What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

whatthewindknowsWhat the Wind Knows is a perfect book to explain why I love reading. It’s always nice reading about parts of history I know very little or nothing about and with this book, I’ve learned a lot about Irish history. Add to that a stunning love story!

Going into this book blind, it came as a surprise that this is a historical fiction/romance having two narrators which made the events a lot more interesting and clearer given the two perspectives from the two main characters. Moreover, the history of Ireland woven into an unexpected and remarkable time travel.

Anne Gallagher, our main character, was raised by her grandfather, Eion, who taught her almost everything about the world except for one thing — where they came from. Eoin’s dying wish was for his ashes to be spread in Lough Gill where he himself was born and raised. Devastated and heartbroken for her grandfather’s death, Anne packed her things and flew to Ireland. She made several inquiries and soon found herself alone in a boat in Lough Gill and was swallowed by a thick fog, clueless which way to row. Moments later, a bigger boat came to sight with three men aboard and one of the men shot her and she fell in the water. She soon blacked out and the next thing she knows, a man she didn’t recognize was calling her name.

I know almost nothing about Ireland’s history and their fight for freedom back in the 1920s and this book was very informative and inspiring. It also gave me a chance to get close and get a glimpse of the people who lead Ireland to their freedom from England. Michael Collins seemed so real. In fact, the characters all seemed to come to life and I loved them. They were all captivating. I adored them all. Specially Thomas! I love this guy!

I was so delighted with Anne and Thomas’ love story and I loved that the author gave us both their perspectives on the same events. I’m not normally into time travel reads but this just works so perfectly for me.

This is my first book from Amy Harmon and this was quite an introduction to her works. She is a wonderful storyteller and she just became one of my favorite authors already. I can’t wait to read and explore more of her books.

I loved this book so much — history, romance and time travel all in one! I must say, this is one of the best love stories I have ever read. The many years of waiting, the heartbreak, oh, it’s all so worth the time reading this gem. This easily goes to my top favorites this year and in my heart for a long time. Great book! Highly recommended!

Quotable Quotes:

“But the wind and water know all the earth’s secrets. They’ve seen and heard all that has ever been said or done. And if you listen, they will tell you all the stories and sing every song. The stories of everyone who has ever lived. Millions and millions of lives. Millions and millions of stories.”

“We turn memories into stories, and if we don’t, we lose them. If the stories are gone, then the people are gone too.”

“If you can’t say them, write them. They last longer that way.”

“Tragedy makes for great stories, but I’d much rather your story–the one you live, not the ones you write–be filled with joy. Don’t revel in tragedy… Rejoice in love. And once you find it, don’t let it go.”

“Someone very wise told me that we keep the people we love in our hearts. We never lose them as long as we remember how it felt to be loved by them.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

theconstantprincessThis is my first book from Philippa Gregory. I have been wanting to read her books as I’m very much interested with the life and history of the royals and this was really a good start.

The Constant Princess is the story of Catalina of Aragon, the Infanta of Spain, daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, raised to become the Princess of Wales and future Queen of England. She and Arthur, the Prince of Wales, married at a very young age but they truly loved each other. It was just very unfortunate that Arthur died just merely five months of marriage because of “sweating sickness.”

Catalina was then left with nothing and ignored by Arthur’s family but she stayed strong and tough and determined to take control of her life and soon married Arthur’s brother, Tudor King Henry VIII. Catalina prepared herself to become the queen of England all her life but found herself unprepared for the physical and emotional aspects her new life requires of her.

I personally found this book very interesting because I like and admire Katharine most among the wives/women of King Henry VIII. I admire how she was able to manipulate Henry in their early years of marriage as to how and what she thinks is best for England. All through her years of trials and hardships, it is indeed commendable how she remained constant with her desire to make England a better and stronger country and how constant she remained faithful to God.

This is a very good read where history comes alive.

Quotable Quotes:

“You have to have faith that you are doing God’s will. Sometimes you will not understand. Sometimes you will doubt. But if you are doing God’s will, you can’t be wrong, you can’t go wrong.”

