Books I had to give up on

I think one of the hardest things to navigate as a reader is the concept of abandoning books. I’m pretty sure this applies to a lot of fellow readers, but there is nothing more heartbreaking than being really excited about a book and realizing you can’t make yourself finish it.

It took me many years to realize that it is okay to abandon books. Particularly nowadays, with my hectic schedule, there is no way I can “waste” my time on books I don’t click with. However, I have to say that it never gets easier and it breaks my heart every time.

My list of abandoned books isn’t necessarily long but there are some popular books that have made their way onto the list. I think sometimes I was reading these books at the wrong period in my life and/or needed to consume them in different ways, i.e. an audiobook. For example, I tried so hard to read “Guns, Germs, and Steel” but could never manage it. Then decided to get the book as an audiobook, and although it took me forever to finish, I managed it and am so glad I did.

There are of course the books that just were never meant to be finished. On my list of books I will never finish is “The Orphan Master’s Son”. I was so excited for this book, considering the setting is in North Korea and the topic is so atypical. For whatever reason, I did not find myself enjoying the book. I really tried to stick it out, but the characters were not speaking to me and the plot line was confusing to me. I hope others had a better time with this book!

Another one of these books I will never finish is “Anathem”. I love science fiction and given the reputation of this book, I really thought I was going to enjoy it. I read a bit of it, and the beginning was not drawing me in. It felt painful to read it, I hate to say it. Again, the plot line and the characters were not garnering my attention, I felt like the setup for the rest of the story was taking too long. I hope that potentially if I give this book another try it might stick, but I will leave it be for a long while before attempting this.

Those are just two examples of books I have had to abandon. I remember them almost as well as the ones I actually read, and I never get over not being able to finish them. I think, however, as readers we have to realize that not all books will appeal to us (sadly), and that we have to know when to give up and when to push through.

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The Gendarme

I am a real sucker for any book that has more than one story going on at the same time, with both stories connecting and/or resolving themselves at the end. “The Gendarme” did an amazing job of moving back and forth between two different time periods in the main character’s life. The author was able to weave in and out of the two stories, as easily as a snake glides through grass. There was not a single moment that I felt lost; I can sometimes have a hard time with the back and forth if the transitions are not well done.

Alongside the author’s ability to transition seamlessly between time, this story is unique for it’s secondary plot revolves around the Armenian genocide. Although the book doesn’t center directly on the atrocities done, for “gendarme” was the term used for soldiers escorting the Armenians out of Turkey into other parts of the Ottoman Empire, it does give you some insight to what was occurring. Very similar to the sort of forced relocation of the Native Americans during the Trail of Tears, the Armenians had to travel on foot for hundreds of miles from Turkey to places like Syria. Many died on the way, faced starvation, illness, violence, and rape. It was very rare for an Armenian man to remain alive given that the Turks had convinced everyone that the Armenians were a threat due to their ties to Russia. Most of these groups being led by Turkish soldiers ended up being women and children. You can imagine what the women faced at the hands of the gendarme.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I wish that the story had gone more into details about what was truly going on during these death marches. Although the author did give some insight to the violence surrounding this forced relocation of the Armenians, I felt that the author didn’t do it justice. I realize that the author was trying to show that the individuals [gendarmes] involved in this genocide, like other genocides, don’t necessarily realize the full gravity of their actions. Particularly when this hatred of Armenians within Turkey had been going on for generations, and the genocide was rationalized as necessary since it was a time of war. However, the development of the main character should not have taken away from revealing the true horrendous nature of these death marches.

That is my biggest critic of this book. It doesn’t mean I don’t recommend this book, because given it’s unique story line, it is well worth the read. Not enough contemporary fiction books are written on such “taboo” topics; I do applaud the author. However, as a reader, one must realize that it was a truly horrific and violent genocide that occurred against the Armenians, and not just some sort of forced relocation with minor casualties. In addition, given that this is not necessarily a well known topic, and may be the first time a lot of readers learn about the Armenian genocide, I want it to be known that it was MUCH worse than what is described in the book.

 

Book Promotions for February 19th

Went a little crazy this afternoon. I guess the 19th is the day of book deals!

For today’s book purchases:

Now these are all very exciting titles to me!
“Furiously Happy” has been on my wishlist since August. I was standing in line to get my new graduate ID card and happened to be there at the same time as a group of Master’s Counseling students. They were talking about a myriad of things, including this book. I, of course, love hearing about the books that have changed people’s lives and had never heard about this book before. I have to say the book cover does definitely give off the vibe of furiously happy with the silly looking raccoon. I am hoping it will continue to contribute to my understanding of mental health and give me new perspectives!

Now Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an amazing author, so really any book by her is something I am going to go out of my way to buy, and through Book Riot, I saw that Purple Hibiscus was on sale. No explanation needed really there. If you haven’t read Americanah, please do!

Finally, The Beast Side is pretty self-explanatory given my overall book reading mission.

