Book #52 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

The perfect read to end my 2015 Reading Challenge! Book #52…

 If you don’t have any idea about the Palestine-Israeli conflict, this book offers an excellent introduction about it and about the suffering of the people of Palestine.

1947 — the year that was — for the Jewish, the creation of their homeland, the state of Israel; for the Palestinians, the year their land was taken from them, the year they became refugees.

This is such a powerful story about the sufferings of the Palestinians in the hands of the Israelis that will leave you raging with emotions that I have to keep reminding myself that it was a work of fiction (though most happenings were based on facts).

A beautifully written book that gave me a different view about the Palestinian people and everything they have lost. It’s one of the most heart-breaking books I’ve ever read, I recommend it to everyone.

What a perfect read to complete my 2015 Reading Challenge! 🙂

Favorite quotes : ““Always” was a good word to believe in.”

“He brushed his lips against mine, pulled me closer, and I felt as if I had lived all my life for that kiss.”

“I was a word drained of its meaning. A woman emptied of her past. The truth is that I wanted to be someone else.”

“Baba’s absence since the war had grown as big as the ocean and all its fishes. As big as the sky and earth and all their birds and trees. The hurt in my heart was as big as the universe and all its planets.”

Rating : 5/5 stars

Book #51 – 2015 Reading Challenge – The Giver by Lois Lowry

I knew nothing going into this book except that it is another book turned into a movie with Taylor Swift in it. 🙂 Book #51 for my 2015 Reading Challenge… IMG_7365

This is a fast-paced and no lulls book with a very well-described setting which makes it a very interesting read for me. Its concept is very engaging. It’s very effective in making my brain think and ask questions. A well-written book for both children and adult. It makes you realize the importance of making your own choices and not letting others make the choices for you.

This is my first experience with Lois Lowry and I’m looking forward for more.

Favorite quotes : “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

“We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.”

““I feel sorry for anyone who is in a place where he feels strange and stupid.”

Rating : 5/5 stars

Book #50 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Miss Marple’s Final Cases by Agatha Christie

The last Agatha Christie book I have at home is Book #50 for my 2015 Reading Challenge.  

This may not be the best Agatha Christie book but it’s still worth a read. Bite-size mysteries you can enjoy anytime, any day. The Dressmaker’s Doll is spooky and is my favorite in this collection.

I’m going to miss the witty and clever Miss Marple since I don’t have and I can’t find the other books that feature her. However, that won’t stop me from reading Agatha Christie’s other works.

Rating : 3.5/5 stars

Book #49 – 2015 Reading Challenge – A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

This book intrigued me when I first saw it in the bookstore while checking out the non-fiction shelf. I can’t remember reading anything about boy soldiers before and I’m glad I picked this up. Book #49 for my 2015 Reading Challenge…

When I was 12 years old, I was enjoying a fruitful life with my parents and brothers. I go to school, I play sports, hang out with friends, travel, etc. Life was great. But when Ishmael Beah was at that same age, he was running for his life in Sierra Leone, became a boy soldier left with only two choices: kill or be killed.

This is a quick, great and honestly-written book worth reading. My only disappointment was the ending. He mentioned in the book that he ended up living in the US with his adoptive mother but I wanted to know more how he got there from Guinea and what happened after. Other than that, I highly recommend this book to everyone, though it’s a heart-breaking story, it is an important topic/subject everyone should be aware of. It’s a great read that will make you step back, stop complaining and be thankful for what you have.

Favorite quotes : “Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them.”

“Some people tried to hurt us to protect themselves, their family and communities…This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy.”

“At night it felt as if we were walking with the moon. It followed us under thick clouds and waited for us at the other end of dark forest paths. It would disappear with sunrise but return again, hovering on our path. Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them. Under these stars I used to hear stories, but now it seemed as if it was the sky that was telling us a story as its stars fell, violently colliding with each other. The moon hid behind clouds to avoid seeing what was happening.”

“My childhood had gone by without my knowing, and it seemed as if my heart had frozen.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Book #47 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Paper Towns by John Green

My third John Green novel is Book #47 for my 2015 Reading Challenge.

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Quentin and Margo have been neighbors since they were two years old. Q is an average high school kid with few good friends and is secretly in love with Queen Bee Margo (or with his idea of her).

