $600,000 which has been crossed, but anything above it will of course be a appreciated)

Click here to donate: UNRWA Donation Link

Dounya is going to take over now!

IMG-2812.JPGLet me tell you about a place full of wonder, a place where you will find little treasures in the crevice of every cobblestone street, in every shopkeeper’s store and deep in the gardens that lay beyond every home.

Palestine is where my heart resides. It is the home of my mother and father, my grandparents and my resilient ancestors.

It is where I find solace while I sit atop my grandmother’s home watching the golden sun melt away into dusk. At nighttime, the moon generously illuminating the streets, walking beside me until I have made it home safely. The last time I visited my homeland was about a year ago and my heart is yearning to go back. Palestine is made up of many villages, each with their own customs and traditions.

IMG-2951.JPG

Every time I visit, it is a tradition to rush from the airport and drive straight to my grandparents’ home. I always find them patiently awaiting my arrival on their porch with their smiling faces and warm embraces.IMG-2821

When I am thousands of miles away from Palestine, my soul yearns to be reminded of its beauty – and so I delve deep into books that remind me of my homeland. I have read many great stories such as “Secrets Under the Olive Tree” by Nevien Shaabneh, “Fast Times in Palestine” by Pamela Olson and “I Saw Ramallah” by Mourid Barghouti.

I would like to recommend to other fellow readers a story that shows both sides to this beautiful vast land. The side that portrays what the Palestinians endure daily – the occupation, the apartheid wall, checkpoints and hope amid the sorrow. The other side portrays the Israelis and the belief that this land is theirs – that they have a right to a Jewish state. “The Lemon Tree” by Sandy Tolan instantly came to mind. It is a story of a Palestinian returning to his childhood home 19 years later only to find an Israeli woman living there now. The story unravels to show you pain and heartache, bitterness and love from both sides.IMG-4020

I truly hope you take the time to see for yourself the hidden beauty of Palestine, for it welcomes anyone with a soft heart and kind eyes.

This was Chapter 4 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Dounya Hamdan. You can buy the book here from book depository
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 consider subscribing 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

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.

img_1930

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 🙂

If you liked this blog post, please subscribe here

If you are on Instagram, please consider subscribing to my Bookstagram I post daily bookish content and book reviews there.

Happy Reading!!

Faroukh

books

Chapter 1: Australia. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

Lucy from The Literary Edit was crowned The best book blogger by The London Book Fair. In the few weeks since, we have had numerous discussions about blogging and books. She is one of the reasons I decided to start my own blog and explore this medium of social media as well.

Lucy is here today to kick off The Traveling Biblio Chronicles with a recommendation from Australia. She’s living there since a couple of years and her regular beach walk updates on Instagram are really refreshing and have such an Australian vibe to them!

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Her social media channels:

Book Blog – The Literary Edit

Twitter – @thelitedit

Bookstagram – @the_litedit

BREATH2

Breath by Tim Winton

Given the fact that I’ve lived in Australia for over two and a half years now, albeit with a brief hiatus during which I lived in Bali, Los Angeles and London, I’ve read an embarrassingly small amount of Australian literature. I started off with fairly good intentions, reading Tracks and Picnic at Hanging Rock prior to my arrival in Sydney, followed by Peter Carey’s 30 Days in Sydney shortly after I landed. Yet in the many months that have since passed, the Australian writers I’ve read have been few and far between.

There are many, many things I love about Australia; its year round balmy weather, the endless stretches of sand, the coastal walks that are as stunning as they come. But the thing I love the most is the water, and the magic and healing power of the ocean.

And so when it comes to selecting a book to represent the country in which I live; the choice was an easy one: Breath by Tim Winton.

© Hannah Chanel

I bought the book long before I read it; and had a couple of other books by Tim Winton on my shelves, and yet it was only when the film adaptation was recently released that I finally got around to reading it. I live 100 meters from the water’s edge in Bondi, and get in it as often as I can, and Tim Winton’s much lauded novel is a love letter to the sun baked skin and salt washed hair so synonymous with life down under.

BREATH1
© crazybooklady_

At its core, Breath is a story about two boys and their love of surfing, but above and beyond that it’s a story about the Australian waterways, in all their glorious and menacing forms. Until I read Breath I was yet to read anything that could come near to conveying my love for the land down under, but Tim Winton managed to articulate my love for this country, with poignancy and with power.

I don’t know how long I’ll be in Sydney; whether it’s my forever home or not, but while one day my memories of this country may fade, the feeling of the saltwater of the sea on my skin – much like my first reading of Breath – will remain ingrained on my person always.

This was Chapter 1 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Lucy Pearson. You can buy the book here from book depository
This book travel series will continue next week when a very special guest is going to recommend us a book set in her native country, Afghanistan.
If you liked this post, please consider subscribing 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.

Tips, Tricks and Tutorials

Bookstagram for beginners!

Bookstagram – How, What, Why, When, Whatever…

It’s been 2 years since I started my Bookstagram @theguywiththebook which recently crossed 35k. I had no idea there is a thing called Bookstagram and it was just a space for me to keep track of the books I’ve read.

Recently I won the Bookstagrammer of the year award at the London Book Fair and so I decided this would be a great time to share what I’ve learnt over the past couple of years and hopefully this will help you start or better your account!

