Quote of the Week

Keep your mind open. The meaning of things lies in how people perceive them. The same thing could mean different meanings to the same people at different times.

~Roy T. Bennett

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

themountainssingThe Mountains Sing is a bittersweet family saga of the Tran family in north Vietnam. Alternating between Huong and her grandmother, Dieu Lan’s, perspectives, we follow some notable moments in Vietnam’s history as well as the outcome and effect to the people living there at that time. Dieu Lan and her family were victims of the Land reform in the north. They lost everything when the communist government came to power and were forced to flee. They soon settled and started a new life in Hanoi. Fifty years later, Vietnam is at war again. Huong grieves for the loss of her parents.

I liked the characters in this book, the different journeys, trials and hardships they each had to face and the emphasis on how important family is. Dieu Lan is my new favorite character. I loved her. I loved how resilient and resolute she was despite the horrible choices she had to make in order for her and her children to survive. Oh, the love of a mother!

I loved Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s writing. It felt very personal while reading. It felt like Dieu Lan and Huong were speaking to me directly. It made me feel the pain, how unbearable the situation was during the war, how injustice affected a lot of people, but they tried their best to live, to keep on going.

This is a family saga filled with heartbreak and tragedy. But it is also full of hope and love. It’s the kind of book that can make you feel.

Highly recommended.

Quotable Quotes:

“I realized that war was monstrous. If it didn’t kill those it touched, it took away a piece of their souls, so they could never be whole again.”

“Whenever humans failed us, it was nature who could help save us.”

“The more I read, the more I became afraid of wars. Wars have the power to turn graceful and cultured people into monsters.”

“Human lives were short and fragile. Time and illnesses consumed us, like flames burning away these pieces of wood. But it didn’t matter how long or short we lived. It mattered more how much light we were able to shed on those we loved and how many people we touched with our compassion.”

“The challenges faced by Vietnamese people are as tall as the tallest mountains. If you stand too close, you won’t be able to see their peaks. Once you step away from the currents of life, you will have the full view.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

WWW Wednesday 27-Jan-2021

Welcome to this month’s final WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam from Taking On A World of Words.

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As usual, just answer the three W questions:

  1. What did you recently finish reading?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Recently Finished

Currently Reading

shuggiebain

Up Next

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this past week? I’d be delighted if you share your WWWs, too. Leave a link or share your lists on the comments section so I can check them all out!

Happy reading and keep safe, Homo sapiens!

Quote of the Week

Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.

~W.P. Kinsella

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

thebookoflostnamesThe Book of Lost Names is the story of Eva Traube, a young woman born in France whose parents are Polish Jews, working her way to become a librarian. The Nazis soon began mass arrests and one day, her father was captured while she and her mother were babysitting for the neighbor. She soon found her self forging documents for her and her mother in order to flee to the free zone of France. Upon arriving in a small town of Aurignon in the free zone, she learned of the underground resistance movement and later found herself forging documents for Jewish children, in order to escape to Switzerland.

Eva soon became increasingly important for the underground resistance movement and her relationships to the people around her became complex and tricky. Her views of the world changed and there came difficult decisions along the way. Eva and Remy had decided to keep a record of the children’s real names for them to remember later on who they really are, a secret between them, The Book of Lost Names. Then the resistance movement was betrayed and Remy also disappeared.

Many years later, Eva saw the very same book where she and Remy kept a record of the names of the children they helped to escape. She was then faced with a choice to just continue with her new life or to revisit her past.

The Book of Lost Names is a very interesting and captivating read full of historically accurate details. I love that I am continually learning more, the round-ups in Paris, the quaint little town in a considered free zone in France, the forgery and the children’s escape to Switzerland to name a few.

This is a story of courage, bravery, survival, endurance, the significance of forgery at that time, patience, loss, trust. It is wonderfully written and a page-turner. Well-researched. Great twists. Well-rounded characters. I have read a lot of books set in WWII and as with all war-set stories, I fear for most of the characters’ lives. With each book, a simple knock on the door makes your adrenaline rise. This is no different. I feared for Eva, for Remy, for Pere Clement and for nearly all the characters.

