Latest Book Haul: Non-Fiction

Monday, March 23, 2015

I mentioned a few days ago that I've just been reading 'okay' books, and because of this, I wanted to pick up something great. Another blogger, Lindsey, gave me great advice: try something different from the usual books you typically pick up. So I did. I like a bit of non fiction every now and then, but for the most part, I like my fictional books. This week, I picked up two non fiction books just to change up the pace.

These two books have been on my tbr wishlist for a while, but I just have never gotten around to picking it up. Finally, I have it. The first book is the book I am actually currently reading and that's The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This is a true crime historical book that is set during the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and centers around two men - the brilliant architect behind the fair and the serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. I know. Intriguing, right?

The second book is more of a devastating one: Night, a memoir by Elie Wiesel. He's pretty well known as a Holocaust survivor who writes and talks about his experiences at that time when he was sent to concentration camps. 

Have you read these books? Any thoughts? And what were some of the latest books you bought? Let me know also some of your favorite non fiction books.

I am joining Bloggiesta!

Friday, March 20, 2015

I've been blogging for five years (has it really been that long?!) and I have never joined this event. I've always wanted to, but just never got around to it. This year, I thought I'd finally go for it. Bloggiesta is going to be a week long event this time around, and it essentially is a period when you focus on improving your blog and blogging life. It's not too late to sign up, so I encourage you to do so if you have stuff on your to-do list that you want to check off. Here are the things I definitely want to tackle for the coming week. 
Sign Up Here!
  • Network 
    This is my main goal. Like I said, since I've been blogging for a while now, some of the blogs I follow on my feed aren't active and/or blog anymore. I am constantly looking for great blogs with awesome content. I usually like blogs with thought-provoking discussions, honest reviews, and some personal stories in it so please comment with your link so I could check you out.
  • I update very regularly and consistently on here in terms of what I'm reading and my star ratings, but my TBR list needs a revamp for sure. I need to delete some and add titles that I really want to read. It truly helps me stay organized and focused when I go to bookstores having my tbr list in one place. 
  • Change my twitter background, figure out if I can change my username without affecting ANYTHING at all, and update the people I follow. 
  • This website is my go-to website to cure boredom and to spark creativity and inspiration. I do know that I really should start linking up my blog posts on there, because 1. it's fun, and 2. networking, like I mentioned. 
  • Read
    What kind of book blogger would I be if I didn't take the time to read?? I am definitely looking forward to it. 
Are you joining this year's Bloggiesta? If you are, I'd love to visit you and see your own to-do list. 

that state wherein you can't figure out what to read next.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"What to read next, what to read next?" Those are the questions I ask myself repeatedly after having just finished a book. Despite the huge to-be read list that I have, I can never quite decide which one to pick up next. Then, as I am naturally indecisive, even when I end up picking a title and starting to read it, in my head, I am still trying to imagine how the other options might be. It's a little odd, but I hope I'm not the only one who is like this.

I just need something great. Something that will hook me right in and keep me there throughout. Of course, I thought I would ask for your input. What was the last book that blew you away? I need that book in my life right now! I've been reading 'eh' and okay books, and I just need something fantastic. The last great book was for me was in mid-February when I picked up The Nightingale. What's yours? Let me know in the comments and thank you in advance for the recommendations! 

Review: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rating: 1.5-2 stars
The Storyteller is told through several points of view, and is set during the modern time with some flashbacks. The main character is Sage, who befriends an old man that she met in a grief group. They form a friendship, and after some time, he asks her for a favor: to kill him. Yes, to kill him. It captured my attention as soon as I read the premise. 

I know Jodi Picoult tends to write about moral issues and heavy subject matters, having read two of her other books, so I wasn't surprised she would write such a story. I do appreciate that she tackles such topics, and there's definitely big ones here: assisted suicide, forgiveness, guilt, among others. As mentioned, it also surrounds the heaviness of the impacts created during the WWII era, specifically during the Holocaust.

Unfortunately, I was let down by this book quite a lot. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a specific point of view or opinion is being forced down the reader's throat. I am all up for stories with controversial topics, but I think some of the best books that talk about such issues are those that let the reader decide for themselves.

It also did not help that I could not root for the main character of Sage at all. In the beginning, I figured I would end up appreciating her purpose, but throughout the book, she had no growth. She stayed the same, without much development. I also did not like her decisions and thought process throughout as well as in the end, which made it even more difficult to like the story itself.

Lastly, I really despised the fact that there was a romance here added randomly. It was so contrived and unnecessary, a random subplot that served no real purpose. It makes me wonder: why can't a story surrounding the Holocaust and some moral issues just stick to that? Is it necessary for every book or every female protagonist to find the man who will sweep her off her feet?

Maybe I am being harsh, but this book just really struck a negative chord in me. I will not deny that the author is talented and writes effortlessly, but the whole story could have been executed a lot better. in terms of character and plot. I felt like it was way too long and felt like it dragged on, and I think it could have been a bit tighter and more seamless. I almost did not finish it, but I went with it, and in a way, I wish I just stopped reading it halfway through.

Book Recommendations: Stories Set in WWII

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One of my favorite genres to read is historical fiction, specifically one that is set during the World War II era. I think this time in our history is such an important one, as it altered our world in many ways. I also think that there are just so many stories from different perspectives that are left to tell and that deserve to be told. If you are like me who have a special place for stories set during this time, here are some fictional novels (and movie) that I HIGHLY recommend. 

