Review: The Bastard of Istanbul

Review: The Bastard of Istanbul

The Bastard of Istanbul
The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: Whatever falls from the sky above, thou shalt not curse it

I shouldn’t put off writing reviews for so long because I lose all my carefully arranged thoughts and observations accumulated while reading the book. But what I do remember clearly is that this was such a colorful book. I felt nostalgic for a place I’ve never been. It is a wonderful tale of women from different parts of the world and different beliefs and cultures and how their lives are interwoven together.
First let me talk about the writing. It was so poetic and beautiful that it was almost as if I was reading verses. A certain term used in the telling of tales which I really took to, was the term “Once there was, once there wasn’t,…” I am unaware if this term is culturally used or coined by the author herself but I found it very endearing and perfect for the beginning of tales.
The whole story flowed at a very natural pace and each different individual person’s perspective was represented, in my opinion, credibly and realistically.The story is about women of very different perspectives and experiences and feelings, and how this influences their personalities and choices in life. There was a lot of truth to the judgmental view women are prone to take of one another while disregarding that there are multiple sides to every story. The concept that there was no attempt made to change this trait and it was accepted as the norm also rang highly true. The descriptions of Istanbul were bright and tasteful. Tasteful in more ways than one because the book has a great deal of food in it which I more than love reading about.
Secondly, the format of the story. I took a liking to how each chapter was named after a food item that would essentially be integral to the chapter in some way. Food was an important aspect of this book which of course I highly appreciated. It added to the experience of reading a book about Istanbul because food is one of the major representations of any land and culture. There is even an entire recipe, complete with ingredient and garnish list, for a desert named ashure in a chapter named ‘Golden Raisins’. What better way to throw a person into a cultural experience?
This sentiment is in fact voiced by one of the characters when she think to herself:
This city was a jumble of aromas, some of them strong and rancid, others sweet and stimulating. Almost every smell made Armanoush recall some sort of food, so much so that she had started to perceive Istanbul as something edible”
I couldn’t agree more. Even through the pages of a book, Shafak made me feel the same.

Thirdly I want to mention interesting aspects of the book that really struck my fancy. One of which was that story telling was clearly a big part of the novel, yet I found it interesting that none of the stories were ever finished or fully told. It leaves me wondering.
Another interesting thing that was represented was the inner monologue of Zeliha and her daughter Asya, both of which are philosophical in their own way, and how their thoughts arrange themselves into Rules and Manifesto Articles.
In the beginning when we’re introduced to the character of Zeliha we find her listing Rules of Prudence for Instanbulite Women which is not the same and yet similar to the Personal Manifesto of Nihilism we find being dictated inside the head of her daughter Asya later on in the book. An example of which is:
Article One: If you cannot find a reason to love the life you are living, do not pretend to love the life you are living.
All in all the proposed names of articles make an intriguing enough outline for me to actually wish she’d write one that I could read.

Here are my humble peeves with the book, first is that the political conflict between Turks and Armenians which was a huge theme of the story and yet not completely elaborated or explained well enough to reach a resolution for my taste.
Secondly the Islamic concepts in the book were distorted and not always accurate. In some parts of the story the concept of religion is non-existent or free thinking and in the more religious aspects it was frustratingly inaccurate and morphed to the point of almost being blasphemous. The concept of a religious person easily being able to capture a djinn and then hold it prisoner to do their bidding is represented so casually as if it’s within any person’s reach to do so if they’re just religious enough. When in fact, in true Islamic terms, the very act of communicating with one would in fact be a sin. One of the many examples of misrepresentations that bases it’s beliefs of Islam not on fact but folklore and religious myths. Perhaps more research into the matter of religion, which is in fact a sensitive issue, would have served the story better. But if you take it all with a grain of salt and take not a lot of it seriously, the book is quite the gem. It surprised me and delighted me enough to tell myself to make more chances on writers I am not familiar with and genres I don’t usually pick up. Elif Shafak is one writer who I will look forward to reading more from.

Favorite Lines:
1. That was one thing about the rain that likened it to sorrow: You did your best to remain untouched, safe and dry, but if and when you failed, there came a point in which you started seeing the problem less in terms of drops than as an incessant gush, and thereby you decide you might as well get drenched. (pg. 2)
2. The path of fiction could easily mislead you into the cosmos of stories where everything was fluid, quixotic, and as open to surprises as a moonless night in the desert. (pg. 96)
3. Imagination was dangerously captivating magic for those compelled to be realistic in real life, and words could be poisonous for those destined to always be silenced. (pg. 97)
4. Man is born free but everywhere is in chains. in reality, the difference is that the savage lives within himself while social man lives outside himself and can only live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the feeling of his own existence only from the judgement of others concerning him. (pg. 235)

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Review: Stranded by Bracken Macleod

Review: Stranded by Bracken Macleod

Stranded
Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: The void churned and swelled, reaching up to pull them down into frigid darkness, clamoring to embrace them, every one.

