The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

the namesake

Publication Date: September 1st, 2004

This review does not contain spoilers.

Hello, remember me? Yeah I haven’t updated in a few weeks. I have been battling a serious reading slump, and I am slowly but surely getting out of it…but anyways….

In this story, we follow several different characters, starting with Ashima and Ashoke, who are recently married and move from their homes in India, to the unfamiliar world of Massachusetts. This is an immigrant story where we follow the Ganguli family as they have two children and become accustomed to daily life in America, and the struggles that they run into along the way. Life in America is so different compared to what they knew in India, and Ashima struggles to cope with the fact that they are so far away from family and the culture that she is familiar with.

When their son is born, they give him the name ‘Gogol’ which comes from a Russian author that Ashoke admired, and also signifies a certain tragedy that he lived through from his earlier years; however, Gogol hates the name, and does not understand why he was given a Russian name as a Bengali boy. Ashoke does not explain the meaning of Gogol’s name until later in his life, and throughout most of the novel, you see how a name is one of the most important pieces of identity you can have. We essentially watch Gogol from birth until well into his 30’s as he struggles to figure out who he is and what his purpose is. We also watch as this family slowly adopts American values and traditions, while also trying to hold on to their Indian culture.

As for my thoughts, I really enjoyed this novel, and I hope to read more from Jhumpa  Lahiri in the future. I was looking for books that are somewhat similar in style to Khaled Hosseini, who wrote ‘The Kite Runner’, and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, which are two of my favorite books. When I did a google search for books or authors that were similar, Jhumpa Lahiri kept popping up, and I had ‘The Namesake’ sitting on my shelves for awhile, so I thought it would be the perfect time to give her a shot. I love novels about families, and especially families that are of different ethnicity and background from myself. Lahiri’s writing was very easy to follow, and I learned a lot about India and Indian culture from reading this book. Even though it took me a long time to finish this, I don’t blame the reasoning on the book itself, only on the fact that I just haven’t been reading much this month. I look forward to reading Lahiri’s other novels. I rated this 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

*****

-Carissa

 

How often do you review books for authors who request? (Discussion)

Over the past few months I have become inundated with review requests from authors. Many of the book reviews I have listed are from authors who have graciously provided me a copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. While I absolutely love to be given the opportunity to give back to these people who have worked so hard, I have started to think that I need to take a little bit of a step back.

When I first started my blog, it was solely for the purpose of talking about all the great books I have chosen to read for myself, and hoping to get the chance to read some for review as well. I started to list my blog name under book blogger lists and directories and became really excited when I started getting an influx of requests on a daily basis. During this point in time, I would pretty much accept anything. There are definitely a few titles under my book review list that I would have never considered reading in the first place, but had felt bad about rejecting. While I never lied in my reviews if the book wasn’t good, there are still many times that I have been brought into horrible ‘reading slumps’ because of them, and it has gotten to the point many times that I don’t even want to read. Unfortunately, I am now in a dilemma because I know I told people that I would review their books; however, I am no longer excited for them.

At this point in time, I have about 6 books that I am ‘supposed’ to read and review; however, I think I am going to have to narrow it down to 2, and then start out fresh. I am currently reading one (and am enjoying it), and that is ‘Home to Roost’ by Chauncey Rogers, and I have another one that I am interested in, but after that I think it will be time for a break.

I want to read and review more books that I WANT to read, and feel less pressured into pumping out the reviews from requests. Since I am not getting paid around here, its time to start being a little more picky with what I choose to read. With that being said, how often do y’all review books for authors that request?

-Carissa

Mid Year Book ‘Freak Out’ Tag

I never do tag posts, but I figured I would switch things up a bit today. I also was not specifically tagged by anyone to do this.

Here goes..

1: Best Book You’ve Read in 2017 So Far?

Looking back at all the books I have read so far this year, I have only rated 4 books 5 stars..I think I am getting more critical and picky with my books as the years go on. I would have to say that ‘The Interestings’ by Meg Wolitzer would be my favorite so far. I really love character study type books, where the characters are what drives the story along, and not necessarily the plot. This is a slow novel, but you really get invested in every single one of the characters lives.

the interestings

2: Best Sequel You’ve Read so Far?

