books, REVIEWS

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

I’ve had Colson’s Underground Railroad on my tbr for more than two years so when I found this book in my mail box, I started it immediately but had I known how much it would tire me, I would’ve waited a few days at-least. (Not that that would change the experience)

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead sent to me by Little Brown (Thank you!)

Based and inspired by the history of Arthur G. Dozier School for reform of Boys (I recommend you read about it if you don’t know it’s history) The Nickel Boys was one of the best starts of any book I’ve read in recent times. Intrigued and almost invested in the story of Elwood Curtis, a black kid who dreamed of college education and a better future in a time when America was as divided as it has ever been, I had to stop and reflect at the injustice faced by so many in America’s history.

How a kid with so much promise ends up in a correctional facility which is infamous for abuse and violence against the kids, for no fault of his own, is worth more than what The Nickel Boys gave.

Filled with characters that have nothing to do with the plot and in no way move the book forward, it felt like Colson had included a plethora of them to make the books impact stronger, by giving names and introductions. Sadly it didn’t work for me, it just created more branches that were not needed. Character development was not something expected from any of these almost random characters but I felt that Elwood’s character should have been given more focus.

Somewhere I feel an all knowing narrative would’ve worked better, and by part two of the book it was slowly becoming a extremely tiresome to read.

Two instances of the book will catch your attention, the Encyclopedia in part one and the Lashes in part two. Both should have had a bigger emotional impact but somehow felt like they were trying too hard.

By the end of part three where the book takes a really big turn and jumps way ahead, we learn about the effects the school has had on the boys. This would’ve been my favorite part but it seemed like there was forced purpose behind the ending. Colson wanted to end the book a certain way and he wrote FOR the book and not the story.

There is a unexpected twist at the end which does change a lot of the experience but by then it was too late for me to like it.

An interesting book, a great conversation generator as well. I guess when we think about books with racism at its core, we expect to be moved a bit more, maybe that’s our fault as readers, maybe that’s just reality.

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If you’re interested in buying the book, click here for my affiliate link

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And if you are looking for more book reviews, please find the links here:

It’s Not About The Burqa by Mariah Khan

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

books

Chapter 9: Luxembourg. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

Hey guys! We’re back with another chapter which I’m really excited about! I’ve had chats randomly with Sophia (You might know her as TeaCupBookWorld on Instagram) over the last few months and recently she was kind enough to give us some of her time and write up a recommendation for Luxembourg. I honestly had no idea about the place except the name (could hardly get the spelling right!) Sophia is a regular on Bookstagram where she is very active and does weekly readathons as well. I’ve recommended her account on bookstagram recently and am going to do that again. Click her name to reach her account: Sophia and let’s let Sophia take over this post!

At The Devil’s Banquets by Anise Koltz

It is only recently that I began to research local authors in Luxembourg, so for that reason my book recommendation today is a little different – this is a newly discovered author and book for me too.

I have lived in Luxembourg for just under two years and I am slowly learning about a unique culture which, before I relocated here, I barely knew existed. Luxembourg is a very small country bordering France, Germany and Belgium, so the most notable authors are usually of French or German origin.

The author I chose to discuss is Anise Koltz – she is the Vice President of the European Academy of Poetry, and the founder and director of the festival Les Journées de Mondorf. She was born in Luxembourg in 1928, but as Luxembourgish was not even a written language until about 30 years ago, the majority of her work is written in French and German (the two other local languages). Interestingly, she began by writing only in German, however, after the death of her husband – who was a victim of torture by the Nazi occupation  she could no longer bring herself to write in the German language. When she started writing again, the only language she would use, was French. 

Anise started her career by writing fairy stories in the 1950s, but later, she switched her focus to poetry. As a fellow poet myself, I was keen to explore her work and the words she wanted to share. The first book of her poetry that I encountered, is called ‘At the Devil’s Banquets’.