First off let me just say that I am very disappointed in myself. It not only took me five days to finish an interesting book of 300 pages, but also another lazy week before I got down to writing it’s review. This book deserves better than that so I apologize.

Stranded is a story about a crew who wake up to find themselves having frozen in place overnight with no credible explanation for it and no idea of their location or means of communication to find out. The protagonist, Noah Cabot, finds himself stuck on board a ship with a small crew,most of whom dislike him, under the command of his father-in-law who openly loathes him. A lot of the story revolves around how the relationships of the crew affect each other in a critical and often life threatening situation.
This was a strange story, to say the least, I was all weirded out. It was sometimes philosophical and sometimes took little forays into the psychological, not all of which I understood. But considering how the story played out in a way that left me with more questions than it answered, I’m guessing that’s exactly what the writer intended to happen. I did appreciate that despite all of that, there were absolutely no unnecessary ramblings in the book as fillers to prolong the story.
There were certain things I didn’t appreciate in the book. One of which was that it left me with more questions than it answered. The other thing was that the characters were sometimes frustrating and sometimes downright unreasonable in a way that made them seem childish. It often felt like reading about an episode of schoolyard bullying rather than a case of adults caught in a seriously hazardous situation where one would think dealing with a problem is more important than letting your personal differences and opinions get the best of you. Then again it were those disputes that ultimately led to the climax. Which, by the way, I found to be kind of abrupt.
I did like that the writer was bold enough to venture into the genre of science fiction without letting the answer for a way to explain it all get in the way of telling a good story.
Overall it was an interesting read. Since it’s not something that will take days and days of reading to get through, I would recommend picking this up if you’re looking for a quick thrill read.

1. One followed another in a black parade of bad choices and disappointments, sides taken and moments you can never get back, or take back, lost in time, every day adding another regret to a sore and bent conscience. (pg. 97)
2. He never gave much thought to what was real and what wasn’t, because reality was solid and constant, and the difference between a dream and waking was a bright line, easily seen. (pg. 200)
3. Someone moves and promises they’ll keep in touch but eventually the best you can do is occasionally click a thumbs-up or an emoji on some social media page and keep scrolling. (pg. 218)
4. If you’ve been shot, what good does it do to ask who sold the bullet? Find a doctor. (pg. 219)

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Here is the little painting I made inspired from the book.

stranded-art

Review: Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk

Review: Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk

Doomed
Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: Good and evil have always existed

The story of 13 year old, Madison Spencer stuck in purgatory, otherwise known as earth, after violating her curfew on Halloween, who realizes that a post-alive joke has now resulted in an entire religion in her name.
What can I say about Chuck Palahniuk? If any of you have read him, you’ll know that this man is capable of being intensely profound while absolutely bizarre at the same time. It’s the opposite of sugar-coated bullshit. His true to life narratives are wrapped inside some of the weirdest and hilarious stories I’ve ever read.
I’ve heard criticism based on the novel’s narration. I liked that the book was narrated through the eyes of a dead 13 year old writing a blog to all the good people of hell. A girl that was too cynical and smart-mouthed for her age and yet apparently more sensible than any adult in the story gave it the sense of irony I’ve come to love in Palahniuk’s writing. Keeping in mind that this 13 year old is in fact dead and has been through hell, literally, I’m willing to overlook any perspective that may have felt too mature for her and write it off as experience.
This novel has a great condescending perspective of atheism and religion, while making the entire thing seem like a joke.
To make room for a new world religion, Leonard had stated that all religions had to be discredited. Everything held to be sacred and holy had to be reduced to a joke. No one could be allowed to discuss good or evil without sounding like a fool, and the mention of God or the Devil must be met with universal eye rolling. Most important, Leonard had insisted, intelligent people must be made to feel ashamed of their need for a higher power. They must be starved for a spiritual life until they would greedily accept any that would be offered to them.
He called it. Long before I did. Which is why I was dubious of criticism that said there wasn’t much substance in the story. There were passages that often gave me food for thought and had me smiling in agreement. The following is another example:
The avant-garde in every field consists of the lonely, the friendless, the uninvited. All progress in the product of the unpopular.
People in love – with nurturing, attentive, non-movie-star parents, they would never invent gravity. Nothing except deep misery leads to real success.