I have not read a sequel this year. I don’t generally read books that end up having a sequel, or a series.

3: New Release You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To?

I would really like to read ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden. I have been intrigued by it ever since I’ve seen it. It was released in January of this year.

the bear and the nightingale

4: Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of 2017?

I honestly do not pay attention to books that have yet to be released.

5: Biggest Disappointment?

Easy. ‘Since We Fell’ by Dennis Lehane. I really did not like this book, and I had high hopes for it. You can read my review for it here

sincewefell

6. Best Surprise?

I really enjoyed ‘The Killers of the Flower Moon’ by David Grann. I was unsure of how I would get along with this nonfiction story, but I thought it was awesome and very informative. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys nonfiction. There is also a rumor that this is getting turned into a movie, and I sure hope so!

killersoftheflowermoon

7: Favorite New Author?

I read ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ by Anne Tyler earlier this year, and even though I only rated it 3 stars, I would still be interested in reading more from this author. I really enjoyed her writing style, and I hear nothing but good things about many of her other works.

8: Newest Fictional Crush?

Yeah…I don’t have fictional crushes, that is a bit juvenile for me.

9: New Favorite Character?

I don’t have a favorite character, I know I am boring.

10: Book That Made You Cry?

Call me heartless, but I don’t cry while reading books. I do, however, think that I would have to say that  ‘The Killers of the Flower Moon’ was the saddest book I have read this year so far, and its true!

11: Book That Made You Happy? 

Definitely ‘A Walk in the Woods’ by Bill Bryson. I think this is one of the most hilarious books I have ever read, and its about hiking. Something about two overweight men throwing themselves onto the Appalachian Trail, with a goal of hiking the entire thing without problems was absolutely historical.

8

12: Favorite Book To Movie Adaptation?

I think I have only read one book and seen its movie this year, so I will have to give that to ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. The book was definitely better, but the movie was still quite good.

wild1

13: Favorite review you’ve written? 

I started this blog in February, and honestly, my reviews were not that good early on, but as I have gotten the hang of it, they have progressed significantly. I think my review for ‘The Killers of the Flower Moon’ by David Grann, or my review for ‘Marlena’ by Julie Buntin are done well.

14: Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year?

I don’t buy a lot of books, the new books I do get come from the Book of the Month’ subscription box, and I don’t consider any of the covers particularly beautiful. I read a lot of ebooks or ebooks that people send me for review, but the one book I did go out and buy this year was ‘Shelter’ by Jung Yun, and I think the cover is quite pretty.

shelter

15: What Books Do You Need to Read By The End of The Year?

There are so many books I want to get to by the end of the year. I will just insert pictures of some of them. No guarantee that I will get to them….

I tag whoever wants to do it!!! Im already late to the game.

-Carissa

Man Booker International Prize Winner: A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman

horsewalks

I am currently watching the live stream of the Man Booker International Prize Winner for 2017…the winner is ‘A Horse Walks into a Bar‘ by David Grossman! Even though I only ended up reading 2 of the short listed books, it looks like I made my picks wisely! Very well deserved I think, and I did a full review of ‘A Horse Walks into a Bar‘. Check it out!

-Carissa

Man Booker International Prize Shortlist: Fever Dream

feverdream

#2 of my ‘Endeavors of the Man Booker International Prize’ series.

Publication Date: January 10th, 2017

This review does not contain spoilers.

Just short of 200 pages, this is a beautifully written little novel that also leaves the reader uncomfortable and a little creeped out the entire time they read it. It all starts with Amanda, who is in bed at the hospital, and who seems to be having a conversation with a little boy named David who is not a family member and who she doesn’t really know. From this scene, the author then takes us back in time, where we eventually find out the details of what happened to Amanda, and why she is in the hospital. We also learn about who David is and why he is in there speaking with Amanda. I do not want to say anymore about the plot of this story, because it is so short, and I think the best way to read this is to go in a little blind.