“He may well speak French and Latin and half a dozen languages, but since he has nothing to say – what good are they?”

“Words have weight, something once said cannot be unsaid. Meaning is like a stone dropped into a pool; the ripples will spread and you cannot know what back they wash against.”

“God does not make the way smooth for those He loves. He sends hardships to try them. Those that God loves the best are those who suffer the worst.”

“Then life taught me a harder lesson, beloved: it is better to forgive an enemy than destroy him.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

thealicenetworkThe Alice Network is a fascinating historical-fiction novel about women spies headed by Louise de Bettignies. The story brings together two women — Eve, a spy in World War I, and Charlie St. Clair, an American socialite searching for her cousin who has gone missing in World War II. Both women were dealing with each world war and are connected by the past.

The story happened between 1915 and 1947 and touches different themes including revenge, forgiving one’s self and punishment. This is a great story about the world of female espionage during the first world war.

This is the first book I’ve read by Kate Quinn. She surely did a huge amount of research for this book. The storyline and timeline was quite convincing. The two storylines fit quite perfectly with each other. I liked that she gave voice to a part of history that deserves more attention.

Quotable Quotes:

“Hope was such a painful thing, far more painful than rage.”

“Poetry is like passion–it should not be merely pretty; it should overwhelm and bruise.”

“What did it matter if something scared you, when it simply had to be done?”

Rating: 4/5 stars

Half of the Yellow Sun by Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi

halfofayellowsunI have to admit, I have very little knowledge of Nigeria and of the Republic of Biafra and its states so reading a book like Half of a Yellow Sun was very educational and informative for me. I know very little about Africa actually with the exception of Egypt perhaps, so this really was a wonderful pick.

This is my first experience with Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi and I understand now what people are raving about. I must say the writing was excellent. She was able to make me feel like I’ve just lived through the experience. She was able to show how manipulative a propaganda can get and how people change as the war continues. I will surely read more of her works.

The story is about the war in Nigeria in 1960s when Biafra was trying to establish itself as a separate state/republic from Nigeria. Written in alternating points of view from several characters, the book provides a good insight of Nigerian life. My favorite characters were Kainene and Ugwu. I am still wondering where Kainene is and what happened to her.

The book title was based from the Biafran flag where red symbolizes blood of the massacred in the North, black for mourning, green for prosperity and the half of a yellow sun symbolizes a glorious future which was sadly never seen.

I enjoyed reading this book as I was exposed to something I knew very little about and I am excited to read more pieces from this author and see how they compare.

Quotable Quotes:

“There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.”

“You can’t write a script in your mind and then force yourself to follow it. You have to let yourself be.”

“Why do I love him?…I don’t think love has a reason…I think love comes first and then the reasons follow.”

“Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved.”

“You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?” Aunty Ifeka said. “Your life belongs to you and you alone.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

 

 

 

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall

russian concubineThe Russian Concubine started out quite interestingly for me then somehow got a bit slow for my taste in the middle then started to pick up the pace again in the last third of the book.

The plot was quite interesting. A mother and daughter who escaped from the Russian bolsheviks and ended up in an international settlement in China. Nice to have gained insights about China during the days of Chiang Kai Shek, Sun Yat-sen and Mao Tse-tung.

Lydia, the daughter is fiery and eventually fell in love with a Chinese communist boy who has been trying to protect her whenever he can.

The title was a bit misleading though. The main character, is no concubine. There was a mention of a concubine after some 200 pages in the book but I don’t know why or how the author decided on it, go figure.

Anyhow, I ended up really liking this story more when there was only a third left in the story. I was already thinking about putting it on-hold but I’m glad that I went on. Moreover, I’m happy that the end is a beginning of another story, I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Quotable Quotes:

“The sight of you brings joy to my heart and makes my blood thunder in my veins. I know not how long I will be allowed to stand here. So there are words I must say. That you are the moon and the stars to me, and the air I breathe. To love you is to live. So if I die…. I will still live in you.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Assault by Harry Mulisch

The-AssaultI have never heard of Harry Mulisch before I saw the title on Goodreads. I enjoy reading historical fictions the most and so I was hooked right away after reading the synopsis.