Her writing in this book fascinates me as it is so lyrical yet at the same time raw and painful. She makes bold statements questioning our world, and yet, her words are also metaphors and wild contemplations. There is a subtle anger in her style which really resonates with me:

‘Lost in space
eternity turns back
to the glacial era

Keeps watch over our petrified bodies
sites abandoned by time’

We encounter so much gentle and simple poetry in daily life (which definitely has its place) but we are not often faced with the truly hardhitting pieces. For me personally, I love to ponder a powerful stanza full of fearless observation.

Alongside this complex and dark narration, she also creates some intimate pieces about more runofthemill subjects such as the writing of poetry itself. I really enjoyed this piece called ‘The Poet’, below is a small extract:

‘He holds back the poem
the way you hold your breath

Until he learns to breathe 
against it

His wildcat’s
teeth grind

Every Poem
is a mark of his claws’

To read Anise’s work is to discover a wonderful correlation between her writing and Luxembourg itself – uncharted beauty where you are least expecting it.

This was Chapter 9 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Sophia. You can buy the book here from book depository
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.

Our previous Chapters are as follows, have a look! 

Chapter 1: Australia here

Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Chapter 3: Egypt here

Chapter 4: Palestine here

Chapter 5: Kenya here

Chapter 6: Pakistan here

Chapter 7: Argentina here

Chapter 8: Estonia here

books, REVIEWS

It’s Not About The Burqa edited by Mariam Khan

“No one woman can speak for all Muslim Women – for that rich and varied tapestry of experiences, practice, belief and ways of being” – Nadine Aisha Jassat

#theguywiththebookreview presents It’s Not About The Burqa

The quote above from Nadine came on the last page of the book and I think it reaffirms my original decision to not review this book the way I usually try to critically (although amateurly) look at the contents.

17 Muslim women from a wide range of backgrounds share their thoughts about what it is like to be a Muslim Woman, sometimes very visibly so (Hijabi Muslim Women) and sometimes not as visibly.

A few of the essays here were fascinating to me. Having lived most of my life where ‘normal’ to me is a lifestyle circled around Islam and practicing Muslims, the Muslim identity to has always been the default. Where segregation of sexes is the norm and where things go to a halt when it is prayer times (All shops close for 20-30 minutes during the 5 prayer times in Saudi Arabia)

There were essays which I absolutely disagreed with and then there were some that were almost enlightening. One in particular by Saima Mir definitely choked me up.

But without a doubt my absolutely favorite of all the essays came very early in the collection: On the Representation of Muslims *Terms and Conditions Apply by @nafisa_bakkar Her essay made a super lazy reader like me get up and grab my highlighter. I went crazy highlighting the stuff she’s written! Absolutely on point!

I would recommend this to readers across the board, Muslim or Non Muslim with a very small note that not everything in this book is about being a Muslim or Not being a Muslim. These are mostly experiences and aren’t to be taken word for word as a representation of or not of Islam.

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If you’re interested in buying the book, please click HERE for my Affiliate Link, Thank you!

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Please consider subscribing to my blog HERE.

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If you are looking for more book reviews, please find the links here:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

books, REVIEWS

The Man-eater of Malgudi by R. K. Narayan

Probably one of the most famous fictional cities in India, Malgudi was a little part of my childhood too!

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Man-eater of Malgudi by R.K. Narayan.

Set in Malgudi (based somewhere in South India) we have Natraj, a very hardworking owner of a small 2 man printing press which is also a daily place to socialize for a couple of local men. Sastri is Natraj’s assistant and the book sets off in a very relaxed pace until Vasu, a taxidermist moves to town and somehow manages to rent out Natraj’s attic but never pays him a dime.

Vasu has ironically a very straight forward approach when it comes to getting things done but has no problem twisting things when it comes to being responsible for his own actions.

The Malgudi series of books seem to have been a very genuine commentary on Indian culture and way of life. Through the inclusion of a ‘loose’ woman and the different reactions of men to her presence Narayan manages to seamlessly navigate through and deconstruct the thoughts of different people.

Midway through the plot picks up pace and the final 25 pages take a very intriguing turn in events and the book is no longer just a social tale.

