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.