2020 has rolled in and its the perfect moment to do a recap of sorts of my reading year. Truth be told I had some bookish hits and misses and then there were some that totally did the unexpected. Best news is that I managed to hold onto my yearly reading resolution. This is evident in how well I have fared in all of my reading challenges of the year. YAY!!! 🙂
My reading score 2019
Goodreads 2019 – 47/40 which I may say so is quite impressive!!! Ahem!
Book Challenge by Erin 10.0 – 9/10 books completed in the given time of four months and finished the 10th one in August this year.
Write Tribe Reading Challenge – 23/24 books read with a few still not reviewed on the blog yet.
Its not surprising to note that YA/Fantasy (19 ) dominated my reading bag (I did re-read many of them). What was shocking to note for me was the number of books by Indian Authors (10) I read this year. I somehow never end up picking books by them as they leave me unimpressed. But this year that was taken care of and how. I also gave up on 1-2 books and will finish them off in 2020.
Now on to the books that impressed and that didn’t. I can tell you right now that there were quite a few surprises all along.
3 Delightful Bookish Hits
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
“Depression” was a foreign word to them, an American thing. In their opinion their children were immune from the hardships and injustices they had left behind in India, as if the inoculations the pediatrician had given Sudha and Rahul when they were babies guaranteed them an existence free of suffering.”
I borrowed this book from my cousin and am so glad I picked it up. I fell in love with her writing style and could finish this book in one sitting. This book is essentially a collection of short stories.
Each tale is about exploring a relationship and is set in the backdrop of Indian immigrants in America. So there is conflict between the parents and children, or siblings or even neighbors based on this very fact. There is also the very common issue of immigrants having to ingratiate themselves with the locals and their customs and failing to do so. The topics are very relatable and the writing is extremely heartwarming. This book has set the tone for me to pick up more of her books in my future reads.
Anyone wanting to gift me a book, here is a hint 😉 My rating for this one is 4/5 stars.
“And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.”
Its a love triangle of sorts and talks about growing up, falling in love and alternate lives which might have been. Van Gogh’s 15 sunflowers are an important motif in the book and I guess the cover is inspired from that. The writing is just gorgeously layered and made me weep in places and gave me hard lumps in my chest in others. The journey through boyhood to a lonely adult life is depicted with deep regrets, disbelief at a loss and holding onto what might have been.
This is one book you should pick up for the sensitive writing. My rating for this one is an unequivocal 5/5 stars. I have her other books on my wish list now 💜 Yes thats another hint 😉
“Books keep stupidity at bay. And vain hopes. And vain men. They undress you with love, strength and knowledge. It’s love from within. Make your choice: book or…”
This one was gifted to me by the gorgeous Kash, with an injunction to savor it. And that’s exactly what I did as this book demands such devotion. Nina George writes with a very poignant flair that left me breathless, with an ache to traverse this bit of France. Yes her latest book is on my TBR as of now 🙂
Our book is set in Paris where Monsieur Perdu sells books off a barge, moored on the river Seine. He calls it the Literary apothecary for you see he has the gift. He can guess the feelings of his potential customer and accordingly advise a book to cure what ails them. When he sets off on an impromptu jaunt down the river Seine, he is accompanied by two more eclectic companions. Each is in search of a closure through this journey through a very picturesque French countryside.
Its a love story set within the depth of the love for books and that’s why I found it so beautiful. Not all love stories have a happy ending but all of them are great love stories. My rating for this one is 4/5 stars.
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3 Unexpected Bookish Hits
This is a brilliantly written fantasy fiction and I bow down to the fantastical prowess of Tomi Adeyemi. I am seriously hooked and can’t wait for the next one in this trilogy or maybe more than that.
The setting of the book is Africa, which by itself is so unique and new for me to read about. The descriptions of clothes, the head gears, facial features, and the ebony/sand/caramel skin tones – all of it so refreshing and new. This is a book for young adults, for the romance and sibling rivalry depicted in it, would find resonance with them. So would the mindset and thought process of the many teenagers in this book who are struggling against the oppression.
And the writing is fresh and free, for the words are laced with experience of pain and longing. The dialogue of war-torn Africa and police brutalities are reflected in the world spun in this book. The authors note echoes that sentiment and requests the readers to empathize with what’s happening in Africa.
I completed this 500+ page book in a matter of two days, it was absolutely un-put-down-able for me. I am longing to read next and am rating this one at 5/5 stars.
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
I began reading this book in January 2019 and just couldn’t put it down for its a racy pacy thriller set in urban #Brisbane and is smartly dosed with drugs, underworld, growing up, magic and falling in love.
A mum in jail, a missing father, a heroine addict/dealer for a stepfather and a hardened criminal for a babysitter for two boys – Eli and August. August is mute and keeps writing words in air which only Eli can understand. Then there is the mysterious voice at the end of a red telephone which is accessible in a room behind a sliding panel in the wardrobe. And When Eli falls in love and will do anything to win her admiration, the tale takes a very unexpected turn.
Did I mention that Eli loses one finger in an altercation with the infamous drug overload of Brisbane Tytus Broz? He also breaks into a prison facility to visit his mom and try and rescue her. Then there are the Korean thugs who threaten his life?
The book is brilliant in its telling of a tale of growing up and brotherhood with its short doses of magical realism. All along the way the criminal underworld of Brisbane looms large in the backdrop and makes for a very racy pacy read. One of the best reads of the year for me and I have rated it 4/5 stars.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NG
Again a book I saw on fellow book reviewers blogs and went ahead and put it in my wish list. Then Parul sent it across and I devoured it in 2 days flat. Yup that’s how gripping and good the plot and writing are. I am reading this author for the first time and am now going to pick up more of her books.