So one night, a month before graduation, Margo climbs to Q’s windows and tagged him to a revengeful night of adventure. At first, Quentin was nervous about Margo’s plans but soon started to enjoy it as well, thus, it made him think that he could reconnect with Margo again just like when they were younger.

The next day, Margo’s missing. This lead Q and his friends to an adventure of a lifetime.

This book is written from Q’s perspective and so there’s a lot of teenage boy nonsense but very realistic of how teenage boys are. 🙂 It’s hilarious. And insightful. Though I can’t connect much with Q, I was able to enjoy his friends, Ben and Radar. All their clever comments and trash talk were LOL-worthy.

I want to say more about this book but a reread would be good I think before I can express myself more. Even so, this is a thought-provoking read with characters of different personalities and issues you can pretty much relate to, after all, we’ve all been teenagers once. 🙂

Favorite quotes : “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

“Talking to a drunk person was like talking to an extremely happy, severely brain-damaged three-year-old.”

“I’m starting to realize that people lack good mirrors. It’s so hard for anyone to show us how we look, & so hard for us to show anyone how we feel.”

“I love you. Not like a sister loves a brother or like a friend loves a friend. I love you like a really drunk guy loves the best girl ever.”

“Peeing is like a good book in that it is very, very hard to stop once you start.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Book #45 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

Book #45 for my 2015 Reading Challenge is a collection of short stories from my favorite author, Haruki Murakami…

This book is a collection of short stories set in different venues and features different themes/subjects like cats, monkeys, a firefly, jazz, friendship, chance, death, loss, etc. Out of these stories, some of my favorites or some that leave a deeper impression to me are The Mirror, The Year of Spaghetti, The Ice Man, Chance Traveller, Toni Takitani and Firefly.

Murakami’s short stories (and novels) make you dream differently. He’s able to bring out the magic of everyday life, he makes you see the extraordinary even in the most mundane situation. To cut the story short, there are no ordinary stories when told by Murakami.

Favorite quotes : “There are ways of dying that don’t end in funerals. Types of death you can’t smell.”

“Thinking about spaghetti that boils eternally but is never done is a sad, sad thing.”

“I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while.”

“I may be the type who manages to grab all the pointless things in life but lets the really important things slip away.”

“What I saw wasn’t a ghost. It was simply — myself. I can never forget how terrified I was that night, and whenever I remember it, this thought always springs to mind: that the most frightening thing in the world is our own self.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Book #44 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Life is what you make of it and Book #44 in my 2015 Reading Challenge made me realize to start making more of mine…

This book really hits you in the heart. Total tearjerker. It’s an amazing story about life and death and love and everything in between. It made me laugh but it also made me cry.

Will Traynor (Oh, Will!!!) and Lou Clark are very likable characters, unlikely but interesting pair brought together by circumstance. I really enjoyed how their relationship changed and grew because it’s very realistic.

The controversial issue of euthanasia was very carefully dealt with by Ms. Moyes in this novel. I already had an opinion about this topic even before I knew about this book and that still hasn’t changed. I strongly believe that a person with a fatal illness/disease or something like Will’s has the right to choose to die in their own terms. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m entitled to my own opinion, let me know yours in the comment section. I’d love to hear them.) It was very dramatic how Ms. Moyes presented this issue up to the later part of this book, making Lou look for every possible way to let Will change his mind, keeping her hopeful and letting her be more attached to him. Little does she know that Will had firmly made his decision.

This story will definitely stay with me for a long time and continue to reflect/contemplate about it. I don’t know how it’s like to live a life being once a man-of-the-world suddenly turned into a quadriplegic where you have to live the rest of your life in a wheelchair but somehow, the author managed to make us feel that while reading this book. It leaves me with sadness but inspires me to step back a little and have a look at my own life.

If you haven’t read this book, do yourself a favor… Read —  and feel it — because sometimes, six months can be the best six months of your life.

Favorite quotes : “Push yourself. Don’t Settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”

“Some mistakes… Just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you. You, Clark, have the choice not to let that happen.”

“…I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other.”

“The thing about being catapulted into a whole new life — or at least, shoved up so hard against someone else’s life that you might as well have your face pressed against their window — is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are. Or how you might seem to other people.”

“I am conscious that knowing me has caused you pain, and grief, and I hope that one day when you are less angry with me and less upset you will see not just that I could only have done the thing that I did, but also that this will help you live a really good life, a better life, than if you hadn’t met me.”