It was winter of 1945 in occupied Holland, the last dark days of World War II. Anton Steenwijk and his family live in one of the four rows of houses and while playing a game together, they suddenly heard gunshots. Peter, Anton’s brother reached for the window and saw a dead body lying in front of their neighbor’s house. To their surprise, their neighbors moved the dead body in front of their home and before they could do anything, the Germans retaliated fiercely. As it turns out, the dead man was Fake Ploeg, an infamous Nazi collaborator.

It is a great read about how the war has affected Anton since that winter night whose family died in the hands of the Germans. It is a great read about chance and fate and about memory and how memory shapes life. The interesting twist in the end made perfect sense.

Quotable Quotes:

“A man who has never been hungry may possess a more refined palate, but he has no idea what it means to eat.”

“Besides, whoever keeps the future in front of him and the past at his back is doing something else that is hard to imagine. For the image implies that events somehow already exist in the future, reach the present at a determined moment, and finally come to rest in the past. But nothing exists in the future; it is empty; one might die at any minute. Therefore such a person has his face turned toward the void, whereas it is the past behind him that is visible, stored in the memory.”

“Boundaries have to be continuously sealed off, but it’s a hopeless job, fore everything touches everything else in this world. A beginning never disappears, not even with the ending.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

pachinkoPachinko follows the story of Sunja and her family through four generations across Korea and Japan. It describes the experiences of Koreans during the Japanese occupation in Korea and the harsh discrimination they had to endure in Japan during that moment in history. Sunja and her family, as well as many Koreans, didn’t have much choice at that time but to struggle in order to survive.

There are so many characters in this book, some we encounter very briefly while some take part throughout the entire story. Even with a large cast of characters, Min Jin Lee was able to let us glimpse into each one of them and how they lead their lives. What I found most interesting was how she managed to put the characters in similar situations and how the characters chose to deal with it.

It’s a lengthy read but don’t let that stop you from reading for the book was greatly-paced, you wouldn’t want to put it down.

Min Jin Lee’s writing style is simple but elegant. The characters seem to speak in a such a way that it penetrates through the heart and touched me and made every part of the story realistic. Somehow, I did not want the book to end. I love that I’ve learned more about some part of history I have been keen of knowing more since I was in high school. And the fact that I have been working for a Korean company for quite some time now makes the read more interesting. In a way, I sort of feel like I understand more about them now.

This was a very entertaining and wonderful read and it could even be a great TV drama.

Highly recommended to everyone.

Quotable Quotes:

“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”

“Learn everything. Fill your mind with knowledge—it’s the only kind of power no one can take away from you.”

“Yes, of course. If you love anyone, you cannot help but share his suffering. If we love our Lord, not just admire him or fear him or want things from him, we must recognize his feelings; he must be in anguish over our sins. We must understand this anguish. The Lord suffers with us. He suffers like us. It is a consolation to know this. To know that we are not in fact alone in our suffering.”

“You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.”

“No one is clean. Living makes you dirty.”

Rating: 5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

 

 

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer Book CoverThe Sympathizer is a story about the nameless narrator only known as the Captain — a subversive, a mole who pretends to sympathize with the south but is a spy and collaborating with the north. He is brought up by a poor Vietnamese mother and absent French priest for a father, went to study in the US and returned home to fight for the Communist cause.

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s writing style is beautiful and he certainly has a way with words. Try reading the first page and you’d know you’re reading the work of a talented writer. The book is full of wonderfully written passages and I’ve learned a good deal of vocabulary, too. I even made a list of these words so I can check them again and maybe use them myself someday as well.

The Sympathizer is a complex read that tackles different themes: war, identity, history, friendship, communism, loyalty, etc. It is a real page-turner and one of the books I’ve read this year I find particularly interesting. I can definitely see why it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016.