The way the author describes the surroundings in this book makes it seem very dark and depressing, and even though during Amanda’s backstory, she is supposed to be on a vacation, this is definitely not a relaxing or comfortable book. Like the title states, you get the sense that you are experiencing some sort of terrible feverish dream while reading this. Originally written in Spanish by Samantha Schweblin, the translator does a really good job making it seem as if English was the original language this novel was written in.

I will say that you should not go into this expecting your typical past paced thriller with a lot of twists and turns, and where everything gets resolved, because that is not what this is. This is definitely something that requires you to read at a slower pace, and really pay attention.

Overall, I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

Man Booker International Prize Shortlist: ‘A Horse Walks Into A Bar’

horsewalks

#1 of my ‘Endeavors of the Man Booker International Prize’ series.

Publication Date: February 21st, 2017

This review does not contain spoilers.

Let me just say, that this is not my typical type of read. I primarily chose to read this due to the fact that it was short listed for the Man Booker International Prize, and as I stated in my previous post, I would like to read a good chunk, if not all of the short list.

The entirety of this novel takes place at a comedy club in Retanya, Israel, and focuses on Dovaleh Greenstein, the comedian who is in his 50’s and past his prime. From the moment he gets on stage for his standup routine, the audience senses that what they will be listening to is not what they paid for. Dovaleh throws out some jokes, and singles out members of the audience to poke fun of, but as time goes on, you are essentially watching a man have a breakdown on stage. The author is really good at making it seem as if you are actually there watching this breakdown unfold.

Before the show, Dov gets in contact with a District Court Justice who used to be a childhood friend and invited him to come out to his show. We are unsure of the reasoning behind this throughout the entire book; however, Dov simply asks that he watches him and tells him what he sees in the end. Throughout this standup performance, Dov starts revealing painful memories from his past which is what causes his downfall on stage. Without revealing the stories that he shares due to spoilers, you learn that one by one audience members start getting angry and disappear. It is almost as if you are watching some tragic event occur, and you want to look away, but can’t.

I thought this book was very cleverly told and extremely unique. I haven’t heard of many novels all taking place in one point of time, especially during a standup performance so I really did like that aspect. There are a few discussions about Israeli politics and their military that I was unfamiliar with; however, it is not too hard to follow along. You have to remember that this book was written by an Israelian author where what seems distant to some of us, is very real for him. David Grossman’s own son Uri was killed in 2006 in the war between Israel and Hizbollah, so I had to question if some of this story was memoir-‘esque’ to some of his own personal experiences. All in all, I think this book is worth a read.

I rated this 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads..

-Carissa

Endeavors in the Manbooker International Prize Shortlist

I have decided to dip my toes into the Man Booker International Prize shortlist this year. I have been following the Man Booker prizes for the past few years now, and have always been intrigued by many of the titles that end up longlisted or shortlisted. I have not decided whether or not to read the entire shortlist,  but there are at least 3 titles that I am interested in checking out before the winner is announced on June 13th this year. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Man Booker Prize launched in 1969 and is an annual literary award for fiction for novels that get published in the UK during the year of the award. The Man Booker International Prize; however, is a new annual prize launched in 2016 that awards the prize for fiction that has been translated to English and published in the UK. The winner of this particular prize receives $50,000 and is guaranteed international recognition and a huge increase in sales.

Even though this is a UK based award, the Man Booker and Man Booker International prize is something I have followed for quite awhile now. I think it will be fun to make my own judgements on the books as well as make my predictions on who I think should win. So here goes….

What will I be reading?

horsewalks

*Currently Reading.*

‘A Horse walks into a Bar’ by David Grossman

Translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen

Goodreads Synopsis: In a little dive in a small Israeli city, Dov Greenstein, a comedian a bit past his prime, is doing a night of stand-up. In the audience is a district court justice, Avishai Lazar, whom Dov knew as a boy, along with a few others who remember Dov as an awkward, scrawny kid who walked on his hands to confound the neighborhood bullies.