In the face of things today, I have to solemnly agree with Mr. Palahniuk

I don’t know what it says about me that a Palahniuk book like this gives me more cause for discussion and debate than most classics do. Maybe it’s my love for the bizarre and macabre that draws me to his style. I know he’s not for everybody. The cover of the book proudly proclaims “Palahniuk doesn’t write for tourists” – The New York Times and I would strongly agree. If you’re looking for a Young-Adult style bed time fairytale, don’t bother trying to read this.

Here is my attempt at cover art for the book:

doomed-cover-art

Favorite Lines:
1. One of the chief torments of Hell is that we all know, secretly, why we deserve to be there. (pg. 10)
2. The dead have better things to do than respond to your dumb-ass Ouija board queries concerning lottery numbers and who’s going to marry you. (pg. 10)
3. Religions exist because people would rather have a wrong answer than no answer at all. (pg. 16)
4. It’s exhausting, the energy it takes to unknow a truth. (pg. 141)
5. You never know the complicated deals two people negotiate in order to stay married beyond the first ten minutes. (pg. 149)
6. When you’re feeling depressed about being dead, duly remember that being alive wasn’t always a picnic. (pg. 173)
7. The buzzwords of her life were tolerance and respect , and she was trapped between them as if crushed in an ideological vise. (pg. 200)
8. Leonard preached that mankind would always long for an organized system of religious beliefs, but, like a scared insecure child, people would hide their need behind a mask of sarcasm and ironic detachment. (pg 253)

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Review: The Terror by Dan Simmons

Review: The Terror by Dan Simmons

The Terror
The Terror by Dan Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Opening sentence: Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts.

I’m absolutely exhausted. The part of me that was on the H.M.S Terror, the part of me that walked the ice to Erebus, the part of me that felt the hunger and the cold and the pain and the horror through every leg of the journey with Captain Crozier and his men is beyond relieved that this journey is over leaving me with no more damage than chilly feet.

This book came with my November subscription to the Nocturnal Reader’s Box, otherwise it might well have gone unread by me and I have to say I’m glad it didn’t because it’s a great piece of historic fiction.

terror-book-art

There are a few words that come to mind that describe this novel, Heavy is probably the most important among them. Heavy doesn’t have to do with the fact that the book is 766 pages, although that does take it’s toll. It’s about how much true grit it holds.
To anyone not familiar with nautical and naval terminology, the story can be a little confusing at first but you get well acquainted with the ship and it’s people soon enough. The number of people on board the two ships, Terror and Erebus, were so large that at first I started writing them down along with their ranks to keep track of them:

terror-log-book

but found that the writer makes it a point to mention the ranks of men again and again to help the reader. I was however, lost sometimes when it came to the layout of the ship which is, not surprisingly, mentioned again and again throughout the book. The story and it’s details are very well researched. From the geography of the areas, to the protocols of a ship right down to the cause and effects of disease and illnesses.
Another important word that describes this book is ‘cold’. Not in the most obvious way, which of course applies since just the description of f-70 degree temperatures were enough to make me want to bundle up and also to make icy landscapes in my artwork:

terror-cold-art

but also because it takes no prisoners. There is a brutality in the writing that compliments the bleakness of the characters’ situations.

An interesting example of that would be when the predicament of being trapped in a frozen sea on board a weakening ship fast running out of supplies brings to mind the question “would you eat human flesh for survival?” When the story continues to bring desperate hunger to realization time and time again, I found that my own answer to this would be a disquieting yes. How many can really say without a doubt that they would be able to resist that temptation once you feel your body eating you from the inside to stay alive?
An interesting thing to note in the tumult of emotions this book brings to you is that the fear and true horror is very rarely from the supernatural element in the story. More than anything it makes you realize how cruel nature and the world can be. Under these circumstances the human creature is capable of evil just as terrifying as anything supernatural the mind has dreamed up.
I have two issues with this novel. One is obviously the size of it. 700+ pages that sometimes felt unnecessary and stretched out can sometimes make even the most well studied elements begin to resemble ramblings. The second is the ending. Without trying to give anything away, I have to say that if I do make my way through a book this size I expect the result to be more…decisive. It was unusual to say the least and left me feeling a little hollow inside. The book suddenly seemed to take a turn into a genre which it had not been a huge part of throughout the whole story and that, in my opinion, took a lot away from it.
This is clearly not a book for lightweight readers. Do not think of this as a pleasure read or a simple adventure. This is a serious voyage that requires some level of commitment to it if you plan on going the whole way. If you liked “The Revenant” then you might understand what I mean, but keep in mind this is a book so it has all the sordid details that a simple movie would lack.