Quotable Quotes:

“Besides my conscience, my liver was the most abused part of my body.”

“We would all be in hell if convicted of our thoughts.”

“Nothing is ever so expensive as what is offered for free.”

“I could live without television, but not without books.”

“We don’t succeed or fail because of fortune or luck. We succeed because we understand the way the world works and what we have to do. We fail because others understand this better than we do.”

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

img_8018This book tells us the story of Count Alexander Rostov and his life-long house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel as he was sentenced by the Bolshevik Tribunal as an unrepentant aristocrat. The more than three decades that followed showed quite well how the world could be brought into one hotel and how living half of your life inside a hotel can help you prepare to go back out to the world.

Amor Towles is a skillful storyteller. Very entertaining, beautiful and intelligent writing. A book very rich in detail. His use of language is an absolute pleasure to read and there is something in the novel for every reader — philosophy, humor, friendship and yes, history.

He created an utterly delightful character in Alexander Rostov, someone anyone would be very privileged to know. A true gentleman. All the other characters were finely-drawn as well.

This is so much more than Alexander Rostov’s story. It is also learning to accept the things time unexpectedly brings us and takes away from us and the things we cannot change.

I love this book from beginning to end. A great combination of beautiful writing, appealing characters and clever plotting. Very captivating. Witty. Heartwarming. Astounding and my top favorite for 2018.

Quotable Quotes:

“And when that celestial chime sounds, perhaps a mirror will suddenly serve its truer purpose—revealing to a man not who he imagines himself to be, but who he has become.”

“For if a room that exists under the governance, authority, and intent of others seems smaller than it is, then a room that exists in secret can, regardless of its dimensions, seem as vast as one cares to imagine.”

“In the end, a parent’s responsibility could not be more simple: To bring a child safely into adulthood so that she could have a chance to experience a life of purpose and, God willing, contentment.”

“He had said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of supreme lucidity – a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of a bold new life that we had been meant to lead all along.”

“By all accounts, you seem to have reconciled yourself to your situation… As both a student of history and a man devoted to living in the present, I admit that I do not spend a lot of time imagining how things might otherwise have been. But I do like to think there is a difference between being resigned to a situation and reconciled to it.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Silence by Shūsaku Endō

downloadSilence is set during the early years of Christianity in Japan and the story revolves around Father Sebastian Rodrigues who sets off with two other fellow priests after hearing news that his mentor Father Ferreira apostatized. No one knew for sure whether Father Ferreira is still alive and no one can confirm if the news/rumors about him renouncing his faith were true. Rodrigues embarks on a journey that may cost him his life. Sounds like an adventure given that as a gist of the story, right? However, it takes a different scenario focusing on Rodrigues’ faith, feelings and conscience.

The story started too slow for my taste, to be honest, I wouldn’t have continued reading if I had another book with me at the time. It’s a novel about faith and one’s personal view of God and leans heavily on Catholic theology specially for the first part of the book.

The main issue is, as the title suggests, silence. We see very terrible things happening around us and if you believe there’s a God, at some point, it makes you ask why doesn’t He intervene, why doesn’t He do something, why does He allow evil things to happen? Does God see us in our breaking points? God himself said, “pray and I will hear you and that I will love you and comfort you.” But then, silence is all there is. The first words in Silence were the first words I’ve read from Shusaku Endo, I have never read anything by him before. But it kinda felt a bit odd though to find out that he is a Catholic, thus, he ought to understand the nature of their faith. I mean, it would make faith meaningless if God is a vocal God. Isn’t that what’s powerful about faith? That it exists without a conclusive proof of God’s existence?

Anyway, God was silent to the end of the book. Rodrigues has to choose between renouncing his faith and save the Christians from being tortured or refuse to apostatize and see more Christians die from torture. I have mixed feelings about the ending maybe because I was expecting the story to end in martyrdom which is actually one of the main issues raised in the book about Christian missions and yet, Father Rodrigues apostatized. Be that as it may, Shusaku Endo was somehow able to reflect man’s thoughts in the face of adversity.