Well, that’s enough about me, let’s start!

Quick Introduction to Bookstagram.

It’s an online space on Instagram where people post pictures and videos of books and talk all things bookish.

How to setup your Bookstagram Profile:

Instagram Handle

First thing you need to decide on is an Instagram handle which reflects your bookish side. When I started Bookstagram my handle was @thebookpiper (Yes, I know :l) and I kept it because I used to prop my pictures with a book and a pipe I had picked up on a trip to Zambia (Stupid, I know). Later I changed it to @theguywiththebook. When I reached around 500 followers I realized that

A- My handle makes no sense and

B- Not many male book bloggers were around (So I thought it would be smart to let people know) and it helped. So, think about it and chose your Instagram handle smartly.

Profile picture

The next (or maybe even the first) thing that people will notice is your profile picture. Either create a logo for free (I made mine in 5 minutes on the app Canva) or use a regular picture of yourself or maybe a bookish photo. Whatever makes you happy. Just remember your profile picture is going to be a tiny little circle and sometimes pictures look like a mess in such a small frame.

Instagram Bio

Your bio is the next thing you need to add and what I like is to try and keep it simple (I’ve had messy bio’s before because I didn’t think about it much) but now it’s a clean little bio reflecting the fun side of me, followed by my current read which includes numbers showing how any books I’ve read and the number I want read by the end of the year. Next is ‘Saudi Arabia’ which is where I live. For me this clean and clear bio works but you can experiment with what you like. Just make sure it’s something which reflects your theme of books. Oh, you can add ‘Bookstagram’ to your name as well.

Starting!

You’ll want your page to look active right away so it’s a good idea to fill up your page with maybe a dozen posts so it looks active. Not many would be interested in a page with 3-6 posts. Next you’ll want people to know about your page and you’ll need to start interacting to attract traffic. This is going to take some time and you’ll have to work on it persistently. I will talk about interactions in a bit.

Content Creation

Irrespective of the type of books you read, Visual content creation is where you need to concentrate the most. Instagram is a visual platform and the most effective way to drive people to your page and make them want to press that blue button is to have visually appealing timeline. Captions come second and will form an important but not equally important part of your post for majority of people. The reason I say this is that on average for me the number of comments are about 50-100 and the number of likes go somewhere between 3k to 6k. Not everyone will be in the mood to have a chat on Instagram PLUS you are not the only one they are following. The average number of accounts 1 user follows on Instagram is 800.

Taking pictures

The main thing you need is a camera, not necessarily a DSLR. Your phone camera will work just fine. You could start your page with a single setup style and take multiple pictures with different books and setups and slowly graduate to different styles. Or you could start and learn on the way to find out what style(s) work best for you. It’s all hit and miss and depends on what you are good at over a period of time. I, personally enjoy taking pictures at the beach or at cafes but sometimes I’m in the mood for a flat lay. I don’t follow a single setup theme because my mind is just very random and I’ve tried but I can’t follow a single theme. I’m slowly trying to learn how to have a color theme my page if not a single style theme. These days I’m regularly using a bookish scarf as a background as I don’t have enough time right now and it actually looks really good!

Photography tips

1- All cameras will give their best shot in natural lighting. If you are taking pictures at home, take pictures as close to the window as possible.

2- Check online when the ‘Golden Hour’ is in your city. This is the time the sunlight is perfectly angled to give a soft lighting environment. If you can, then try to schedule your shoot during this time.

3- Focus on different parts of the image to see which point is giving you the best lit picture.

4- Take multiple pictures from different angles. You’ll be surprised to see how different the same setup looks from different angles. I’ve posted pictures of the same setup from different angles and each of them has a personality of its own.

5- If you need to take pictures at night (I almost never have), do not use direct lighting, use a thin cloth or shower curtain to soften and spread the light.

Engagement

First thing you might learn on IG is that every day is a new experience. One picture will get a 1000 likes and the next maybe 200. There is no guarantee. So what you need to do is try to control the things you can control. The one thing you can kind of control is to direct traffic to your account.

What I have done over the past is followed a bunch of people on whose posts I like and comment almost every single day. I do this every time I post a picture on my page. I follow around 30 people who post every single day. When they see that I comment almost daily, they naturally return the favor on my posts. Please note I try to be thoughtful in my comments and try to relate it to the caption or picture. Unless I’m really tired or out of ideas I might comment something generic like complimenting the picture posted.

These are connection I have grown and maintained over the past and were only built since I was regular on their pages and got noticed. There are some accounts which are way bigger than mine but they appear regularly on my page as well because I am regular on theirs. So try to give, to get.

United Bookstagram

Many of you might already know, I created a hashtag along with my sister @sumaiyya.books : #unitedbookstagram. This is to support smaller account who have just started on bookstagram. We try to like/comment on posts on the hashtag every single day. Use it, and be active on it. You’ll find some really great accounts who want to engage and grow with you.

I really hope this helps you if you are starting out. I honestly don’t know if any of this information is new to anyone, since these are almost basic tools/tips that I use daily which makes it seem like general knowledge!

If you liked this post, please subscribe to my blog here and do share this post and help your fellow bookstagrammers!

Happy Reading!

Faroukh

@theguywiththebook