terror-ending

Favorite Lines :
1. Rats, as Crozier knows from the sad experience of thirteen winters in the ice, tend to eat one’s friends quietly and efficiently, except for their frequent screeching and the blood-maddened and ravenous vermin turn on one another. (pg. 13)
2. At times, especially late at night with the ice moaning, Francis Rawdon, Moira Crozier realizes that HMS Terror is his wife, mother, bride and whore. (pg. 34)
3. I had heard the phrase “not enough room to swing a cat in” since I was a boy, but never had I understood it until this moment. (pg. 337)
4. “All this natural misery,” Dr. Goodsir said suddenly. “Why do you men have to add to it? Why does our species always have to take our full measure of God-given misery and terror and mortality and then make it worse? Can you answer me that, Mr. Hickey?” (pg. 639)
5. If there is a Hell- in which I no longer believe, since this earth and some of the people in it are hell enough for any universe- I would be and should be cast down to the worst bolgia of the lowest circle. (pg. 673)
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Hello December

Hello December

December is here and this post might be late but I figure it’s better than not posting at all.

This month I’ve decided to approach my reading a tad differently than before. First of all it’s a holly jolly busy month with lots of relatives and festivities involved, so I figured it would probably serve me well to ATTEMPT to be a bit more organized. So I started off with deciding on a TBR list beforehand instead of picking up anything at hand and attempting to finish it by the end of the month.

So here is this month’s (hopeful) reading list:

december-reading-list

  1. Stranded by Bracken Macleod
  2. The Terror by Dan Simmons
  3. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
  4. The Martian by Andy Weir
  5. Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk
  6. Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

 

I’ve told myself that I’m going to finish these no matter what. Now usually I dont decide on the month’s reading list beforehand but I figure it’s time to try a different approach to reading. I will definitely be reading the two books I received in the Nocturnal Reader’s Box, The Terror and Stranded. Obviously there had to be a King in there and Chuck Palahniuk, coz he’s another favorite of mine. I’ve obsessedly seen The Martian so many times that I decided I should finally get around to reading it too and I’ll be revisiting an old favorite of mine, Three Men in a Boat, because it’s one of those stories that bear reading again. Other than that I’m supposed to read The Muse by Jessie Burton for my bookstagram bookclub, which should be higher up on the reading list but not having heard favorable reviews so far, isn’t such a priority for now.

Now I realize that 6 books a month isn’t a big deal to most readers, but bear in mind that 2 of the books are over 400 pages. Still, I’ve told myself that I have to read more, so in an attempt to somewhat organize my reading, I’ve decided to make a bullet journal of sorts to track my reading habits. I’m completely new to journalling and in all honesty don’t know if this form of journalling will work out, but being a lover of journals and fancy stationary, I figure it couldn’t hurt to try.

Here’s how I plan on approaching this, I’ll start off with a monthly spread, to mark the basics such as when I started and finished a book, when I last wrote a blog post and when I posted a bookstagram picture.

december-monthly-spread

A weekly spread for more detailed notes and reminders about the week:

december-weekly-spread

and then notes on the book I’m currently reading that includes notable quotes, thoughts on the story and narrative and maybe some kind of log of the number of pages I’ve read per day:

the-terror-log

Never having done any kind of bullet journalling before, these are just basic ideas that I want to start off with in the hopes of maybe eventually evolving to a better system if I can find one. I am always open to suggestions and on the lookout for ways to improve what I’m currently doing. Something I absolutely love about the Bookblogging, bookstagram and the bullet journalling community is how forthcoming people are about sharing thoughts and ideas to help people develop into what suits them best.

So here’s how I’m starting the month. Fingers crossed to reading all the books on my list and keeping up with the bullet journaling. Bring it on December!

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: The circus arrives without warning.