An Undisturbed Peace

America has a dark history that many of us either are unaware of, choose to ignore, or do not see the importance of remembering and understanding. In other words, it’s easy to deny a violent past when the people who suffered were standing in the way of European colonization and later the imperialism of the United States.

This book dives into the latter part of my statement, and more specifically at the Manifest Destiny that occurred once the United States was free from their English overlords.

The research that went into developing this book is truly amazing. The thoughtfulness and the integration of various themes and historical facts that are not well-known was brilliant.

The characters themselves are not entrancing. They were not terrible, but they were not the highlight of this book. Rather the twists and turns this story took were what made it a joy to read. From exploring the once great nation of the Cherokee and how many of its people attempted to assimilate to the white man’s way as a means of ensuring their continued existence. How this constantly backfired, with the white man breaking promises at every turn. The forced relocation of the tribes and the atrocities and continued genocide they experienced during their journeys; the Trail of Tears. The intermixing that occurred between the Cherokee and African slaves. The refreshing “lack” of antisemitism in the United States that was characteristic of Europe at the time. The “push” and “pull” factors that made many people leave Europe for the promise of better opportunities in the U.S. The traditional ways of the Cherokee, the matriarchal values that clashed with the patriarchal values of Western culture.

I would definitely recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction, particularly one who is looking to expand their knowledge of the history just preceding the Trail of Tears. Although I did not fall in love with any of the characters, there is a lovely love-story that is intertwined into the novel that I appreciated. You discover the secrets of this love story sooner than one would expect, but the early resolution of the love story does not take away from the remaining part of the book.

As a fun plus, this book’s setting is primarily in North Carolina, which is a state I feel often gets forgotten in these historical fiction books of the early days of the United States.

 

Late Post On Promotions

I went a little crazy recently with books and with everything going on wasn’t able to share the day I purchased, i.e. when the promotions were actually occurring. A little useless but  wanted to share regardless the books that caught my attention:

Let the Drum Speak
– This is the final book of a story that spans three books and three generations. I need to review the other two that I have already finished!

An Improbable Friendship
– Given the current climate between Israelis and Palestinians, I hope this book will help me better understand the rifts and the goodness that still remains.

No Land’s Man
– I haven’t read a comedy piece for awhile, and I really liked the title of this book and was a fan of Aasif when he appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

In the Country of Men
– The description of this book sold me the minute that it said Libya. I have not read a book whose setting is in Libya. Continuing to ensure the books I read are not always taking place in either Europe or the United States.

Book Promotions for February 8th

One of my dear friends whilst preparing a lecture for class asked me to look over her slides which discussed a myriad of things, include the World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago. I had heard about these so called fairs over the years, but had never truly conceptualized what they represented. My friend was integrating them into her lecture in order to discuss American Imperialism and the display of brown bodies that occurred at these sort of fairs as a sort of spectacle.

For today’s book promotions the book: Spectacle.

Now the exoticism of brown bodies is nothing new, but many of us like to forget or don’t know that this exoticism was taken to extremes. People of color were taken from their homes and brought to foreign lands, mainly America and Europe, to be displayed to the white populace as entertainment and a means of showing the true supremacy of whiteness.

I look forward to reading this book, for I although I am not wholly unaware of this practice, I have never been exposed to or read about these shameful practices of white colonialism and imperialism.

 

Book Promotions for February 5th

For today’s lovely promotions, I went ahead and bought a book called Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker. It’s on sale today for $1.99 on Amazon, feel free to click the hyperlink to be immediately directed to it.

In my never-ending book quest, I have sought to buy books that talk about big data, the internet, cyber-security, among a myriad of other topics that revolve around programming, the internet, and the development of technology.

This book stood out to me because in another life I would have been a hacker. I think it is incredible what people with that skillset can do and I am incredibly jealous of them! I always conceptualize it as this very complicated puzzle and you have to find the one weak link in it. It’s our contemporary take on finding the needle in a haystack. The power one must also feel as a hacker!

Anyways, I look forward to reading this book and reviewing it later on!

Memory of Loss Skin

This is a book that I definitely struggled to get through but when I was done I was glad to have read it. I don’t know if I would recommend this book to everyone for it is a very strange book. The plot itself is rather random,  but the character development is amazing.

Besides the character development, the book’s main theme is very out of the ordinary and makes you consider reconceptualizing your perception of sex offenders. That’s a strong statement, I know, but take a moment to think on this.

A lot of the current talk about ending mass incarceration has focused on giving more leeway to non-violent offenders. This makes sense, for it is appealing to the general public and is more politically correct. However, ostracizing violent offenders doesn’t necessarily solve the problem and promotes the idea that prison is not for rehabilitation but purely for punishment.

This book dives into this very idea by humanizing sex offenders, which is itself a feat. Like many, I do not have any warm feelings for sex offenders, particularly as a woman and given the current judicial system and cultural climate that leaves rapists unpunished. However, this book challenged my conceptions of these ideas and definitely has me seeing things less in black and white, and more on a spectrum of grey.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a different sort of read and is interested in having their views challenged on a seemingly straight forward topic.