I think the brilliance with Narayan’s approach of using a fictional town is to detach the characters and events from any particular place and via fiction make us all look into ourselves transparently. (I don’t know if this makes sense but it’s been 5 minutes and I don’t know how to say this any other way)

Pick this up! Rating 🐘/5

Click HERE to buy. (This is linked to a 2 in 1 book which also includes A Tiger for Malgudi)

books

Book Mail: April 2019

Hey guys!

Been a while, I know…

I thought I’d share bookmail on the blog as well.

If you’ve come here from Instagram, HIGH FIVE!! Please don’t forget to subscribe! PLEASE **inserting super duper crying emoji**

Here are the books I received in April:

1- After the end by Clare Mackintosh from Little Brown.

From New York Times bestselling author Clare Mackintosh, a deeply moving and page-turning novel about an impossible choice—and the two paths fate could take.

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers, unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.

Click HERE to buy!

2- Call Me Evie by JP Pomare from Little Brown.

In this propulsive, twist-filled, and haunting psychological suspense debut perfect for fans of Sharp Objects and Room, a seventeen-year-old girl struggles to remember the role she played on the night her life changed forever.

For the past two weeks, seventeen-year-old Kate Bennet has lived against her will in an isolated cabin in a remote beach town–brought there by a mysterious man named Bill. Part captor, part benefactor, Bill calls her Evie and tells her he’s hiding her to protect her. That she did something terrible one night back home in Melbourne–something so unspeakable that he had no choice but to take her away. The trouble is, Kate can’t remember the night in question. 

The fragments of Kate’s shattered memories of her old life seem happy: good friends, a big house in the suburbs, a devoted boyfriend. Bill says he’ll help her fill in the blanks–but his story isn’t adding up. And as she tries to reconcile the girl she thought she’d been with the devastating consequences Bill claims she’s responsible for, Kate will unearth secrets about herself and those closest to her that could change everything. 

A riveting debut novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind, Call Me Evie explores the fragility of memory and the potential in all of us to hide the truth, even from ourselves.

Click HERE to buy!

3- The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien sent to me by the Author.

It is the winter of 1915 and Iraq has been engulfed by the First World War. Hungry for independence from Ottoman rule, Ahmad leaves his peaceful family life on the banks of the Tigris to join the British-led revolt. Thousands of miles away, Welsh teenager Carwyn reluctantly enlists and is sent, via Gallipoli and Egypt, to the Mesopotamia campaign.

Carwyn’s and Ahmad’s paths cross, and their fates are bound together. Both are forever changed, not only by their experience of war, but also by the parallel discrimination and betrayal they face.

Ruqaya Izzidien’s evocative debut novel is rich with the heartbreak and passion that arise when personal loss and political zeal collide, and offers a powerful retelling of the history of British intervention in Iraq.

Click HERE to buy.

4- Heartstream by Tom Pollock sent to me by Walker Books.

I just wanted to see you. Before the end. A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror.

Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star. But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie.

Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable.

But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time. Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want?

Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

Click HERE to buy!

5- Malamander by Thomas Taylor sent to me by Walker Books.

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep…

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger…

Click HERE to buy!

6- The Parisian by Isabella Hammad from Vintage Books.

As the First World War shatters families, destroys friendships and kills lovers, a young Palestinian dreamer sets out to find himself.

Midhat Kamal picks his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.

Isabella Hammad delicately unpicks the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. An intensely human story amidst a global conflict, The Parisian is historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice.

Click HERE to buy!

7- Cygnet by Season Butler from Dialogue Books.

Seventeen-year-old Kid doesn’t know where her parents are. They left her with her grandmother Lolly, promising to return soon. That was months ago. Now, Lolly is dead and Kid is alone, stranded ten miles off the coast of New Hampshire on tiny Swan Island. Unable to reach her parents, and with no other relatives to turn to, Kid works for a neighbor, airbrushing the past—digitally retouching family photos and movies—to earn enough money to survive.