I loved this book and plan to read more from Kristin Harmel. Highly recommended.

Quotable Quotes:

“Reuniting a book with its rightful owner can be magical.”

“My point is that every parent wants what is best for his or her child. But we are all guilty of seeing things through our own lens.”

“Once you’ve fallen in love with books, their presence can make you feel at home anywhere, even in places where you shouldn’t belong.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

WWW Wednesday 20-Jan-2021

Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam from Taking On A World of Words.

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As usual, just answer the three W questions:

  1. What did you recently finish reading?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Recently Finished

These three books were all page-turners and I’m giving all three 5-star ratings!

Currently Reading

themidnightlibrary

I am not liking this as much as I expect to like it. Should I go on or not? Any thoughts?

Up Next

I’m so excited to start with Shuggie Bain and The Prisoner of Heaven. I think both will be 5-star reads!

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this past week? I’d be delighted if you share your WWWs, too. Leave a link or share your lists on the comments section so I can check them all out!

Happy reading and keep safe, Homo sapiens!

Top 5 Tuesday – Books I Will Definitely Read This Year

Happy Tuesday, Homo sapiens! It’s time for another Top 5 Tuesday!

Top 5 Tuesday was originally hosted by Shanah at Bionic Bookworm and now found its home with Meeghan at Meeghan Reads.

Books I Will Definitely Read This Year

How about you? What books do you surely intend to read this year? Feel free to share in the comments section or drop a link of your post so I can read them all!

Happy reading!

Quote of the Week

Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.

~Edward Abbey

In Order to Live by Yeon-Mi Park

inordertolive

I have always been curious about North Korea, its people, their way of living, the autocratic Kim regime. I have read a few books/articles and it just increased my curiosity all the more. I am currently working in a South Korean company for almost 10 years now since I came here but North Korea is a very rare topic discussed among my colleagues.

In Order to Live is the memoir of Yeonmi Park as she and her mother escape North Korea in search of a better life. She tells of her family’s story as a child, the kind of life they lead, as well as the dictatorship in North Korea.

The book is divided into three parts: her life in North Korea, then in China and finally in South Korea.

Yeon-Mi mentioned the time after Russia and China put an end to their support for NK which greatly affected NK’s economy. Her father soon found himself selling whatever smuggled items he has in the black market. She also mentioned about songbun, the class groupings enforced by the NK government. Ms. Park’s paternal family used to belong to the “core” class, the highest class grouping, until one of her uncles was accused of raping a student where he was teaching. Since then, all related families were declassed to the lowest songbun.

About halfway through the book, their family’s focus was on China. As the days passed, it has became apparent that there is no future for their family in NK. It wasn’t easy to find a smuggler who will bring them to the NK-China border but as soon they found one, Ms. Park’s sister left first with her friend but gone missing. Ms. Park and her mother followed next leaving her father behind in hopes to find her sister and come back for her father after. Unfortunately, China, as they came to know, was a horrible place, too. They ended up in the nastiness of human trafficking, her mother was even raped in front of her.

Ms. Park and her mother eventually left China through Mongolia with the help of Christian missionaries. The rest of the book talked about the NIS and the Hanawon screening processes and how she and her mother adjusted to life in South Korea.

The writing wasn’t particularly beautiful but that’s okay. Let it not stop you from reading Ms. Park’s story. I encourage you to read this remarkable book and educate yourself through this eye-opening, although shattering, important story.

Quotable Quotes:

“We all have our own deserts. They may not be the same as my desert, but we all have to cross them to find a purpose in life and be free.”

“It amazed me how quickly a lie loses its power in the face of truth.”