I am in love with a place I can never go to. Only a truly great book can make you long for a place that doesn’t even exist and Erin Morgenstern did that with his beautifully imagined tale of the Night Circus. This is one of those stories that has taken it’s place in my heart, and most likely my dreams, and will continue to be recalled with nothing but fondness whenever I think back upon it.
In this beautiful blend of fantasy and romance, is a journey into the mysterious and magical world of a circus that only comes alive at the strike of midnight and weaves its spell on people all the way to the break of dawn. In this setting are two skilled players, pitted against each other in a battle of skill and stamina, that have absolutely no idea who their opponent is, what their game requires of them, or how it ends and what determines who the winner is.
The circus is so vividly imagined that it left me yearning to be there. A list of unique characters with endearing qualities which made me like every one of them, is rare in a book with so many people in it. There are chapters in the book told from a first person perspective which are actually less absorbing than the passages told through the two protagonists eyes. I was swept away in a manner which hasn’t taken over me since childhood days of fairy tales. Which is the most accurate description I can think of to define this story which is equal parts enchanting and heart wrenching; a fairy tale for adults.
The entirety of this book takes readers on a journey in a dreamlike state, the kind you’ll want to cling to once you wake up with the lingering smell of caramel popcorn.
I can’t imagine the skill and imagination Erin Morgenstern possesses to have come up with this beauty of a first novel. But I am nothing short of grateful that she did.

Favorite Lines:
1. You prefer not to see the gears of the clock, as to better tell the time. (pg 61)
2. The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones. (pg 143)
3. I prefer to remain unenlightened, to better appreciate the dark. (189)
4. It is difficult to see a situation for what it is when you are in the midst of it, it is too familiar. Too comfortable. (pg 193)
5. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. (pg 374)

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Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Marukami

Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Marukami

Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Opening sentence: I was 37 then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to Hamburg airport.

I passed a bibliophile’s milestone this week. I read my first ever Marukami novel. The bookstagram book club I recently became part of chose Norwegian Wood as the first read-along novel and threw me right into the choppy waters of Haruki Marukami. And it wasn’t at all what I was expecting

Let me be perfectly blunt. I didn’t like this book and the end of it couldn’t come soon enough. If it wasn’t for the fact that I have a lovely family of booklovers, bookbloggers and bookstagrammers I would never pick up another Marukami book again. BUT fortunately I do and they have assured me that this was an unusual story and probably not one of the best choices for someone taking their first expedition in the strange land of Marukami. I am beyond relieved because I am actually repulsed by this story, where as I had very high expectations based on how highly acclaimed he is.

Where do I begin? It’s a twisted adolescent love story, as most adolescent love stories are, with way too many unnecessary graphic sex scenes. It had a collection of weak characters, and while they did their absolute best to explain themselves into deeper personalities, it was a total failure and felt forced. In a weird nutshell it was about a teenage boy who had sex with anyone and everyone and by the time he was done the story was over.

There were many points in the book where I thought the story was about to take an interesting turn and it turns out, nope, it’s just a prelude to sex. I know there are DIE hard Marukami fans who found depth and meaning in even the most mundane parts of this story out of loyalty to Marukami, and believe me I tried. There were times when I would put down the book and think okay, am I missing something ? Could there be something here I’m not seeing? But try as I might I could not squeeze depth out of any of it.

I apologize to the Marukami fandom. I realize I am way out of my element here. But for such a seasoned writer, it shouldn’t have felt like he was trying so hard. The main character for example, Watanabe, I have a feeling we’re supposed to see him as a deep thinking, intelligent old soul, as is obvious by the constant statements people make about him : “you talk like Humphrey Bogart” ” you are such an unusual thinker” “I would have never thought of it that way.” And I’m here thinking “that’s not because he’s smart it’s because you’re an idiot, you dumbass!”

Another gripe of mine was the increasingly irritating personalities of the female characters. From the first character Naoko, who was depressed beyond all reason but had no problem meekly submitting to doling out sexual pleasure for no particular reason, to the nymphomaniac Midori and her downright desperate tirades on her sexual desires, right up to Reiko who started off as a good character but quickly lost her appeal and honored the memory of her younger-sister-like-friend by screwing her boyfriend “in her memory”. Lovely. I fail to see what part of this was a love story. I’ve heard it’s not the norm for Marukami to make all his female characters revolve around sex as heavily as in this book.I can only hope so

I will say though, that despite being completely disgusted with this book and it’s unnecessary ramblings on the most mundane things, once I discussed it with other readers I realized that this was a book meant for people who are already fans of Haruki Marukami so that they can revel in the style of his writing that they love so much and see comparisons and similarities with other books. I’m glad somebody gets something out of this because I didn’t. I said before, as a first timer who was unfortunate enough to start off with THIS book, I should hold off on forming any concrete opinions just yet. I am convinced enough to try another Marukami book someday. probably not anytime soon, but I will give it another go.

Favorite Lines:
1. What if I’ve forgotten the most important thing? What if somewhere inside me there is a dark limbo where all the truly important memories are heaped and slowly turning into mud? (pg. 10)
2. Life doesn’t require ideals. It requires standards of action. (pg. 71)
3. A gentleman is someone who does not what he wants to do but what he should do. (pg. 72)
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