A character who matters a great deal though is Kichijiro who represents Christianity’s greatest villain, Judas. A Japanese “Gollum.” A weakling. He comes and goes throughout the book but in his character is something we can find uncomfortably real. The relationship between Kichijiro and Father Rodrigues makes us understand about the latter’s torment.

I’ve read reviews a few minutes before purchasing this book but I’m left slightly disappointed. I felt I’ve read a different book. I was raised a Christian but no longer share the faith so maybe that’s why I couldn’t really warm up to the main conflict of the story, but still, this book may appeal to many with regards to the juxtaposition it depicts, culture, the pitiful characters and their unanswered prayers and the tough what if questions people are perhaps afraid to address because it could lead them, or not, to conclude that there probably is no God.

I’m interested to watch the movie adaptation though. Have you guys seen it? Would you recommend me watching it? Please share your thoughts.

Quotable Quotes:

“Man is a strange being. He always has a feeling somewhere in his heart that whatever the danger he will pull through. It’s just like when on a rainy day you imagine the faint rays of the sun shining on a distant hill.”

“Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.”

“It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.”

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

A Reread: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite RunnerI’ve loved this book ever since I’ve read it in 2013. It’s one of the books that really left something in me. One of the very few that emotionally drained me. I watched the film adaptation and for those of you who have been following me for some time now, I’m not a big fan of movies based on books, so of course, I was disappointed. The only thing I liked in the movie was the boy who played the role of Hassan. Hassan has always been one of the top book characters very dear to me since I’ve read this and he’s the only thing that didn’t disappoint in the movie.

I’ve decided to reread this a few days before Christmas. I knew that the book is gonna make me sad and might affect my mood for the holidays, but I read it anyway.

The Kite Runner is the story of Amir and Hassan while growing up in Kabul in the early 1970s. Amir, a Sunni, is the son of a wealthy businessman (Amir calls him Baba) while Hassan, a Shia, is the son of Ali, their Hazara servant. The two boys are best friends but cultural and social barriers still separate them. Baba treats them equally as much as he could. Amir started to feel jealous of Hassan as Baba always admires him and always catches his attention without even trying while Amir on the other hand is trying too hard to impress him but Baba always gets disappointed.

Amir decided to impress Baba in the coming annual kite-flying/fighting tournament. This is where the story really started. My heart broke for Hassan the first time I’ve read this. And it still did the second time. And if I continue writing about it, I might delve into spoilers even though maybe most of you must have read the book already.

This is a book about friendship, father and son, brotherhood, relationships, jealousy, guilt, redemption, love, trust, freedom, forgiveness and mistakes. Mistakes we either make or make us.

Khaled Hosseini used a very descriptive and simple writing style. The way and the amount of historical background he provided in the book was good enough so as not to overwhelm the reader. I liked how the story was told as it made me get attached to the characters which is one of the important things to me when I read a book.

I was once again blown away by The Kite Runner and this will definitely stay on top of my favorite books, quietly seeping into my being.

Quotable Quotes:

“For you, a thousand times over.”

“And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does, too.”

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.”

“It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.”

“When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The_Guernsey_Literary_and_Potato_Peel_Pie_SocietyBook #11.

Quite a title, huh?

The book is set right in the aftermath of the second World War in both the island of Guernsey and London. The intertwined stories are told through a series of letters and most of them from an English writer, Juliet Ashton. The first letter came one day from a farmer and carpenter, Dawsey Adams. Juliet learned of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society from Dawsey (as he is the founder) and thought that it has potential to be a subject of an article. (I will leave it to you to read and learn how they came up with that name.) The correspondence continued and the other members also started writing Juliet their stories. Little did they know how their lives would later mean to each other.

This is an epistolary novel full  of warmth, love and humor. All the characters were given a strong, unique voice that made them seem real, makes me want to meet them all specially, Isola. The letters not only reveal the horrors during the Nazi occupation in Guernsey but the kindness of people as well despite their situation.

