This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz

 

HI MY BOOK BESTIES!

It has been SO LONG since I last posted that wordpress has even changed their layout formats!!! Geez. I’ve had a TON going on lately- a job transfer, a night class, mini-marathon training! I just haven’t had the time to be reading like I would like to… So, sorry for the lack of reviews. Despite the lack of time to read, I have been buying books like a mad woman. I have so many to read, it’s not even funny!! Two of my recent purchases were in preparation for a lecture featuring Junot Diaz in my home state!

From my past reviews, you all know that I LOVED The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Seriously, one of the best books I’ve read. When one of my friends mentioned to me that Diaz was going to be giving a lecture in my home state of Indiana, I knew I had to go and meet him!!! I wanted to read all 3 of his novels before going, but that didn’t happen. I just finished up This is How You Lose Her last night. To me, it was not as great as TBWLOOW; it was still good, just not on the same level for me… Reading about Oscar was enjoyable… Reading about cheating stressed me out.

This is How You Lose Her is, at it’s foundation, a “cheaters-guide to love”, and it is tragically heart breaking. You desperately want these people in this book to do better for themselves, and for their significant others. Diaz does SO WELL to translate the pain and emptiness these characters feel throughout the novel. There were multiple times I was thinking to myself “Yunior- you can not fuck away the hole left in your heart.” That is when you know the writing is good- when you mentally are trying to tell the character shit.

This book isn’t pretty. You will not wrap it up feeling good about Yunior and his cheatin-ass ways. But, you will walk away feeling the raw emotions from the words. I think that is what caught me and made me take pause while reading this book… I kept getting too wrapped up in the emotion that the characters were expressing. I think that is why this book still has a high rating (3.74 at the time of this review)… Because, despite the dirty, sneak that you are reading about, you can still appreciate the emotions coming from the book.

As with Oscar, my complaint for this book would be the time hoping/story jumping. At this point, there are still people that were brought up in this story that I have no idea how they related Yunior. I realize some of them were to show us how infidelity was part of Yunior’s entire life, but at the same time, their portion could have been left out and I would have been fine.

Meeting Diaz was a great experience. He is such a knowledgeable person! The lecture was fantastic! Diaz is very intellectual, but also humorous at the right moments (just like his books are). Diaz’s thoughts, especially about America’s current political climate, should be heard. I’ve inserted the video from the lecture onto this post- if you have the time, I would suggest to watch.

So, have you read this book??? Or- have you met an author you absolutely adored? Let me know about them in the comments!!!

As always, thank you for reading! I hope to be posting again very soon!

 

 

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Meeting Diaz at the McFadden Memorial Lecture in Indianapolis, Indiana

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Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetys

Hi all!!

 

I recently finished Between Shade of Gray by Ruta Sepetys! This novel, like the last Sepetys novel I read, is a work of historical fiction that revolves around WWII. In this novel we follow the story of Lina and her family as they are deported to Russia from Lithuania for “crimes” against the Soviets.  This book was interesting, and enlightening, but it’s hard not to compare it to Salt to the Sea… and, when compared, to me, it just doesn’t hit the same level.

So, BSoG is the story of the Lithuanian family, the Vilkas, who are arrested at night by the Soviet secret police and taken by train to Russia labor camps. Our main character, Lina, her brother, Jonas, and their mother were taken at night from their home, while their father was taken from his job at a school. On the train, they meet the people they will be traveling, and staying with, throughout their imprisonment. The conditions are deplorable on the train. They are not permitted access to bathrooms, nor are they given food and water freely. We follow the 3 Vilkas family members to a labor camp, where they are forced to work for the Soviets, doing whatever the soldiers want them to be doing. They survive the winter just barely; lack of good, nutritious food almost kills Jonas. All in the camp are suffering in some fashion. When the winter finally lets up, they are moved further north to a Siberian labor camp. Here, they face even worse weather conditions. They continue to struggle for food and warm. As more die off due to the terrible conditions, we see Soviets and Americans bringing lots of food (for themselves of course) and other provisions. Eventually (SPOILER), Lina’s mother passes away due to grief from the knowledge that Lina’s father has perished. From then on out, it is up to Lina to protect her brother and survive the harsh conditions life has handed her.

Ok- so, this novel was ok. I knew Russian labor camps were a thing, and also figured that the conditions for the prisons were not good… but to the extent laid out in the book…. it’s hard to believe that this didn’t enrage Americans at this point of time. It’s crazy to me that a blind eye is turned so readily during war times.

