Reading Two Books At Once: Currently Reading

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I'm reading two books at once. Or at least trying to. It's not the easiest, but I just want to read both so much that I am making an attempt. I borrowed Norwegian Wood from the ebook library and also have Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
I have to admit I am more engaged with Norwegian Wood; there's something gripping about Murakami's writing, which is good because this is my first Murakami. And while I am liking Blood Meridian, maybe I have to be in a certain mood for something as dark as McCarthy's style?

Anyway, do you read multiple books at once? Or are you like me who find it almost impossible to do so?

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee *no spoilers*

Monday, July 20, 2015

The initial thought I had when I read the first few chapters was how much I missed Harper Lee's writing. Her prose is just as beautiful, just as poetic, and just as eloquent as I remembered. She has a way of creating imagery and of putting meaningful messages without trying hard to do so. I also found it incredibly difficult to put it down and yet, I made a decision to take my time with it because I didn't want it to be over so soon. Overall, it was a real treat just being able to devour her words again. 

As I started getting through the book a bit more, like I just mentioned, I found myself in love with the writing. Then I asked myself, "Would I like these characters and story, as well as their developments, if this was not written by Harper Lee? If it was not a sequel of To Kill A Mockingbird? Would I still be invested or would I think 'eeehh it's alright?'"

I am saying this because I think my favorite part of this novel was because it's connected to To Kill A Mockingbird. This brought me back to the settings and characters of the story that I loved. It almost felt like a grand reunion of childhood friends after years of not seeing or hearing from each other. I'd ask myself too; "am I still friends with these people in this reunion or are we united by the memories of our friendship so long ago? Other than that, what else do we have in common?" Comparing it to a reunion made me think about how I love the connection, but if I didn't know anything about its background, I wonder if I would still like the book as much as I do.

That being said, the biggest strength of this book is how it's driven by such well-written characters. They are still realistic and believable, and I loved that this book offered a more complex view of them. In my opinion, they have become more multifaceted in my eyes, and it proved many things to me. First, it really showed how innocent children can be when growing up. As kids, we were protected from many things, and as we got older, we discovered more things about life. It's an inevitable part of maturity and of growing up. Go Set A Watchman did a great job exploring this. 
It also did a great job showing how nobody and nothing can be just black or white. There are gray areas, there are middle grounds, and also common grounds. No one is just a bad person or a good person; everyone has a light and dark side. Ultimately, as people, we are just trying our best to survive everyday despite our flaws and life's challenges. 
This book also showed that there is something to learn and discover everyday, and we must open our minds more. While boldness is an admirable characteristic, we must  not assume we are in the right all the time because the truth is, we're not. What we can do is always hear both sides of every person involved or every story, learn from our mistakes, learn from others, and just try to be better people in our society more and more each day.

Technically speaking, as a sequel of a classic, I feel it is not strong enough to be considered 'complete.' It read more like a scattered draft - a great one at that - but not quite a finished novel. It didn't feel cohesive enough. 
The great thing about books though is that we do not just read them for their literary merit. We read books for different reasons, and for this one, I read it for the experience. It made me feel nostalgic, and it showed me that the best characters to read about (like Atticus and Scout) are the ones who are real, flawed, believable, and true. 
If you are still debating whether or not to read it because you are afraid it will ruin To Kill A Mockingbird, my advice is for you to just push everything aside and read with an open-mind. Read it for what it is, let go of your expectations, and maybe you'd also be able to appreciate it as much as I did too.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Friday, July 17, 2015

Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5 stars

I've been warned that Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro was going to be a sad story, and it definitely lived up to that expectation that was set up for me. It was one of those books that will stay with you long after you're done reading it. It was bleak and atmospheric. Personally, it literally haunted me in my dreams and admittedly affected me the day when I finished it.

I felt this way after reading Burial Rites last year too. It haunted me and stayed with me. It must be the atmosphere behind this that makes this book stick. Combine that with Ishiguro's effortless prose and it's especially difficult not to love it. It never seems as if he is trying so hard to write beautifully too, which is always a plus; he just does.