Gradually, as it teeters between hilarity and hysteria, Dov’s patter becomes a kind of memoir, taking us back into the terrors of his childhood: we meet his beautiful flower of a mother, a Holocaust survivor in need of constant monitoring, and his punishing father, a striver who had little understanding of his creative son. Finally, recalling his week at a military camp for youth–where Lazar witnessed what would become the central event of Dov’s childhood–Dov describes the indescribable while Lazar wrestles with his own part in the comedian’s story of loss and survival.

Continuing his investigations into how people confront life’s capricious battering, and how art may blossom from it, Grossman delivers a stunning performance in this memorable one-night engagement (jokes in questionable taste included).

feverdream

‘Fever Dream’ by Samantha Schweblin

Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell

Goodreads Synopsis: A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.

judas

‘Judas’ by Amos Oz

Translated from Hebrew by Raquel García Lozano

Goodreads Synopsis: Winner of the International Literature Prize, the new novel by Amos Oz is his first full-length work since the bestselling A Tale of Love and Darkness.Jerusalem, 1959. Shmuel Ash, a biblical scholar, is adrift in his young life when he finds work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. There is, however, a third, mysterious presence in his new home. Atalia Abravanel, the daughter of a deceased Zionist leader, a beautiful woman in her forties, entrances young Shmuel even as she keeps him at a distance. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history and now home to the three misfits and their intricate relationship, reveals its secrets. At once an exquisite love story and coming-of-age novel, an allegory for the state of Israel and for the biblical tale from which it draws its title, Judas is Amos Oz’s most powerful novel in decades.

____________________________________________________________________________

and the 3 other short listed novels and possible reads (if I can fit them in)

Compass_Mathias_Enard_160317

‘Compass’ by Mathias Enard

Translated from French by Charlotte Mandell

Goodreads Synopsis: As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life: his ongoing fascination with the Middle East and his numerous travels to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus, and Tehran, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape. At the center of these memories is his elusive love, Sarah, a fiercely intelligent French scholar caught in the intricate tension between Europe and the Middle East.

With exhilarating prose and sweeping erudition, Mathias Énard pulls astonishing elements from disparate sources—nineteenth-century composers and esoteric orientalists, Balzac and Agatha Christie—and binds them together in a most magical way.

wp-1490554590355

‘The Unseen’ by Roy Jacobsen

Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw

Goodreads Synopsis:

Nobody can leave an island. An island is a cosmos in a nutshell, where the stars slumber in the grass beneath the snow. But occasionally someone tries . . .

Ingrid Barrøy is born on an island that bears her name – a holdfast for a single family, their livestock, their crops, their hopes and dreams.

Her father dreams of building a quay that will connect them to the mainland, but closer ties to the wider world come at a price. Her mother has her own dreams – more children, a smaller island, a different life – and there is one question Ingrid must never ask her.

Island life is hard, a living scratched from the dirt or trawled from the sea, so when Ingrid comes of age, she is sent to the mainland to work for one of the wealthy families on the coast.

But Norway too is waking up to a wider world, a modern world that is capricious and can be cruel. Tragedy strikes, and Ingrid must fight to protect the home she thought she had left behind.

97.Dorthe Nors-Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ by Dorthe Nors

Translated from Dutch by Misha Hoekstra

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sonja’s over forty, and she’s trying to move in the right direction. She’s learning to drive. She’s joined a meditation group. And she’s attempting to reconnect with her sister.

But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate.

Her driving instructor won’t let her change gear.

And her sister won’t return her calls.

Sonja’s mind keeps wandering back to the dramatic landscapes of her childhood – the singing whooper swans, the endless sky, and getting lost barefoot in the rye fields – but how can she return to a place that she no longer recognizes? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copenhagen?

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is a poignant, sharp-witted tale of one woman’s journey in search of herself when there’s no one to ask for directions.

-Carissa

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

wild1

Publication Date: March 20th, 2012

This Review does not contain spoilers.