I liked the simplicity and charm of this book. You’d be laughing out loud one minute then you’d be tearing up the next. It left me wanting people to still be writing personal letters to each other and not just emails or text messages. It may sound a bit old-fashioned but the connection between people seemed more intimate and true.

It’s an easy read and I enjoyed it!

Quotable Quotes :

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

“I don’t want to be married just to be married. I can’t think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse, someone I can’t be silent with.”

“Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life.”

“Have you ever noticed that when your mind is awakened or drawn to someone new, that person’s name suddenly pops up everywhere you go?”

“Humor is the best way to make the unbearable bearable.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

downloadBook #30.

Some books leave you satisfied. Some books leave you confused. Some books leave you content. Some books leave you happy while some leave you sad. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas left me heartbroken.

This is the story of a nine-year old boy named Bruno whose father is a Nazi commander during World War 2. After a visit from a man who Bruno calls as The Fury, his family has to move to Out-With where life is much different compared to Berlin.

Bruno likes exploring so he decided to explore the new place. He reached a fence where he meets Shmuel, also a nine-year old and wearing the striped pajamas. And so an unlikely but special friendship begins.

This is a fast, easy and unforgettable read but the tragic ending broke my heart…

Quotable Quotes :

“It reminds me of how grandmother always had the right costume for me to wear. You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you’re pretending to be.”

“Sitting around miserable all day won’t make you any happier.”

“Don’t make it worse by thinking it’s more painful than it actually is.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Book #19. A story of hope and incredible strength.

This is a story about one family who were one night suddenly taken from their home in Lithuania and became victims of the mass deportations in 1941 to Soviet labor camps.

I found this very interesting because it was written according to a 15-year old Lithuanian girl named Lina. She is just like other 15-year olds and she loves to draw.

That night when the Soviet soldiers came to their home, Lina, together with her mother and younger brother, were taken to a dirty train car with other people. Her father still wasn’t home that night and so they were separated since then.

Throughout the story, Lina felt the need to draw everything she sees in whatever piece of material is available. She drew almost everything that happens about the people around her, during the long years of journey, who were all just trying to survive in that extraordinary time. It is through great love, incredible strength and hope that Lina survives.

This is my first book from Ruta Sepetys and I loved it. I liked the way the book was written. I personally found it very powerful. I had tears in my eyes at some point.

So if you haven’t read it yet, please do. It’s krasivaya!

Quotable Quotes :

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness.”

“Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?”

“Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy—love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.”

“I planted a seed of hatred in my heart. I swore it would grow to be a massive tree whose roots would strangle them all.”

Rating : 5/5

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

This novel spans the 80-year life of Rachel Kalama, who was born in Honolulu where when she was seven, she was taken away from her family and lived most of her life in involuntary exile on Moloka’i as a leper. In this island where lives are supposed to end, Rachel’s life begins.

molokai

I enjoyed Rachel’s character and everyone else’s in this book. Rachel refuses to let her condition get in the way of a life well-lived. Seeing her grow up with leprosy along with her new-found family and friends made it an interesting read though I teared up here and there.

Alan Brennert evidently researched quite well since a lot of historical facts intertwines with the story which gave me a snapshot of Hawaii in the past.

Given its rich history and well-developed characters, this story will stay with me for a long time.

Favorite quotes: “There’s only one disadvantage, really, to having two mothers… You know twice the love… but you grieve twice as much.”

“With wonder and a growing absence of fear she realized, I am more than I was an hour ago.”

“But there was still a bottomless hole inside her, and she began to think that there always would be.”

“I’ve come to believe that how we choose to live with pain, or injustice, or death….is the true measure of the Divine within us.”

“Fear is good. In the right degree it prevents us from making fools of ourselves. But in the wrong measure it prevents us from fully living. Fear is our boon companion but never our master.”

Rating : 5/5 stars

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 #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 #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