Celeste writes about families and their relationships with each in a world where everyone is trying hard to be different. There is the Richardson family that believes in living by the rules, which will make everything alright. From birth to death, everything is done in perfect pitch. But what happens when an anomaly lands in their midst that doesn’t follow the rules. Yet she flourishes and almost seems more happy than anyone else around. Is it possible to run your life in chaos?
Motherhood, secrets and a perfect life are the recipe for this novel, each explored brilliantly. This book was a total page turner for me and my rating is 4/5 stars for this one.
3 Thoughtful Bookish Hits
Through British politics, trade policies with the Chinese and subjugation of Indian people the writer has woven a rich tapestry of greed, money and ego that compels one to keep turning the pages. All of this is set against a backdrop of cultivating poppies to produce opium and its ill effects on the Indian people.
Amitav Ghosh’s language mastery is superb as is his research of the era in which this story is set. From the politics to social norms to the language- everything is pitch perfect.
He has used a rich mix of Hindi, English and Chinese languages as used by the sailors, coolies and labourers in that era. There is a lot of pidgin English too which, I will admit, takes a little used to and made reading slightly tedious for me initially.
The writing which has rich imagery and enticing descriptions that makes one pause to wonder if its poetry one is reading.
“It was a single poppy seed…she rolled it between her fingers and raised her eyes past the straining sails, to the star-filled vault above. On any other night she would have scanned the sky for the planet she had always thought to be the arbiter of her fate.”
I vacillated between a 4 and a 5; settled it at 4/5 as the language of the book is very tough in places to read.
After a long time have I read a truly fantastic fantasy fiction that had me biting my nails in anticipation.
Neil Gaiman has woven the perfect balance between nightmares and day dreams to create Neverwhere. His writing is crisp with imagination and it’s like he is discovered a rabbit hole like Alice. The fantastical underworld enmeshed with folk-lore and creatures is the perfect place to pitch your reading tent. This world enthralled me like Rowling’s Hogwarts and has the most mind-boggling concepts and descriptions.
No guesses here – it’s a 5/5 for me for Neverwhere. I will be definitely reading more of Gaiman’s works in future.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki & his years of Pilgramage by Haruki Murakami
This one came to me as a gift and became very treasured as its the first Murakami that I have read. Needless to say, I am hooked. Murakami’s flow of writing is unbelievable and he writes about tragedies, love and loss with such ease. I wonder how much of it he has actually experienced to write with such finesse.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage is a tale of heartbreak due to loss of friendship and the pain that follows through. A young man Tsukuru Tazaki is puzzled why his four friends have withdrawn from him altogether. Instead of asking them why they don’t want to do anything with him, he tries to puzzle it out on his own. This leads of severe depression, nightmares and stress in this life. He is a railroad man by profession and loves to sit on train stations to watch the trains come and go. Their clockwork precision soothes his troubled mind to no end.
Years later, he makes a friend of sorts who suggests to him that he should talk to his four friends and get closure. So one by one he tries to meet all of them and what he learns, leaves his shocked. He had always considered himself colorless and mundane in their group. But never did he imagine that they had all looked up to him at one point or another.
The trick to reading this book is to follow where it leads you without trying to overthink. I have fallen in love with the simple yet layered writing of Murakami and cant wait to read his next book. I have rated this one a 4/5 stars.
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3 Disappointing Bookish Misses
In a nutshell the story is about a dog and his owner who are crazy about car racing. The dog is fond of watching TV and bases his entire philosophy via it.
I was very excited to pick this book up as I am HUGE fan of Marley & Me. Both the books have a lab and that’s where the similarity ended.
Try as much, I just didn’t dig this book too much. True the dog was adorable and his bond with Denny was heart warming. But the story didn’t hold out much credence for me with the whole car racing thing. Plus Denny’s personal ups and downs were just too much drama added to the mix. There were times when I almost put the book down.
“You will honor them by staying alive, surviving this place and telling the world what happened here.”
I found it pretty mundane for a world war two saga. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t revel in the horrors that were inflicted on the Jewish population by the Nazis. But somehow this book seemed to make a mockery of it all.
All is okay up till Lale being assigned the task of the Tattooist; but then he seems to have the luck of the devil himself. He is able to convince women prisoners to steal jewelry for him which he barters for food, medicines, etc with some local work crew who come to the camp daily. It felt too easy and simple enough to do – I am blaming the writing for the way things have been portrayed.
I guess the writing is very poor and has reduced an otherwise powerful tale to a fairy tale saga. Even though its marked as a historical fiction; I would call it pure fiction and that’s where it fails.
I am going to say it outright, right here – I am disappointed!!! I had been really looking forward to this series and am heart-broken. Let me vent out my angst here.
I had deja vu as I started reading the first few chapters. Hunger games came to my mind along with Cinderella and then the beauty and the beast took over the tale. Yup there are a few concepts borrowed and rehashed here to formulate the plot lines for this one.
To be honest, the first 100 pages were dull and I kept wondering if it will get any better. The only thing that kept me going is that the writing quality is good. The writer has a firm grip on the language even if the plot is sketchy and thin.
Well that’s it for me folks. I would love to hear your thoughts on these books if you have read any of them. What were your best and not so best reads of 2019? Won’t you share them with me please?
I am co-hosting #TBRCHALLENGE2020 with Soumya – are you part of it?