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 #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 #46 – 2015 Reading Challenge – I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Book #46 for my 2015 Reading Challenge is my first Gayle Forman novel…

Well, this isn’t a terrible novel but I also didn’t find anything remarkable about it. It’s my first Gayle Forman read and I feel sad that I ended up disappointed. I had high expectations before reading this one because of the many great reviews. The characters didn’t appeal much to me and it would probably have been better if Scottie was a main character since he was the most intelligent among them. Cody, on the other hand, is the worst best friend character I’ve ever read. Enough said.

Anyhow, I won’t tell you don’t read this. Read it. It might be disappointing for me but it could be a great read for you.

Favorite quote : “…I don’t want to lose you because of the fucked-up way I found you.”

Rating : 2/5 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 #41 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I read Gone Girl earlier this year and enjoyed it so I was really looking forward to reading Gillian Flynn’s other books. I finally bought a copy of her first novel and that makes it Book #41 for my 2015 Reading Challenge.

Fucked-up girls! Disturbing.

So this is the story of Camille Preaker, a journalist sent back to her hometown by her editor to cover a story about the unsolved murder of two pre-teen girls.  As she tries to get more information about the murders, she identifies herself more and more with the victims.

Gillian Flynn is very good in creating likeable but damaged characters, which I liked most in this book as well as in Gone Girl. The main characters are incredibly flawed but smart.

I also personally think that Flynn was able to touch very well on themes about alcoholism and inflicted abuse in this book, some things that happen almost everywhere in the world today.

Overall, this novel is not as great as Gone Girl but it is worth reading.

Favorite quotes: “Sometimes when you let people do things to you, you’re really doing it to them.”

“How confusing to live in the shadow of a shadow.”

“I ached once, hard, like a period typed at the end of a sentence.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Book #40 – 2015 Reading Challenge – The Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

Book #40 for my 2015 Reading Challenge is another Agatha Christie. a carribean mystery

So this book is set, as the title suggests, in the Caribbean. Yes, Miss Marple is on a Caribbean vacation.

The story is about a murderer who always gets away with his crime because people don’t want to listen. The pace was a bit slow compared to her other books but that didn’t stop me from reading. The relationship between Miss Marple and Mr. Rafiel, an unwell millionaire, is what I like most in this book. I think that the story belongs much to both of them. 🙂

Somehow, I guess I’m starting to understand the A. Christie formula already. 🙂 Or this just probably happened to be the easiest of her mysteries? Either way, I guessed it right on this one!

Favorite quote : “Life is more worth living, more full of interest when you are likely to lose it. It shouldn’t be, perhaps, but it is. When you’re young and strong and healthy, and life stretches ahead of you, living isn’t really important at all. It’s young people who commit suicide easily, out of despair from love, sometimes from sheer anxiety and worry. But old people know how valuable life is and how interesting.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Book #38 – 2015 Reading Challenge – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This is my first Neil Gaiman book so I didn’t know what to expect. I loved it nonetheless! neil gaiman

The story began when the unnamed narrator revisited his childhood home for a funeral and was drawn back to a farm where he met his one true friend and experienced a magical and haunting event when he was seven years old.

Not every child probably did this but when I was young, I like to imagine things differently from what they really are. I like thinking about them in a weird way that sometimes my memory get mixed up from what’s real and what’s not. The book somewhat depicts that. That sometimes, things are different from what we remember them to be.

Although this isn’t typically the kind of book I usually seek out to read, this made me smile. But it made me sad, too. It gave me something to think about. It even made my heart ache. So I think that’s enough reason to recommend this book and read more of Neil Gaiman’s works.

Favorite quotes : “I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”

“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”

“I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”

Rating : 5/5 stars