#Weekend Reads: May 13th, 2017

books

Hi, guys! How is your weekend so far?
As for me, I’m currently reading these two books: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Quaker Cafe by Brenda Bevan Remmes.

I picked up The Quaker Cafe about a week ago and had been reading it until I picked up 1984 by George Orwell on a whim.
Well, I probably shouldn’t have – I got completely distracted and ended up leaving this one unfinished for almost a week!
I put it down to initially reading this on my Kindle, too. As you can tell from my Bookish Facts About Me or Rapid Fire Book Tag post, I have not been a big E-book reader for quite some time and tend to be gravitated toward physical books. True to form, the physical copy of The Quaker Cafe has just arrived today and I am really liking it! The feels and the story come into me much more deeply than those of the Kindle book did, I’m now convinced that I am officially a non-Kindle reader; I don’t know whether to be glad or not, though.

While I was waiting for the physical copy of The Quaker Cafe to arrive, I didn’t have any particular book on my list after 1984. The book left a big impact on me and I wasn’t in the mood for diving into another Classic, Lolita, which was on my May TBR.  I knew neither Cloudstreet would work.
After a long and hard contemplation, I finally decided to pick up The Book Thief which has been gleaning good reviews in the Book Community.
I’ve just begun to read and haven’t figured out what this book is all about; this book hasn’t struck a chord with me yet. That said, I’m only 84 pages in the book right now, it’s a bit too early to pass judgement on this book. I hope the story picks up and that this book lives up to the hype!

What are the books that you’re currently reading?

Thanks for reading, guys and hope you all have a fabulous weekend! 😀

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

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‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . .

Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell’s terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime.


※ The following contains some spoilers.

First and foremost, it was so much fun reading this book; it was a great reading experience and I really enjoyed it. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

The draw and gravity that this book possesses were so strong; this is such an immersive read that I just couldn’t put it down once I picked it up last Friday intending only for a brief skimming.

At first, I was a bit nervous if I’d get to wrap my mind around this dystopian novel. As is the case with reading fantasy books which has got a lot of world settings/ world building , I was not quite sure if I was ready to tackle this dystopian world and policies and everything.
However, it ended up a needless fear; the ideology of the world was easy enough to follow and well spelled out. The more I got to knew about the world, the more captivated I was.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous and magnificent. It was simply enchanting. But I would say what really grabbed me was the ideology of The Party and what coercion and duress – in particular, ‘fear’ – can do to you. I also found it an interesting idea to continuously wage a war to use up the surplus generated from production so as not to raise the general standard of living. So long as the general population, particularly the mass categorized as ‘the proles’ which accounts for 85% of the total population, are left in constant poverty, they wouldn’t conceive any intellectual or independent idea which conflicts The Party’s ideology and policies.
It also struck me that the proles, a class where I’d be most likely to belong to if I were to put in this world, are treated as though they were animals or some kind of mindless disposable machines or expendables. They’re regarded as just a mere labor force, not worthy of education. This aspect disturbed me quite a bit.

The world in which Winston lives is simply unimaginable and bleak; people are put under a constant surveillance with telescreens which can also pick up even the smallest, subtlest hints/noise such as palpitations and neurotic eye movements in the flicker of a moment. They literally and invariably need to watch their deeds and words even in their sleep. History, past, even facts are subject to constant modifications and amendments to make it look like The Party has, and always will be correct and the government itself is in fact in charge of the tasks.
People are also hand-fed all the information that they need to know by the government and nothing else is allowed to enter one’s mind. Once discovered, one’s future is doomed – one will be on the road to vaporization and death at the exact moment one has committed the first-degree crime.

Now, I am not a kind of reader to superimpose or reflect my own world onto this dystopian world which is rigidly regimented with an ironclad system, but I still find it rather disturbing.  In particular, the fear what Winston experienced in Room 101 was just beyond imagination; the description of it literally blew me out of the water. It was spectacularly described and was hard-hitting – you definitely should read it. It was simply fantastic. 

Compared to ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ which I read two months ago and is another highly-acclaimed dystopian novel, I personally think this 1984 hit home for me way closer because of the element of ‘fear’ being described more in detail. It is really descriptive and feels realistic; it almost made me believe something like this could be actually happening in this world I’m living in. I absolutely loved it.

The ending, the very last sentence left me in awe, in a weird sense. I was a bit overwhelmed by the power of brainwash and what the ruling organizations/ powers can do to you. My gosh, I wouldn’t want to go through that!!

This is an amazing, captivating read although there are scenes that I felt a bit redundant somewhere in the latter half.
None the less, this is THE BOOK all readers should pick up at least once in a lifetime.
I will definitely come back to this book. I am certain of it.

May TBR

Although we’re well into May already and I’m kind of late to the party, I would love to share with you guys the books that are on my May TBR.

Being a 100% mood reader, I’m prone to mood swings and my reading taste can easily change. So, this TBR thing doesn’t work for me most of the time, but I have two books that I definitely want to read in the month of May.

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The first on my list is ‘Lolita’ by  Vladimir Nabokov.

If you have been following my blog (thanks so much!), you might figure out why I picked up this book; this is one of my Goodreads group-read picks for May.  There are actually some other books on the group-read list, such as ‘Moby-Dick’ by Herman Melville, but I read somewhere that the opinions are polarized – some absolutely adore the book and some just denounce it.

Given the fact that I’m still absolutely naive and new to Classics, I decided to go for Lolita and see how I’d be getting along.

As of today, which is May 8th, I’m still slowly plugging through George Orwell, 1984 and it will most likely to take at least another couple of days to complete, but I am super pumped to bury my nose in this!

 

cloudstreetNext on my list is Cloudstreet by Tim Winton.

Again,  this book hadn’t even been on my radar. I hadn’t even heard of him.
But earlier last month or late March, I got an E-mail message sent by BBC World Book Club saying that they’ll be inviting the author Tim Winton and discussing his bestselling novel, ‘Cloudstreet.’
(How did I end up getting messages from them without having to subscribe their newsletter, you ask? That’s a story for some other time.)

Intrigued, I decided to give this book a try and bought it from Amazon. Since they didn’t have any stock at that time, I had to wait for about two to three weeks until the book arrived at my doorstep.

If you have read this book already, please let me hear your thoughts on this.
I love reading book recommendations!

All right, guys, those are the books on my DEFINITELY-NEED-TO-READ-IN MAY list.
As for the rest, I’ll just read whatever floats my boat and see how it goes!

Thanks for reading as always and I’ll talk to you soon!

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.


I picked up this book mistakenly assuming this is a YA; on Day 2 of my private Readathon and have got a lot of socialization going on in the next 3 days, I wanted to read something I’d get to finish in one day.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I was wrong about this book; this book turned out to be much more complex than I had originally anticipated dealing with a lot of important issues that have been deeply-entrenched in our society; racism, gender identity, and discrimination/ prejudice.

First and foremost, I found it simply incredible this book being the author’s debut novel; the pacing is just right and the writing is gorgeous. Nothing seemed out of place.
The issues (the slight one, no, there are two actually ) that I had was lack of characterization. I wanted a bit more in-depth characterization and character developments.
Also, I was a bit comfused with the intertwined timelines. I’m not sure if you call it ‘three-dimensional,’ but the timeline where the story is told keeps jumping back and forth; in one paragraph timeline centered on the present, but in the next paragraph it goes back in late 1970’s. It keeps going on and on, so it took some getting used to and was a bit hard to keep track of the timeline I was in. I needed to stay focused.

None the less, it’s still a laudable and an amazing read. Such a page-turner. It was a sheer joy to read this book.

Story-wise, it’s really complex. It’s got a thriller element where readers and the characters try to piece together the fragments of clues and get behind the death of Lydia.
But I think the real focus lies on the mix-raced broken family – James of Chinese decent and Marilyn being American. Both of them drag a dark past of ‘not fitting in’ or ‘standing out in a wrong way,’ and have been subject to prejudice and discrimination.

Now, what I find most poignant and heart-breaking is that both of them, of all people,  who HAVE experienced the prejudice against themselves, impose their own dream on their children – in particular, on their favorite second child, Lydia.
James is all anxious about her having a lot of friends and blending in while Marilyn superimposes herself over Lydia and kind of forces her to pursue her dream on her behalf, which Marilyn had to give up on the face of reality.
To me, personally, Marilyn crossed the line. Her pushiness seems like an obsession; I felt sick in the stomach reading how persistently and forcibly Marilyn imposes her own dream on Lydia while completely neglecting her other kids – Nath and Hannah.
Lydia has become the center of her world and she shoves other kids away.

The writing is absolutely stunning. It beautifully depicts how this vulnerable family barely hangs on a balance. They are literally on edge so even one tiny push can tip the family over and make it collapse. On top of all that, the real issue of this family is rooted deeply in the very parents. What they had gone through in their youth makes what they are and sows the seeds of the problems.
The depiction of slow-death demise of the family was simply captivating.

Lydia’s inner struggles are also well-narrated and I couldn’t read it without feeling a lump in my throat. The pressure she was put under by her parents – particularly Marilyn was really sickening; I really felt disgusted at times.

That being said though, this book does end on a positive note.
The element of redemption and renew/ rebirth is definitely there.

This is absolutely a fantastic, gripping read.
If you are in any way interested in this book, there’s no reason/excuse to put off reading it.

I fell in love with her writing and this story. I’m thinking of getting her second novel ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ already!

The Comforters by Muriel Spark

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Caroline Rose is plagued by the tapping of typewriter keys and the strange, detached narration of her every thought and action. Caroline has an unusual problem – she realises she is in a novel. Her fellow characters also seem deluded: Laurence, her former lover, finds diamonds in a loaf of bread – has his elderly grandmother hidden them there? And Baron Stock, her bookseller friend, believes he is on the trail of England’s leading Satanist.


I got this book with my interest sparked by one of my favorites BookTuber, Mementomori Video.
This is my first Muriel Spark and I was kind of curious to see what kind of writing style she has and what this book is about. Most importantly, if I would like this book or not.

To be honest, I still haven’t been able to figure out what exactly was going on in this book.

Let me put it this way – this is a peculiar, yet riveting read. 

Content-wise, I’m still not 100% sure what this book is about. I find it incredibly difficult to even summarize the story. There are way too many things going on and it felt all the plots and bits jumbling up and jumping all over the place, it felt a messy, chaotic read. You may find you’re not sure in what direction the story is going – I felt the same way, too.
However, what I find surprising is that they are all interconnected in a very intricate, meticulous way.  Every single piece of a puzzle thrown out in the story does fall into place beautifully later in the story, but overall, it kind of exudes a mayhem-like vibe.
The more I think about it, the less it feels like a story with one solid plot,too. It feels more like a collage of the characters’ lives, where each character’s thoughts and actions are narrated in ‘Caroline did this,’ ‘Laurence felt this,’ kind of manner.
Weird as it may sound, but that’s how I felt about this story.

My overall feels toward this book may also stem from the author closing the book with a loose end rather than ending with a closure.
There’s no explicit closure particularly to the relationship between Caroline and Laurence, so I still have a lot of unanswered questions hanging in the air – it’s kind of akin to indigestion.

In spite of that, and surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it a ton.

I remember telling you that I am a plot-driven reader and I need a solid, explicit and easy-to-follow plot. I don’t do well at an abstract writing style.
That being said though, I found myself really enjoy reading this, what some may seem as a plot-less novel. I woke up at 6 a.m. today and kept reading the rest of the book almost non-stop. I literally buzzed through the book, it was such a ride.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous and somewhat hypnotic; the paragraphs that describe the detached narrations of Caroline’s thoughts and actions preceded by the tapping sound of a typewriter are just stunning, outstandingly fascinating.
As a reader, you’ll read EXACTLY THE SAME SENTENCE OR PARAGRAPH WHAT YOU’VE JUST READ preceded by the tapping sound of a typewriter and it also comes with THE CHANTING.

Like this:

      She was absorbed by the pressing need to get out of her flat at the earliest possible moment, and as she searched among her clothes she did not even notice, with her customary habit of self-observation, that she had thrown her night-things together anyhow. This frenzied packing operation and the deliberate care she had taken, in spite of her rage, to fold and fit her possessions into place at St Philumena’s less than a day ago failed to register.
      Tap-tick-tap. she did not even notice, with her customary habit of self-observation, that she had thrown her night-things together anyhow. This frenzied packing operation and the deliberate care she had taken, in spite of her rage, to fold and fit her possessions into place at St Philumena’s less than a day ago failed to register. Tap.

Such descriptions literally made my skin crawl; I could felt the full-on creepiness crawl into my head just by reading such sentences.  Man, was it glorious!

The characters are all interesting, too. They are all in a way wrecked and delusional, but l really enjoyed Laurence’s  super-observant nature and the Baron’s phony, superficial  geniality. And don’t forget the sprightly Louisa Jepp – a 76 year-old Laurence’s grandmother who is allegedly involved in diamond smuggling;  an old lady smuggling a diamond??? Come on, what a plot!
It felt that the author looked at all the characters through sarcastic and cynical glasses and drawn them with a healthy dose of humor and a slight waft of sarcasm.
They are all well-fleshed out and I had so much fun to read about them.

I also enjoyed reading the emotional estrangement between Laurence and Caroline.
Since Caroline started hearing the tapping of typewriter in her head, Caroline tries to outwit the invisible phantom by doing the opposite of what the narrator told her, and Laurence starts to feel Caroline drifts apart from him.
Such detailed characterizations and the well-crafted character dynamics are what I found make this book peculiar at a glance yet captivating and riveting.

The bottom line is, as I previously mentioned, I still don’t know whether I got this story right; I think there are still a lot to take in. I definitely need to come back to better grasp the story line.
None the less, I really enjoyed this book. This book definitely won’t be my last Muriel Spark. I’d love to try some more of her books.

April Wrap-Up

In retrospect, I think April was the month of ‘Classics’ for me; starting off with ‘Wuthering Heights,’ I ended up reading as many as 5 Classics books. Only two are Contemporary novels. (Does ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ count? I don’t know.)
Whatever. Is this a surprise!

Let’s take a look at the books that I read in the month of April.

 

As I previously mentioned somewhere in my blogs, I am not all too happy with the book count. I only read 7 books last month and am quite disappointed with this.
But content-wise, I am quite happy with all the books I read; I absolutely adored most of them.

Being still quite new to Classics, I must admit that I did struggle to wrap my head around with some of the books in the beginning, but they all grew on me in the end. It was quite a reading experience.

My top 1 read in April goes to ‘On the Beach’ by Nevil Shute.
Man, this book. THIS BOOK. It was such a powerful book, it left such a big impact on me.
It was just amazing how constricted my heart felt in the latter part of the book. The writing is absolutely fantastic and the plot is captivating. I could go on and on and on gushing about this book, but yes, this book deserves my top 1 read in April HANDS DOWN with ‘Wuthering Heights‘ a close second. It was also an epic, haunting, but entertaining read. It was my very first Emily Brontë, and she totally won over my heart. I wish she had written many more novels… I wanted to read MORE from her!

I haven’t written a post on Wuthering Heights though, if you are interested, go visit my Goodreads review here.

 

So, this concludes my April Wrap-Up.

How about you? Did you have a wonderful reading month?
Let me know in the comment and I’ll talk to you soon!

Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

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It was really a hard rating to make and I know this is going to be a very unpopular opinion, but the main title, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ didn’t steal my heart as much.

I gave this book 4 stars – 3.5 for the main title, and 4 stars as a book because the three short stories are so good.

This is my very first Truman Capote; I have never watched the movie adaptation either, so I had absolutely no idea how the story goes and what this book is all about.
I guess that’s what made me a bit hard on this.

First and foremost, I am a reader who is not so strong with atmospheric writing, which kind of exudes a snippet of message and makes the readers figure out what it means rather than explicitly convey what it is about. I’ve always struggled with this type of writing and I found, at least in the beginning, this book falls into the category. It stumped me significantly and gave me a hard time.

I really tried to like this main title, I really did, given how many readers absolutely adore this book. But it was only past 80 pages that this book finally won my heart; after Holly’s (wrong?) arrest for unknowingly working as a liaison for Sally Tomato.
The story finally started sinking in on me and got riveting from there.

I don’t know about you, but my favorite scene is the cat scene on her way to the airport in the end. She once insisted that both the cat and herself are independent, the cat doesn’t belong to her thus it’s got no name, but once shushing the cat away,  the realization strikes her – she realizes that the cat belonged to her. And she fears if the same thing keeps happening for the rest of her life, that she doesn’t recognize something belongs to her until she parts with it.
This is the part where I finally felt I (partially) understood Holly’s character, where she felt real to me. Up until that point, I couldn’t relate to Holly at all. While I admit she’s gorgeous, enigmatic, irresistible, free-minded woman, she also came across very frivolous and unlikable.
But now, finishing this book, I now think that might have been her vulnerability what makes Holly seem that way.

As for the writing, I thought ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ gives off a dream-like vibe throughout. Some things happen in the story did grab my attention and sucked me in, but on the whole, it felt like I was seeing how things unfold through TV screens or even, from a place high way up. They didn’t feel close to me, which I was Okay with though.

Despite such issues that I had , the ending definitely left me stunned. It was glorious. So beautiful. The ending made up all the issues and problems that I had with this story.
It left a warm, fuzzy, somewhat nostalgic feeling.
Now, it may sound weird, but have any of you ever felt, like, your impression and thoughts change as time go by? It’s like, ‘I’m gonna give this book solid 3 stars. It’s kind of Meh for me,’ right after finishing the book but the story gradually grows on you and you start thinking, ‘maybe this book deserves 4 stars, I might kind of like this.’
This is what’s happening to me right now.  (So this post may seem quite contradictory – I’m sorry about this.)

As I said, I first gave this main title 3.5 stars and gave the book 4 stars for the sake of the other three short stories, I liked them better.
However, writing this post and reflecting back on the story, I’ve started to think I may like this main title after all. Funny as it may sound, but it’s true.
Anyways, that’s about it for Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

This book includes other three short stories ‘House of Flowers,’ ‘A Diamond Guitar’ and ‘A Christmas Memory.’
They are all quick, entertaining reads. My favorite definitely goes to ‘A Christmas Memory.’ I liked it so much.

I personally think ‘House of Flowers’ and ‘A Christmas Memory’ have some fairy-tale vibe to them, but when the story starts to take a darker tone in ‘House of Flowers,’ it took me by surprise.
Although they are all really short, they are less than 20 pages each, the story lines are really solid and once again, the writing is very atmospheric (but easy to follow).

To put it in a nutshell, this is a book I’ll most likely to come back.
I did say I didn’t love it at first, but it seems that I ended up liking it a lot.
I think I’ll go watch the movie adaptation first and see which version I like better.