I didn’t like that the book has such a time gap with no in between coverage. I would have really liked to know more about the additional 12 years that Lina and her brother spent in camp and how they survived. The letter at the end was just not enough for me to be satisfied with how this story turned out.

I did like how things turned out with officer Nikolai… I like how Sepetys writes these characters that it’s just so hard to hate them, but you can’t love them either. Nikolai is a mean, mean person (throwing the cans), but he also does not have a deep seeded rage hate for these people deemed criminals (giving a ride to the ladies coming from town, allowing Lina to steal wood…) Most importantly, it is his actions that allowed many, many of these people to be saved! If he had not left and notified a doctor of the conditions in the camp, many, many would have perished. I can not hate him because of that alone… but I know he wasn’t a 100% good dude.

 

So, have you read this book?? I don’t think it’s one that I will purchase, but I’m glad I did check it out from my local library to read it. I would probably recommend it (but only after I recommend SotS!).

 

Adios, friends!!! I hope you all have a great week!

~lk

Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys

“Yes, life can be lonely for the truly exceptional, darling. So I build my own nest and feather it with thoughts of you.

-From page 151 of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys.

This book, a work of historical fiction, was truly beautifully told. It chronicles the journey of 4 youths during their journeys to the water evacuations in 1945 during WWII at Gotenhafen, Poland. Although this story, specifically the characters, are fictional, the fate of ship within the book (Wilhelm Gustloff) is very much a true, tragic tale of loss. Personally, I had never heard of this boat, or this historically tragic event. Even though it dwarfs events like the Titanic, it simply isn’t common knowledge. Before I get to much on that, lets talk specifically about the book.

Ruta Sepetys did a wonderful job intertwining the stories of the 4 main characters while maintaining a good speed to the story. Each “chapter” reflects thoughts from one of the characters and never is longer than 3-4 pages. The 4 narrators are as follows:

Joana: a trained nurse who left all of her family to perish in her home country of Lithuania. She is constantly brave, but plagued by guilt for not protecting them better. She uses her grief to push forward and help as many people as she can as a form repentance.

Florian: A Prussian runaway “thief” and forger who uses his skill to advance himself to safety. Although he tries to not let others in (trying to protect them from what he has done), he is truly soft in his heart for others.

Emilia: a Polish girl who was sent by her father to a friends home for protection, although she was not wanted by all in the family.In the beginning, she is saved by Florian, and looks to him as a knight. He was the man that saved her, and would save her future.

Alfred: LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT ALFRED. WHAT SCUM. A sniveling coward!!! Although he, obviously, is my least favorite of the characters, he did gift us that must beautiful quote at the top of my blog entry. Alfred, the rash and blister infested German solider, works aboard the Gustloff…. Although, works is a term I would use lightly, because he mostly creeps around and hides to keep from being tasked with duties. His narrations are actually letters about himself and his journey, written to “his” Hannelore, the girl in the “snug red sweater”…. and boy howdy does he think very highly of himself (read as- he is delusional and has an unwarranted since of grandeur).

Each of our 4 characters carries with them secrets that weigh them down differently. Emilia is probably the most optimistic, while Alfred is the most crazed in my opinion. At multiple points in the book I was shocked that Alfred had not starting murdering people yet, he is truly a sociopath.

I think, of them all, I liked Florian’s input the most throughout the book. I loved the love story that flourished in the background of his narrations for Joana, and even the care he had for all the other people in their group.

I must also note that there is a bunch of symbolism in this book! First, lets talk about birds. Good Lordy, there is so much about birds. I don’t particularly like birds, but I felt most references were with care and love. Birds for birth, and birds for marriage, and birds for new beginnings with the season changing. There were also birds for death, and birds for sorrow. So much in this book talked about birds, or nests, or migrations patterns… I think, most importantly, this book noted that birds held optimism (specifically, I felt like the swan was a mark of the future, perhaps a future stolen back for the people?)

Also, there was a lot about shoes. One of the important secondary characters was a shoemaker. He constantly said that the shoe of a person tells of their journey. Most importantly, if their shoes are not in good shape, then surely the personal shall perish too. The meaning I took from this is that, the journey does not have to be kind, but the person must be strong to survive.

Finally, one of my more favorite parts was Emilia’s prediction for the fate of their boat. (SPOILER) “The ship was christened for a man, Wilhelm Gustloff. My father had told me about him. He had been the leader of the Nazi Party in Switzerland.    He was murdered. The ship was born of death.” This prediction, which is from page 218, gave me goosebumps. The foreshadowing throughout was so good, but this one in particular sat with me.