Overall, I do not think it is for everyone, but I do highly recommend this is you want a unique story with creative settings and characters, paired with gorgeous writing. It's a simple and beautiful book. It is honest and unflinching. As my first book by Ishiguro, this has turned me into his fan.

Best Books So Far In 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

We are a little bit more than halfway through the year already, which is insane to me to be honest. Reading-wise, I'm having quite a great year! I'm on a reading high, and that's the way I like it. I figured I should recognize some of my favorite reads this year so far. Here are the six books I picked.
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  • Ebook from my Kindle: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
    What a heart wrenching book. This one was tough to read, but so worth it. It has some incredibly effective storytelling and effortlessly beautiful prose. It also has some of the more memorable characters I've read in a while.
  • The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
    After reading On the Road, I had to read more Kerouac. I really liked this one and it gave me a new sense for adventures.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
    Read my review here.
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
    Admittedly I've been working on this one for a few months now, but I only finished it in June. If you are a fan of The Bell Jar and you're intrigued and interested by Plath's life, I definitely recommend this one.
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
    Read my review here.
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
    Read my review here.
What about you? Tell me your favorite reads so far this year.

Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

Friday, July 3, 2015

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
I read this book in a day and a half for a reason - it's a quick and fast-paced read. As soon as I received it for review, I couldn't wait and I dove right in. First off, it's a fictional novel set in my dream city destination (someday, I'll go there!) so that part of it attracted me to this. It also centers around this character who owns a floating bookstore on the Seine, where he 'prescribes books for a living,' which to me, sounds like a dream. It also has the tag line that states it's "a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories." Are you sold yet? Because I was.

Fortunately, it did not disappoint. It was just how I thought it would be: charming. The setting of course, was a huge part that made it like so. It was great to read the lovely descriptions of France and specifically, of Paris. Another thing I really loved was the main character himself. I felt like I was reading about someone I personally knew. He was realistic and believable. All I wanted to do was to ask him for his specific recommendations for me. Of course, the biggest characters for me in this story were the literary aspects. The books, the bookstore, the quotes... it will truly captivate any reader and book lover.

Overall, I thought this book was a delightful read. While it's not automatically going on my 'favorites' pile, it is definitely a novel that will go on my books-about-books list. It is sort of similar to how I feel when I read Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I didn't 100% love it, but I found it incredibly blissful to read a story surrounding literature and the power of reading.

More about the book
More about the author
FTC Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House for review.

Father's Day: Memorable Fictional Dads

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Father's day was already this past Sunday, but I thought since I did a post for Mother's day, I should do it this time around as well. On my Instagram, I posted a photo of books that in my opinion has some of the most memorable and great dads as well as father figures in literature.
Atticus Finch : To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Ned Stark : Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Oberyn Martell : Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Mr. Bennett : Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Arthur Weasley : Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Hans Hubermann : The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
not pictured: the father in The Road by Cormac Mccarthy

Who are some of the memorable fictional fathers to you? 

Zion National Park.

Friday, June 12, 2015

My boyfriend and I have a bit of a tradition - we love going on trips in general, but we have a special place in our hearts for National Parks. I've personally gone on two without him - Grand Canyon and Yosemite. He's gone on more, but hardly recalls them as his parents took him when he was younger.. As an adult, he's gone to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks by himself. Together, we've visited Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Park. On May 28-June 2, we were in Utah, spending three and a half days in Zion and spending two and a half days in Bryce. Both were amazingly wonderful destinations.

From where I live in Northern California, the drive itself took ten and a half hours. It was an enjoyable ride through Southern California, Nevada, a bit of Arizona, and then into the unique canyons of Utah.