Surrounded by the vast ocean, Kid’s temporary home is no ordinary vacation retreat. The island is populated by an idiosyncratic group of elderly separatists who left behind the youth-obsessed mainland—”the Bad Place”—to create their own alternative community. These residents call themselves the Swans. Kid calls them the Wrinklies. Even as Kid tries to be good and quiet and patient, the adolescent’s presence unnerves the Swans, turning some downright hostile. They don’t care if she has nowhere to go, they just want her gone. She is a reminder of all they’ve left behind and are determined to forget.

But Kid isn’t the only problem threatening the insular community. Swan Island is eroding into the rising sea, threatening the Swans’ very existence there. To find a way forward, the Kid must come to terms with the realities of her life and an unknown future that is hers alone to embrace.

Season Butler makes her literary debut with an ambitious work of bold imagination. Tough and tender, compassionate and ferocious, intelligent and provocative, Cygnet is a meditation on death and life, past and future, aging and youth, memory and forgetting, that explores what it means to find acceptance—of things past and those to come.

Click HERE to buy!

books, REVIEWS

A place for us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

I have always been secretly proud of my ability to express my thoughts on books in concentrated ways enabling readers of my reviews to decide for themselves if they would like to read them or not. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can or want to do that with this one, you HAVE to read it.

I’m going to stick to three main points of the book:

▪️The Storytelling

▫️The Characters

▪️The Relatability

▪️What struck me most within the first 50 pages of the book was how expertly the plot is handled and weaves around the characters. The narrative jumps ahead and around multiple times and it doesn’t take much effort to know when it’s taking place. I noticed subtle hints are included within the first few paragraphs of each new timeline and I’d automatically readjust the ages of each character to fit the narrative.

▫️At our core, we are all flawed and most of us try our best to do what we can to improve ourselves and adjust to our surroundings; to embrace our traditions and yet accept new ones. Writing such characters never seems like an easy task, but to write such characters and join their lives together in a way that compliments and completes them is exactly what Fatima has accomplished. There isn’t one character I could clearly point out and say was right or wrong. They all had their reasons behind their words and actions.

▪️Having been born in a foreign country and then lived almost all of my life outside of my own, there are things that I know and understand and experience regularly but have unfortunately never had the privilege to hear out loud. A Place for Us became my little place where I found solace in the five days I took to read it. It’s going to remain with me for a very long time and perhaps finally become the first book I might revisit year in and year out.

I had the privilege to talk to Fatima right after I read the book, it reminded me of what JD Salinger wrote in the incomparable voice of Holden: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” Well, it happened! Thank you Fatima!

You can buy the book here

books, REVIEWS

Anne Frank’s Diary (the graphic novel) adapted by Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky

“How wonderful is it that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”

Thank you @aaKnopf for sending the book!

#theguywiththebookreview presents Anne Franks Diary : Graphic Adaptation.

The biggest tragedy with reviewing this book is I don’t remember if I’ve actually read the original version as a kid or not. I think I have, but my memory fails me once again.

Nevertheless, I picked it up and a couple of days later I realized that it has been one of my most surreal experiences with a book.

As with all graphic novels, the focus is on the illustrations but I was happy to see that several pages worth of original texts were copied to it as well.

If you didn’t know Anne and her family with a few other people were hiding from the Nazis in an Attic in Amsterdam. They hid for 2 years.

Anne starts writing in her Diary (she names it Kitty) The book is full of her diary entries or ‘conversations’ with Kitty.

She is brutally honest and questions whatever she can. She is rebellious as well as thoughtful. It’s a book which shows how the human spirit can break and did break during under the Nazi regime.

What I didn’t remember was how the book ended, and ended it did with a lot of emotion. I had almost forgotten that this book is not fiction and was written not by an adult but a teenage girl coming to terms with life and how hers isn’t normal.

I’m pretty sure there is not much I can add without repeating other readers, I don’t think I need to review characters or pace either. This books isn’t about them, but it still somehow excels in them! The hardships of having to live in hiding isn’t just the claustrophobia but also the several impossibilities to life which includes getting enough food to eat, medical attention and simply fresh air.

I think this graphic version might make it a perfect stepping stone to reading the full version.l, especially for teenagers.

You can buy the book here