Rating : 5/5 heartbreakingly beautiful stars

Book #43 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Book #43 for my 2015 Reading Challenge is this wonderful piece of historical fiction.

A beautiful story about trust, faith, friendship, relationships, change, survival, love, second chances, etc.

I never heard of orphan trains until I saw it on Goodreads. Apparently, about 200,000 homeless children from crowded cities in the US were put on these trains to find new families in the West. These children are then paraded in every train stops where people who are willing to adopt can check and question them. Those selected children will go with their new foster parents right then and there as soon as the paper works are done. Those who weren’t lucky enough to be chosen will re-board the train and try their “luck” in the next stop. Vivian, an Irish immigrant, was one of those children.

In this fictional tale, Vivian at 91, forms an unlikely friendship with Molly who is several decades younger than her. Their stories are interwoven together and thus came this beautiful book.

The writing was simple and the dual storyline was well-applied. It certainly kept my interest from start to finish. (And I love the book cover!)

Favorite quotes : “I am not glad she is dead, but I am not sorry she is gone.”

“You got to learn to take what people are willing to give.”

“I like the assumption that everyone is trying his best, and we should all just be kind to each other.”

“I learned long ago that loss is not only probable but inevitable. I know what it means to lose everything, to let go of one life and find another. And now I feel, with a strange, deep certainty, that it must be my lot in life to be taught that lesson over and over again.”

“So is it just human nature to believe that things happen for a reason – to find some shred of meaning even in the worst experiences?”

Rating : 5/5 stars

Book #42 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

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Gwenda Reed was looking for a new house and chose to buy the one that seems familiar to her. From there, she starts to see/imagine things that should be in the house — stairs, wallpapers, doors, etc. Moreover, she prefers to sleep in the nursery.

The mystery slowly unfolds once she found out that she actually lived in the same house as a child eighteen years ago.

This could have been a great book if it weren’t so predictable to me. I think reading too much of Miss Marple these past few months made it easier for me to figure out the murderer. However, I’d still recommend it!

Favorite quote : “Jealousy, you know, is usually not an affair of causes. It is much more – how shall I say? – fundamental than that. Based on the knowledge that one’s love is not returned. And so one goes on waiting, watching, expecting …  that the loved one will turn to someone else. Which, again, invariably happens.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book #39 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

After reading Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, I made sure to get my hands on Seabiscuit: An American Legend. Luckily, the guesthouse where I stayed at in Phnom Penh has a second-hand bookshop just in front of it. I wasn’t really expecting to find it there but TA-DA!!!

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A fantastic piece of non-fiction.

This is the story of the almost unrecognized talented race horse, Seabiscuit (who happens to be a descendant of one of the greatest race horse, Man o’ War) and the people who came to work together to make history. It’s such a fantastic mix of an underdog story and wonderful writing. Hillenbrand writes what she needs to say in the simplest, smartest and most precise way and that is that.

I really enjoyed this book and would love to recommend it to everyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Favorite quotes : “His books were the closest thing he had to furniture and he lived in them the way other men live in easy chairs.”

“…maybe it was better to break a man’s leg than to break his heart.”

“It’s easy to talk to a horse if you understand his language. Horses stay the same from the day they are born until the day they die. They are only changed by the way people treat them.”

Rating : 5/5 stars

Book #37 – 2015 Reading Challenge – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Sometimes, you find a book with an amazing story and it’ll stay with you always. Book #37 for my 2015 Reading Challenge is one of these…

Book #37 - 2015 Reading Challenge
Book #37 – 2015 Reading Challenge

In All the Light We Cannot See, we meet a French blind girl, Marie-Laure and the young German soldier, Werner. Set in France in World War II. Two people. Lives changed. Then eventually crossed paths filled with beauty and heartbreak.

Amazing story. A book not to be missed!

Favorite quotes: “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

“I saved her only to hear her die.”

“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?

“Is it right… to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Book #36 – 2015 Reading Challenge – 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

Book #36 is another Jane Marple mystery by Agatha Christie:

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The story started when Ms. McGillicuddy, on her way to visit Miss Marple, witnessed a murder when her train ran alongside another. Nobody believed Ms. McGillicuddy since there were no other witnesses and no corpse was found. Only Miss Marple believed her friend’s story so her quest to find out the murderer started.