Two hours from Las Vegas, you arrive in Zion. Zion National Park kind of comes out of nowhere. We were driving and following the map when all of a sudden, we see everything towering over us. Mountain peaks with colorful rock formations say hello, and we couldn't help but stare in awe; we were in total disbelief that such a thing can exist in our world.
We hurried to our reserved 'home away from home' in the fully booked Watchmen campground. I adored this place! Despite the fact that it was full of people, the sites were far apart enough that it still made you feel as if you were there alone in the wild. It was also immaculately clean despite having no showers. It also was very peaceful and quiet enough. The best part was that we were surrounded by the majestic mountains called the Watchmen, making the experience even more remote and serene. Since this was our first day and we were a little tired, we did most of the scenic routes by car. We drove through Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, which is not to be missed, as it offers views like no other.
On our second day, after having breakfast while looking at maps and learning a bit more of what Zion has to offer, we quickly realized that four days in the park weren't going to be enough to fully explore. There were countless hiking trails that we wanted to do, but we had to pick and choose. Of course, The Narrows was number one on my list as that has been something I've always wanted to do. And let me tell you, it was more than what I expected to be. It was more beautiful, more peaceful, more awe-inspiring, but also more challenging than I anticipated. In all honesty, it kicked my butt, but oh it was so worth it. 
The Narrows overall is a 16-mile hike, one-way, but hikers need a permit to go all the way as it requires camping in the area. It was never our plan to do the whole thing, so we only tried to go as long as we physically wanted to. Since there weren't any signs on how many miles we've done, we could only assume. We did decide to head back about two hours before sunset, and overall, we were down there for 8 hours. It's very easy to lose track of time, so if you go, be very alert and cautious!
Exploring The Narrows was the most adventurous thing I've done, but it was also the toughest and most grueling. You really have to take your time as you are fighting against the river's current while also watching carefully for your next step as underneath are rocks of all sizes. We rented special water hiking shoes and socks from the store near the Visitor Center, and I highly recommend this as it helped keep my feet warm and also saved my ankle so many times! In terms of depth, the water mostly went up to my knees, but there were times when it went up my belly button! It was a lot of fun walking through that water. 
By the 6th hour of us hiking, I admittedly wanted to give up, but I knew I needed to strengthen myself mentally more than anything. I kept going and I was extremely proud of myself when we were finally done with it. There is nothing like being able to come back from where you started and saying, "We did it!" 
We trudged on and when we got back to the campground, it was the best feeling ever. We were both extremely exhausted and sore from the hike that we ate dinner quietly and went to bed early. We slept for a full eight hours, and when we woke up, we surprisingly felt a lot better! Feeling strong, encouraged, and inspired by the 8 hour hike we just did the day before, we wanted to keep going! Thankfully, we were smart and chose a much easier trail: The Emerald Pools Trail. It was a 3-mile roundtrip hike with moderate difficulty,and it was also a much more straight-forward trail. You go up, you go down. While hiking, we saw waterfalls, emerald pools, and monoliths... it had it all. It was gorgeous to say the least. After that, we rewarded ourselves with burgers, a lot of water, and soft-serve ice cream cones.
That late afternoon, just minutes before sunset, we decided that instead of taking the shuttle back to the campground that we would walk instead. The well-paved trail was only a mile and a half long after all. While walking, we took in the fantastic views of the mountains again. Nearby, we could hear the water rushing from the river, which made our walk even more serene than it already was. Since we pretty much had the trail to ourselves, it was completely peaceful that we almost didn't notice a deer. It probably noticed us first. It was just eating, and as we walked almost next to it, I remember just watching her (yes, her, because she was pregnant!) stare at us nonchalantly. It hit me again, as nature always tends to do to me; we were nobody. Just humans. Living in a big world. We do not own it, we are not the masters of it. We are just part of it, and that's what makes it so captivating. 
On our last day in Zion, we woke up early to enjoy the campground. We had breakfast and packed up as we were heading to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was very bittersweet to leave. There simply wasn't enough time to fully explore the area, but we were excited for Bryce at the same time. I guess it just means we have to go back again... 

Latest Haul (Birthday Gifts)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My birthday is not until Sunday and yet I've already gotten gifts from people. First, a good friend of mine got me a gift card to Half Price Books. I was so excited. I went and got six books that's been in my tbr list for a while now. 
  • An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison - a mental health memoir about manic depression
  • Wasted by Marya Hornbacher - a mental memoir about anorexia and bulimia
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • Where'd You go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • Siddheartha by Herman Hesse
  • Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
Aside from the books, I also received this awesome mug from my boyfriend. It says, "I like to party and by party I mean read books." No truer words have been said.