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    I sound like a total broken record including this book in here, because I feel like I've included it in all the lists I make. It makes it on this list though, deservedly so, as it is just a great story about ordinary people living during this horrific time. It is beautifully written and features such memorable characters that readers will fall in love with. It also is pretty unique as it's told through the point of view of 'Death.' 
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
    This book is one of my favorite books now, as it's just perfect. It has gorgeous writing and effortless storytelling from the author, and has unforgettable characters. It's honest and unflinching, a beautiful fiction at its finest. Read my review here.
  • Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
    I read this a few years ago, but I still remember how it made me feel. This is told through the point of view of German civilians, as the war and its effects surround them. I particularly loved the narration in this one. 
  • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky*
    This one has a special place in my heart. It tells the stories of the French people during the Nazi occupation. *What's even more special is who it's written by: Irene Nemirovsky. She was a successful writer living in Paris, but at the start of the war, she and her family had to flee and hide because of their Jewish parentage. While hiding, she completed the first part of this book, but she was captured by the German SS and was sent to a concentration camp where she was executed. Her children hid her manuscript and sixty years later, one of her daughters took it to a publisher. The translator simply translated and edited her work, creating this profound story. A must read for sure!
  • Schindler's List (film)
    This would be a time when I would recommend seeing the movie more than reading the book. I did read the book that the famous film was based on, but I have to say that this adaptation was something else entirely. It will always be a heartbreaking must-watch movie, and that theme score by John Williams will forever haunt me. 
And with that, let me leave you with that very theme from the movie.

Let me know if you have any more books, fiction or non-fiction, to add to this list, or if you have any book recommendations set during this time that you think I should try out. I am always looking for more beautifully told stories. 

Review: The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rating: 3 stars
For lack of a better description, this book was entertaining enough, but it is one that left me feeling confused. To be honest, even though the story itself was interesting, I felt like it was a bit too all over the place. There were too many things going on! At times, I wasn't sure if I was reading the same book - it has a bit of mystery, thriller, drama... Its themes and topics also vary greatly - there's an autistic brother, an alcoholic mother, a responsible college student who became an adult too fast, a convicted criminal, and a love interest with a hidden past. 

It also doesn't help that it is told in first person with a 21-year old character who until now, I can't quite figure out. At times, he is this wise adult who grew up with a tough upbringing. The next minute, he is the college student who is only trying to make a name for himself. Don't forget though that he can also be a tough and strong man, and can pretty much beat anyone up if he wanted to. Later, he becomes this sentimental guy who crushes on a pretty college girl (and let me tell you that this part and the way he talks about the girl honestly makes him seem a little perverted and superficial - total character turn off!) 

I'm just not sure who he really is! I'm still so confused! I couldn't figure out if I liked him or if I detested him. I wanted to empathize and root for this main character, but I don't even know who he is even after finishing the book. 

In addition, I didn't like the way it ended. I understand it's fiction. I have to suspend disbelief somewhere, but the outcome was so unrealistic! I didn't buy it one bit, and it just made me annoyed to be honest, as I felt like everything unraveled too easily and too perfectly.

The bottom line here is there's just so much happening all at once that I felt like the main story line was left in the backseat. I felt like all the story lines were just added in for shock value, and I was a bit frustrated because of that. I just think that the book could have been more simple, and doing so would probably make the main plot stand out and more realistic and believable. 

Having said that, I didn't think the book was bad even though my review sounds like it is. In fact, I thought it was a good book to pass the time. It also doesn't hurt that it's an incredibly fast-paced page turner that entertained and kept me intrigued all throughout. I just wish the plot lines and the character development here were a little tighter, because the debut author's writing is pretty nice and showed a lot of promise. 

Books about Books

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I love books with bookish themes. Whether it's a fiction novel with a character who loves to read or a non fiction account on one's life surrounding reading, I love them all. Here are just some of the books that I personally have read and own.

photo taken by me
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    This book is set in an English town, featuring colorful characters. The main character's father owns a bookshop, and that is also where she likes to spend most of her time. The overall feel and the Gothic atmosphere this book has is so great. It also has some of the best quotes related to books and reading.
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
    I would only give this novel a 3 star rating, but I have to add this to this list because The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is every bookish person's dream; each chapter contains quotes from several books written by authors we love from Roald Dahl to Flannery O' Connor to F. Scott Fitzgerald. It also features a character who owns a bookstore! 
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
    I highly recommend this book full of various fairy tale retellings especially if you love dark and grim (that pun) stories. The stories here are twisted, and appropriately so, as they were originally told that way by the Grimm brothers.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    Historical Fiction
    Even though this novel has a lot of themes and story lines not related to books, books do play a big part, especially in the main character's life. 
  • Where Books Fall Open 
    This is a collection full of essays, prose, and poetry about books, literature, and reading. It also has various drawings and paintings that show readers. It's quite a lovely book to add to your collection!
  • The Library At Night by Alberto Manguel
    This book captured my interest from the very beginning. It is a must for any bibliophile! The author talks about the magic of libraries and their meanings in his own life.
  • A Gentle Madness by Nicholas A. Basbanes
    This is another non fiction book that is perfect for bibliophiles. It focuses on man's passion with books in history from the great library of Alexandria to the 20th Century. It's an interesting take, and if you like historical accounts and essays, I highly recommend this. 
Do you know and love any bookish books? Let me know because I can't get enough of them. 

Books: A Timeless Form of Art

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

photo taken by me
People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write, they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in the ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic. 
- The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I think this quote rings true for all types of art: music, photography, theater, among many others. Literature definitely belong in that category. A book is timeless and enduring. It will surpass its creator, every person that touches it, and every reader that devours it. It will be loved again and again, pass through many types of people and experiences. It will remain. It is endless. It is a permanent source of beauty and life.