I enjoyed every page of this book and I loved the tandem of Miss Marple and Lucy Eyelesbarrow (one of Miss Christie’s best female character). I managed to narrow it down to two suspects about halfway through the book but one of them died a few pages later so I’m left with just one who turned out to be the murderer! Haha! I am a little bit bothered though that I didn’t find out who Lucy ended up with! 🙂

Agatha Christie isn’t called the Queen of Mystery for nothing — I’m officially hooked!

Rating: 5/5 stars

52 in 2015 – Reading Challenge

My friend and I challenged ourselves to read 52 books this year and since I just started this blog a couple of weeks ago, I was only able to start to post from Book #34. So here’s the list from Book #1 to #33…

  1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – Who decides who’s sane & who’s not? cuckoo's nest
  2. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – A quiet novel that contains so little action and yet carries great, gentle power.
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – A psychologically twisted portrait of relationships gone wrong.
  4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote – Highly readable writing style.
  5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – For fans of historical fiction or simply of a good story. invention of wings
  6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon – I’m not sure how true in real life this portrayal of Asperger’s Syndrome is but I think that it is very well written.
  7. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie – A mystery that will keep you in suspense while keeping a smile on your face. body in library
  8. 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup – “What difference is there in the color of the soul?”
  9. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera – A kind of book that requires a little more attention than usual but worth reading.
  10. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – I know a lot of people were raving for this book but I’m definitely not the target audience for this one.
  11. HHhH by Laurent Binet – A book so good even though I already knew the outcome. HHhH
  12. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami – It’s not quite as good as his other books but I love it. Still Murakami. Weird and wonderful.
  13. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson – It’s not quite what I was expecting and it was so easy to figure out the outcome.
  14. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – Truly a page turner! Finished it so quickly. Highly recommended! aj fikry
  15. The Pact by Jodi Picoult – My third Jodi Picoult book. A tragic event turned personal family tragedy. I like the book though it left me with a lot to think about.
  16. By the River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept by Paulo Coelho – “Love perseveres. It’s men who change.”
  17. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – While I personally think that suicide is stupid, I would recommend this book. I like the way the book’s written, alternating Hannah & Clay’s points of view within the same chapter. Truly a page turner because you want to find out who’s next on the tapes. I was so relieved to find out that Clay isn’t included for bad reasons. I can’t say I agree with all of Hannah baker’s reasons why she did it but I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it.13 reasons why
  18. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand – One of the best stories I have ever read! What can I do but recommend this book? True to the book’s title, Louis Zamperini’s life’s one of survival, resilience & redemption. It’s just very unfortunate that evil Watanabe (the Bird) was never tried as a war criminal. I’m left with an unsatisfying ending but very real. unbroken
  19. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie – The “dangerous” Miss Marple was first featured in this book. Suspenseful. Surprises and false leads.
  20. Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck – Crushing! john steinbeck
  21. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Enjoyed this book because it felt real though the ending was a bit rushed.
  22. Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult – I like Jodi Picoult’s works, but this didn’t make it high on my list.
  23. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Wonderful! Magical! the night circus
  24. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – I was literally laughing out loud while reading this. Fast-paced & entertaining. the who saved
  25. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak – A simple, heart-warming book that makes you think and want to do better for yourself and other people.
  26. True Believer by Nicholas Sparks – A simple, captivating, romantic read. As always, Mr. Sparks has his way of giving life to his characters, making it so real. A great read about taking chances and following your heart.
  27. The Railway Man by Eric Lomax – “…remembering is not enough, if it simply hardens hate.”
  28. At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks – This completely broke my heart so I’m not going to read any book of Mr. Sparks any time soon.
  29. A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami – The title itself tells what the ending’s gonna be. Really loving Murakami more! a wild sheep chase
  30. The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie – A nice exercise if you like to guess “Who did it?”
  31. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – The start was a bit jumbled up to the middle part that I found it hard to continue reading this book but the last few chapters got a lot better. It’s a brilliant story, it’s just the way it was presented that I didn’t like.
  32. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie – Love the love story and the nasty mystery.
  33. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie – Being able to guess who the killer is in this book just makes me feel good and clever. Haha! a murder is announced

There goes my list. Let me check yours! 🙂