“I inhaled books like other people breathe oxygen. I didn’t just read for knowledge or pleasure, I read to live.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

WWW Wednesday 13-Jan-2021

Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam from Taking On A World of Words

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As usual, just answer the three W questions:

  1. What did you recently finish reading?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Recently Finished

themountainssing

Currently Reading

Up Next

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this past week? I’d be delighted if you share your WWWs, too. Leave a link or share your lists on the comments section so I can check them all out!

Happy reading and keep safe, Homo sapiens!

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

thegirlwiththeloudingvoiceThe Girl with the Louding Voice is Abi Dare’s debut novel and wow, what an amazing debut!

This is Adunni’s story, a fourteen-year-old girl from the small village of Ikati in Nigeria who wants a proper education and a louding voice. She lives with her alcoholic father and two brothers. Her mother was the breadwinner of the family and wished for Adunni to be able to attend and finish school but she soon passed away. At the wake  of her mother’s death, her father married her off to a rich man named Morufu to be his third wife in order to collect the bride-price. A series of events occurred while she was married to Morufu and soon a tragedy, which forced her to flee. She then found herself in Big Madam’s mansion in Lagos working without pay and beaten everyday.

Adunni is one unforgettable character. She is one of the many girls around the world who didn’t have the privilege to study and learn. She is one of the many child brides. Abi Daré incredibly gave life to Adunni’s voice. Adunni speaks broken English as the story started and I liked that the author wrote it this way and showed us how Adunni’s English progressively changed throughout the book. She eventually developed her English as she begins to study in secret.  Adunni later realized in the story that English is just a language like many others and that the ability to speak good English is not the measure of an intelligent mind.

I enjoyed this book so much. There were many parts in the story that were truly sad but I loved her character so much because although she faced a lot of trials and hardships, she refused to give up, she never once lost faith. She was always positive and hopeful that someday, she will be that girl with the louding voice.

Quotable Quotes:

“You must do good for other peoples, even if you are not well, even if the whole world around you is not well.”

“That day, I tell myself that even if I am not getting anything in this life, I will go to school. I will finish my primary and secondary and university schooling and become teacher because I don’t just want to be having any kind voice… I want a louding voice.”

“I want to tell her that God is not a cement building of stones and sand. That God is not for all that putting inside a house and locking Him there. I want her to know that the only way to know if a person find God and keep Him in their heart is to check how the person is treating other people, if he treats people like Jesus says–with love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness.”

“Who knows what else tomorrow will bring? So, I nod my head yes, because it is true, the future is always working, always busy unfolding better things, and even if it doesn’t seem so sometimes, we have hope of it.”

“When you get up every day, I want you to remind yourself that tomorrow will be better than today. That you are a person of value. That you are important.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Quote of the Week

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

~Maya Angelou

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

earthlingsWTF was that? What did I just finish reading? While I’m already accustomed to the strangeness or peculiarity or otherness of Japanese novels, Earthlings left me confused, uncertain, vexed? The blurb was misleading because this book is dark.

Earthlings is the story of Natsuki who we meet as a child and thinks she is not from planet Earth. She struggles to fit it and she only has her cousin, Yuu, who understands her, who also thinks he himself is an alien. Natsuki was a victim of child abuse. She was punished when caught she slept with her cousin, Yuu. Fast forward to when Natsuki was now an adult, she married Tomoya, whom she met online, who was not interested in sex and romance. He just wanted to marry to stop his family from pressuring him to do so. Soon enough, they convinced themselves that they were both aliens and that humans were all brain-washed by the “society.”

This is a book where you can find every trigger you can ask for. From murder to mental illness to cannibalism, abuse (child, physical, mental, sexual), sibling rivalry, trauma, societal pressures, etc.

I’m not sure what to say as the book ended. I felt the book kind of lost the plot and just turned into madness. Maybe I should reread the book to make more sense of it as a whole? NO. This is a weird book. Haunting, Unnerving. It’s dark, tragic. Some find it funny but no, it’s not. It’s challenging to rate this novel because I was engrossed but I was also not really enjoying it. I didn’t really dislike this book, I liked the first part but as the weirdness grew, the enjoyment was lost.

Quotable Quotes:

“Survive, whatever it takes.”

“What I’m really scared of is believing the words society makes me speak are my own.”

Family is hard work,” I thought.”

Would I ever be able to live without constantly trying to survive?”

He’s my partner, but that doesn’t mean we’re friends.”

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

WWW Wednesday 06-Jan-2021

Happy new year, Homo sapiens! Welcome to our first WWW Wednesday of 2021 hosted by Sam from Taking On A World of Words. I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and I hope the new year started well with everyone!

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As usual, just answer the three W questions:

  1. What did you recently finish reading?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Recently Finished

Currently Reading

themountainssing

Up Next

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this past week? I’d be delighted if you share your WWWs, too. Leave a link or share your lists on the comments section so I can check them all out!

Happy reading and keep safe, Homo sapiens!

 

Top 5 Tuesday – Bookish Resolutions

Happy Tuesday, Homo sapiens! Today is the first Top 5 Tuesday of 2021 and I’m excited to do this again after a very long while!

Top 5 Tuesday was originally hosted by Shanah at Bionic Bookworm and now found its home with Meeghan at Meeghan Reads.

Top 5 Bookish Resolutions

1. Read more genre I don’t normally read

I hope to read more outside my comfort zone and discover something new as much as I can. I intend to read more non-fiction and maybe poetry.

2. Read the books I already own

I have this (really bad, well that depends on your point of view) habit of buying several books at once and not read them right away so it all piles up. So I hope to focus on these books I already own this year.

3. Read a book I’ve always meaning to read

Now I have a lot on my list of books I’ve been wanting to read for a long, long time. I should get started soon!

4. Read and review

I don’t really write the grandest of book reviews but writing a little something as soon as I finish a book and not wait for weeks or days is something I want to focus on.

5. Read more classics

I wasn’t able to read as much classics as I intended to last year so maybe this year would be a good chance.

How about you? What are your bookish resolutions this year? Feel free to share in the comments section or drop a link of your post so I can read them all!

Happy reading!

Quote of the Week

There comes a day in every man’s life when he stops looking
forward and starts looking back.

~Maxwell Hill

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig

thegirlwhosavedChristmasThe Girl Who Saved Christmas is the second book from Matt Haig’s Christmas collection and I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed the first one, A Boy Called Christmas.

In this second book, we return to Elfhelm where Christmas is threatened by trolls. The trolls destroyed almost everything in Elfhelm and so Father Christmas and elves will have to rebuild it. Noosh was sent to the place where these trolls live to investigate. Apart from trolls, there is also the threat of the loss of hope. Without hope, there is no magic. Without hope, Father Christmas can’t create magic. Without magic, he cannot send gifts to children all over the world.

Amelia is a chimney sweep and now only lives with her cat, Captain Soot. She was full of hope and strongly believes in magic. Soon after her mother passed away, Mr. Creeper took her in the workhouse where she started to lose all hope and no longer believe in magic. Father Christmas soon found out that Amelia no longer lives in 99 Haberdashery Road in London and so the adventure starts to find her.

This is a beautiful story of hope and magic. As with the first book, it draws us to our Christmas traditions and stories but gives it a new energy in a unique and wonderful way. This year has been dreadful for many and I hope stories like these could still give hope and magic to those who read it. Another wonderful and heart-warming Christmas read!

I hope you are all having a meaningful holiday season.

Quotable Quotes:

“Life is like a chimney – you sometimes have to get through the dark before you see the light.”

“The love of a person never disappears,” he said softly. “Even if they might. We have memories, you see, Amelia. Love never dies. We love someone and they love us back, and that love is stored, and it protects us. It is bigger than life, and it doesn’t end with with life. It stays inside us. They stay inside us. Inside our hearts.”

“Because words are a magic too, and they can contain everything.”

Rating: 4/5 stars