I loved this book, but it may be because I am a massive fan of hiking. I had hiked in Arkansas, and Alaska before, but I never really fell in love with hiking until I moved to Hawaii. After reading this book; however, I want to go and hike everywhere and everything. This novel is about Cheryl’s personal account of hiking 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 94 days. There are two time frames she discusses throughout this book, one being before she decided to take this journey, and the second being while she is out on the trail. We learn about Cheryl’s broken family, personal struggles, addictions, and why she decided to set out for the PCT, and we also read about her physical and emotional struggles while hiking. As you read this story, you will learn the changes that she goes through and self realization of the type of person she was before she went on this journey. I have read many reviews where people say that Cheryl is a terrible human being because of the things she did before she hiked the PCT, but I don’t think people are understanding that hiking the PCT is what made her become who she is today, which is a better person. I have also read complaints that she seemed to be bragging about herself a lot throughout the novel. Honestly though, if I were to accomplish something like she did, I would probably be bragging just as much if not more. Long day hikes are challenging enough, I can not even imagine what 94 days and 1,100 miles would be like. If you like outdoorsy, true life adventure tales, I would definitely check this one out.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

hurricane

Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014.

This review does not contain spoilers.

This story is told from the perspective of 3 different family members living in Charleston, South Carolina; Maisy, Liz, and Ashley. First off, I was not sure what to expect when I chose this title. I went into this completely blind, and had never read anything from the author before, but the cover is what caught my eye, even though they say you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover.

At the very beginning of this book, we are introduced to Maisy, who could be described as the eccentric grandmother to Ashley and mother to Liz. She is a window and currently in a relationship with her personal driver Skipper. Secondly, we are introduced to Liz, who is married to Clayton and has two children Ashley and IV (a nickname). Ashley is an aspiring artist working in a gallery, and trying to make ends meat. She is constantly being harassed by her parents to go find a ‘real’ job and make something out of herself. She is a dreamer and fantasizes about being the next Jackie Kennedy and marrying a state senator. Without giving too many details away, we learn about all 3 women and their individual struggles. We find out their dysfunctional secrets and how they go about mending these relationships, and how family is extremely important no matter what the case. Abuse, adultery, and lies are the most stand out themes in this novel. This is not a very action packed novel, but I do not think that would have been necessary for this story. I thought all the characters were very well developed, and I enjoyed reading from Ashley’s perspective the best. Overall, I thought this book was enjoyable to read, but it was nothing to be blown away about.

I gave this book 3 out of 3 stars on Goodreads. 

-Carissa

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

bluethreadbook

Publication Date: February 10th, 2015

This review does not contain ‘spoilers’.

It has been a few weeks since my last update, but that is because I have been so overwhelmed with school work, that I have not been able to read as much as I would have liked to. I am getting close to finals week, so the stress level that I am experiencing is very high. I also have not stuck to my original March TBR plans, because this book was not something that I had planned to read during the month, but here we are anyways.

I have never read any Anne Tyler before, so I was unsure of what to expect when I got this from Overdrive on my Kindle. I had seen this book being mentioned on Youtube and Goodreads quite a bit last year so I figured I would give it a go. This is a multi-generational story about the Whitshank family and starts off introducing us to Abby and Red Whitshank (Red, who is the son of Junior Whitshank). Now if you go into this story expecting much of a plot, you will be disappointed, as there is not much that goes on throughout this entire novel. This is very much a character study, and tale about all the different family members who come to live in the house that Red’s father built as the generations pass. We learn about Abby and Red’s 4 children, and the struggles that they have dealt with amongst their family, and we also get an in depth background story about Red’s father Junior, and how he met his wife Linnie. I enjoyed the sections about Junior and Linnie, and how they came to build the house that is notoriously known as the Whitshank house the best in the entire book. You really get to know the characters as if they were real people living and dealing with real experiences,  and I almost felt sad when the story ended even though it took me forever to read. I would say this book was a little bit too slow for me. I have no problem reading slow, multi-generational books that are not plot driven; however, once I set this book down, it was so hard for me to want to pick it back up again. The ending also left me with a lot of unanswered questions, and just kind of ended out of nowhere. I guess I just wanted more from the story after I dedicated so much of my time to it. I am still interested in checking out some more of Anne Tyler’s work, because she is definitely a very talented writer.

All in all, I gave this book 3 out of 3 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa