Title: Orhan’s Inheritance
Author: Aline Ohanesian
Read Harder Challenge: Yes – A book set more than 5,000 miles from my current location.
Star Review: ♥ ♥ ♥ /5
Why:A young man comes back to his home in rural Turkey to bury his beloved grandfather. When the will is read, the house that they all care deeply for is left to a woman whose name no one appears to have ever heard before. Orhan travels to California in the USA to meet this woman and get her to sign the house over to his family so that they don’t fall apart in the black hole left behind by his grandfather. As they speak, secrets are revealed and the past comes into focus, much as all of the characters attempt to keep it out.
This book tried very hard to be relevant and in keeping with the zeitgeist when it comes to these types of books. It reminded me very much stylistically and in some ways content-wise of Khaled Hosseini’s books and any of a number of literary fiction books set in Europe during Nazi Germany’s rise and fall. This book explores ideas of identity, forgiveness, memory, and loss. In particular, this one tells the story of a forbidden romance between a Turk and an Armenian. It felt like it may have been more relevant as a story a few years back, and this may just generally be my ignorance – but isn’t Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks not an accepted fact nowadays?
Regardless, stylistically there were moments of brilliance in the writing of this tale. The main frame of the story itself I had guessed early on. Overall, I wouldn’t re-read it, but I’m not upset that I read it in the first place. I’d recommend it to folks that like the works of Khaled Hosseini or enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, for instance.
Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Read Harder Challenge: Could Be (Fantasy novel)
Star Review: ♥ ♥♥ ♥ (+½) /5
Why: Neil Gaiman’s writing has captivated me since I read American Gods many years ago. I actually haven’t read nearly as much of his work as I would have thought, having yet to venture into his comic books such as the well-received Sandman series. That being said, I always have high expectations going into any Gaiman story, this one being no exception.
A small boy all grown up comes to visit a friend and remembers suddenly how they separated years prior. The ensuing pages chronicle his memories of a lodger’s suicide unraveling an evil menacing the world. The boy’s mistake when he was young puts an otherworldly friend to sleep … or something like it.
What I love most about Gaiman’s writing is that it’s like what he seems to be as a person – both British and a complete weirdo. In this book, as in much of his writing that I’ve read so far, there’s the sweetness of a pure child-oriented fantasy world, mixed with the grittiness that makes of every day life, and the taste of wrongness that exists in subtle horror. Gaiman’s genius lies in his unveiling of a story, and in his turns of phrase. He takes a reader on a journey from unknowing to understanding and it’s truly a thing of beauty to witness or, even better, be caught up in. The way Gaiman writes makes me half-smile more than half the time I’m reading. I can’t recommend going on this particular journey with Gaiman enough. I left this one thinking about the nature of youth, good and evil, magic, time, memory, and guilt. Not bad for under 200 pages.Read it now!
Title: Voyager (Outlander Series #3)
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Read Harder Challenge: No
Star Review: ♥ ♥ ♥ /5
Why: This book is the third in the Outlander series. I began reading this series at the recommendation of a coworker. The recommendation coincided with the time that the series was regaining popularity (thanks, Starz television show!), and it came with the label of a “historical fiction” story, so I was in. When I read it, I was concerned that a professional colleague had suggested it for me – there are some sexy scenes in there! Essentially the series follows Claire, a WWII nurse-cum-wife who accidentally steps through some magic stones to a time two hundred years prior, where hijinks ensue and she falls in love with a headstrong Highland Scot. She has gone back and forth in time a few times thus far in the series, and in the third one, she has come back to the 20th century for what she thinks is the last time. However, in her research on her 18th century husband, she realizes he still lived in his continued timeline (she thought he had died after she left), and so she must return. This book chronicles her return and the all-new hijinks that they involve themselves with.
I am invested in the main characters, Claire and her love/18th century husband, Jaime. This love story is impactfully told by Gabaldon, and I shed tears over their commitment to one another. That said, the length of this particular installment was a challenge for me. I enjoyed meeting new characters, as I generally do. An example is Lord John Grey, who I suspect will make a reappearance in subsequent books. I do fear, giving the shifting focus of this book, that it will be only natural for Gabaldon to spend less time with Jaime and Claire and more with other partners and characters that are appearing as time goes on. The book itself had just enough historical relevance and barely plausible plot to remain entertaining despite is length. At the end of the book, they wash up on the shore of America in the 1770s, so I am sure it will be another historically interesting romp that scrapes the bottom of the plausibility barrel for the new setting. As an American, this one will be slightly more familiar to me, and whether that’s a good thing remains to be seen.
An interesting note: Claire (and Jaime’s) daughter Bree – who was raised in the 20th century – and her future husband could both “hear the stones” when they helped her mother back to Jaime’s time. I suspect they will be doing some time traveling of their own soon enough. I will read the next book, but may tire before the sequel ends, hence the noncommittal rating that leans just over the line of average.
The time-honored tradition of the resolution has a mixed reception. While not exactly controversial (is anyone quite passionate enough about them to develop controversy?), there are definitely two distinct camps for believers and nonbelievers in the purpose and efficacy of a resolution or two to start the New Year.
I myself don’t make New Year’s resolutions about anything – except books. Each year, I commit to reading a certain number of books. This, really, is the only “resolution” I engage in. However, at the start of each year, I also think about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge as a way to plan my upcoming year of reading. The great thing about participating in a challenge like Book Riot’s is the way in which it forces me to read outside of my comfort zone and discover new genres or books that I wouldn’t have come across by sticking to what I know. I’d recommend it to anyone!
This year, my commitment to myself is to read 65 books. This number appears gargantuan to my non-reading obsessed friends, and tiny to my friends who make reading, writing, or reviewing their full-time occupation. For me, it’s a stretch to find the time for this amount of books in 2017, and since it challenges me without overwhelming me, that’s the number I’ll try to stick to. I allow myself the small kindness of also including in that number the middle-grade novels I read in my occupation as a special education teacher :). In 2015, I read 61, and so I chose 65 for 2016. I did not meet that mark in 2016, so it’s time for a new attempt.
I’ll also be attempting the Read Harder Challenge again this year. Keep checking back to see how I am doing as I attempt to meet my goals in the New Year!
Hello Life, Universe and Everything:
Today marks a new attempt at capitalizing on two important ideas:
- When people read books, they want to tell someone about them.
- When people talk about books, other people want to listen and also be inspired to read books and talk about them.
These ideas are extremely powerful to me. This blog’s name is based off the rationale behind Cogito ergo Sum: I think therefore I am. However, the act of being is so very profound. For me, and I think many others, it is more apt to say Lego ergo Sum: I read, therefore I am.
Reading connects me to the experience of life in a way impossible to reach without literature and books. This blog is intended to be a reach into the ether with my ideas on books, with the hope of finding others who are reaching out as well. I hope you enjoy my thoughts in the year to come about books I’m reading, have read, and want to read, and feel moved to participate in what is, to me, the Most Important conversations: the dialogue about books or in other words, about the sum of Life Itself.