Alright, so this book was very, very good. I truly enjoyed it. It only took me 2 days to finish it. It also encouraged me to look up more about this incredibly tragic ship wreck. An estimated >9,000 people perished on board when the Soviets sent 3 torpedoes to the Gustloff, many of whom died trapped within the ship itself. The capacity of the boat was intended for less than 1,500 people, and at the time it left port, it was estimated that 10,000 people were aboard (about half being children)…. What a tragic, and senseless act of violence. The facts about Gustloff were not published much at the time of the sinking- the Reich did not want to announce this disappointing blow, nor did Soviets want it to be known of the innocent victims included in the carnage… If articles were published, they mostly spoke of a ship with soldiers heading to Germany was sunk by the hands of Soviets… the fact that the majority of the people aboard were civilians, or that the soldiers aboard were injured, was not included. Can you imagine now-a-days if something of this size happened? This was the largest sinking in maritime history, yet it is so rarely known. I find it so unfair that these people suffered so greatly, and  in death they were not honored. I think that is why I appreciated this book… it shed light on story, I feel, that should be told. I feel it gave some honor to the people that tragically died Jan 30, 1945. It proves they weren’t forgotten.

(More information can be found : http://www.wilhelmgustloff.com/welcome.htm )

[Also- I was curious for more information about the Soviet Officer, Alexander Marinesko, that sunk the ship. He was not awarded any medals or honors for his duty for the sinking of Gustloff. In fact, apparently, manning the sub that sent the torpedoes was supposed to be some sort of punishment for Marinesko’s activities on New Years Day. You can find out more at this web address: http://www.andrewbrel.com/alexander-marinesko-hero/  … I should note that the Wikipedi page was not informative at all. ]

So- all in all, I really liked this book!  My one and only complaint is that we don’t know if Joana ever finds her family, or Florian his sister… buts that is all! I hope my blog entry does it justice, because it is so worth the read… In fact, I borrowed this copy from the library, but I’m surely to purchase it for my shelves. Have you read this book?? Will you add it to your list? Let me know in the comments!

As always, thanks for reading!

~LK

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

This is the first time that I had to renew a book THREE (3!!!!) times at my library because I just wasn’t getting through it. I checked Fangirl and Modern Romance out at the same time, and, even though both were on my reading lists, I really just didn’t feel like reading them. It took me almost 3 weeks to get 80 pages in… and then I read the rest in one day, so it is a pretty quick read, if you are into it.

So, if you don’t know, Rowell is popular for her quarky love stories, which typically can fall in the “young adult” category…. which this book, to me, is no different.

Summary:

Cath, and her twin sister, Wren, are beginning their first year at college. Wren loves this college, and the opportunities it provides to meet new people… Cath, however, does not. Cath finds comfort in her FanFiction world, which revolves around a fictional novel by Gemma T Leslie. During the first semester, Cath struggles extremely with her anxieties, self-doubts, and depression. Somewhat abandoned by her sister, Cath feels truly alone at school. On top of that, she also is constantly worrying about her father, who is a bit “eccentric” and “manic” at times. It took her roommate being somewhat forceful to even get her to go to the dining hall (nothing like accused eating disorders to make a girl go eat, I guess….) She is truly an anxious introvert.

As the semester progresses, Cath somewhat opens up to a few people… A couple of people from classes, including Nick from a writing course, Reagan (roommate), Levi (Reagan’s friend/boyfriend??). She begins to find more about herself, especially after her and Abel (high school boyfriend) end things. That is until she is hit with blow after blow near the end of semester. Then during finals week, the final blow takes her back home where she questions whether she ought to go back to school at all….

 

Personal review (and spoilers!)

Alright, so I’ve read a couple of Rowell’s books and I’m never crazy about them. They are every bit of the weird teen craziness that I’m never super fond of. This is no different. Levi was the only character I was super excited for throughout the whole book… and he was just a weird smattering of personality quarks to me. So here are some complaints about characters:

-Cath: My only complaint with her character was that she didn’t stand up enough for herself in regards to her sister. I understand being reserved with other people, but allowing family to step all over her was so weird to me. They grew up together, she should have been able to lash out with anger at some point. I also didn’t like that she never made it clear, in front of everyone, what Nick had done. She should have been able to yell and get mad in that moment. Instead she ran in and didn’t mention specifically what happened to anyone.

-Wren: seriously, this character drove me crazy the entire book. She was so rude to her sister, blew her off as soon as they got to school.. and befriended a huge bimbo. If I had a family member that acted as Wren did the whole book, I would have blown up on them. Maybe that just says something about me though?

-Art: their dad. I still do not understand his character. Lack of development is my complaint here.

-Laura: their mom. again, lack of development. (I was happy Cath kept her stance throughout the book about her mom, though).

 

Overall, this book was… okay. Levi was probably the best character of the book- only because his character felt true and honest and patient throughout. Even when he messed up with *the kiss*, he still tried to make it right later on. I can appreciate that. I’m not huge into fanfiction, but this book made me see why it would be popular.. That part of the book was, to me, new and unusual. I haven’t read a book about a person writing fanfiction. Otherwise, some of the characters just lacked the depth that I would have liked them to have. It just felt so… stereotypical… to me.

 

Have you read this book? What did you think about it??

 

Have a great week, Friends!

~LK

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari

Hello Friends!!!

 

I know it has been a crazy long time since I wrote! Things have been crazy busy for me! With the holidays, my birthday, a job change, picking up a new German class, and working additional hours, my book blog kinda just took a back seat. Alas! I am here now!!!

 

So I finished Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari not too long ago and this book was some what of a “task” for me to ready. It had some really great statistical facts in it and provided me with a lot of knowledge, but honestly, as a whole, I didn’t find the book too interesting (probably since I’ve been in a relationship for so long). I think this book would be a good reference point for people that want to learn about the cultural shift in the dating world. However, I wanted so, so much more humor from Aziz. He is a comical genius. The book was meant to be more serious, and I think for that he did great. It still was humorous, but it didn’t take away from his findings.

 

Ultimately, this book was some what worth the read, but I don’t foresee myself personally purchasing this book. Have you read this book? What did you think about it? More specifically, what did you think about the masturbation egg???? Haha.

 

I hope you all have a great weekend. Wishing peace to any and all who need it!

LK

New Year Update!

Hi Friends!! It’s a New Year! Hip-Hip!!!! I hope you all had enjoyable Holidays, whatever they may have been.

I’m sorry for my lack of posting recently! I’ve been very busy with other projects (check out my instagram for those… link in the home page!) so I have not been able to read much lately.

I’m currently reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. I was hoping for a funnier book, but instead it’s very in depth and statistical. Not that it isn’t great, because it is very good and enlightening. It has had funny parts, but I personally didn’t necessarily need to read about what makes modern romance tick or tock. I’ve got about 100 pages to go, so let’s see how that wraps up..

Also, after that, I’ll be reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, so be on the lookout for that.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to update and wish you all a Happy New Year! PROST (thats cheers in German 😉 )

-LK

 

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

Hi all,

So I took a mini-pause from blogging to focus on getting ready for the coming holidays. I finished one book in the two weeks I haven’t posted- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was suggested to me by a couple of people, plus it has been on numerous reading lists I’ve looked at.

If you don’t know, The Alchemist is a story about Santiago (or, commonly called “the boy” in the book) who follows his Personal Legend (or, in regular terms, his fated destiny) to the Egyptian pyramids. Basically, Santiago left a seminary at a young age to become a shepherd to be able to travel when he had a dream that he ought to go to the pyramids because a treasure awaited him there. The entire book centralizes on his journey there.

This book was, for me, a difficult read. Not to say that it was challenging, I just don’t prefer books about desert-y places. I also didn’t care for the lack of names in the book. It seemed that everyone was only known by their profession. It was not often that you read the names of the characters. The exception to this would be Fatima, the girl that Santiago fell in love with during his journey… Which poses an interesting question to me- why does the essentially one and only female character get to have a name, but all men don’t? Not sure I’ll expand on that thought during this post, but I thought about it while reading.

I also didn’t care for the “preachy” feeling of this book. The entire book essentially tells you to take chances and go for your dreams, which is great! However, there were so many times were our story was paused so that a character could tell a different story. I felt like I really read 6 fables and one novel.

I felt awful for the Englishman (a man who the boy meets along his journey to the pyramids) because he was on a quest to meet the Alchemist, but when the Alchemist is revealed, he has no interest in the Englishman. I just thought that was boogers for the Alchemist to not even warn the Englishman by saying “hey, I know you’re here, but you really need to focus on your heart, not those books”… He just tells him to keep at what he’s doing, although he knows it will not produce the results the Englishman wants.

 

I didn’t hate this book by any means. It had some real quote-able material! Although I felt it drug on in some parts, the end message was decent- Follow your destiny despite everything else and you will be rewarded beyond measure (with knowledge and substance). Not my top 10, but it didn’t fall into the worst of the worst category!

 

So, have you read this book??

Happy Readings,

LK