24 Books to Christmas – Day 22

baublesI fell upon The White Tiger in 2008 when it won the Booker Prize.   Of all the books on that shortlist, it stuck out to me the most.  I really enjoy reading about Indian culture.  I feel like with every book I read I learn something new about their culture.  That’s really stimulating.

This novel thrusts us into a story following a character whose name we don’t know at first, but that doesn’t matter because we are immediately interested in finding out who this person is.  Eventually something will happen that will alter this character’s view of his situation.  We will see him search for freedom.  Freedom from all different things and situations.  Life isn’t easy and there aren’t thousands of solutions either which this character wrestles with constantly.

The best thing about this story is the manner in which it’s told. I promise midway through you’ll be rooting for the protagonist and you’ll hate everything that’s impeding his possibilities of progress.  Written with originality, The White Tiger is a book that will make you reflect on life and your place in it.  I recommend it to readers who enjoy books by Indian writers, literary fiction, by Booker Prize winners.

Overview:

“Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life—having nothing but his own wits to help him along.

Born in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for his village’s wealthiest man, two house Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man’s (very unlucky) son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram’s newB0015DWLD0 world is a revelation. While his peers flip through the pages of Murder Weekly (“Love — Rape — Revenge!”), barter for girls, drink liquor (Thunderbolt), and perpetuate the Great Rooster Coop of Indian society, Balram watches his employers bribe foreign ministers for tax breaks, barter for girls, drink liquor (single-malt whiskey), and play their own role in the Rooster Coop. Balram learns how to siphon gas, deal with corrupt mechanics, and refill and resell Johnnie Walker Black Label bottles (all but one). He also finds a way out of the Coop that no one else inside it can perceive.

Balram’s eyes penetrate India as few outsiders can: the cockroaches and the call centers; the prostitutes and the worshippers; the ancient and Internet cultures; the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger. And with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn’t create virtue, and money doesn’t solve every problem — but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.

The White Tiger recalls The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, and narrative genius, with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation —and a startling, provocative debut.” (The White Tiger, inside flap)

 

 

 

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Publisher:  Free Press

Pages:  320

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 21

baublesWhen I came to live in France one of the historical events that I didn’t know very much about was the tragic destruction of Cambodia, otherwise known as the killing fields.  I started to hear more about it and my curiosity led me to pick up In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.  I don’t flock so easily to nonfiction although in the past three years I have to say I’m reading more of it.  This being said I decided to read this novel a few years back with a book club. You can read my blog review here and check out my video review here.  I hope to get to Music of the Ghosts in 2020, which is a continuation of In the Shadow of the Banyan.

I highly recommend In the Shadow of the Banyan to readers who are interested in a fictional account(based on the author’s life) of the Khmer Rouge take over of Cambodia and reading a novel with beautiful writing.

 

Overview:

“Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of 13057939human resilience.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus…” (In the Shadow of the Banyan, inside cover)

 

 

In the Shadow of the Banyan – Vaddey Ratner

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

Pages:  322

My rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 20

baublesI often hear people say that they no longer care to read fiction novels about slavery.  I personally don’t have a problem with that, especially if I can read one that’s really good.  Today’s recommendation is Family by J. California Cooper.  This is a novel you should definitely put on your 2020 TBR if you haven’t read it yet.

Family explores slavery through the generations while stressing how each generation survives and flourishes in spite of difficulty.  Family is more than a story of slavery, it is one of hope and the unfolding of the generations to come. That’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to give anything away.

One of the best things about Family is the emotion it provoked in me. It had been a while since I felt so overwhelmed by a book.  It actually almost made me cry and that’s saying something because I don’t cry easily when reading.  If you haven’t read J. California Cooper yet you might want to start with this full length short novel.  Furthermore, she wrote many short story collections which are full of lively language and inspiring stories about everyday people.  Her short stories are optimistic and enjoyable.  You might want to try one of my favorites called Homemade Love.  I recommend FamilyFamily to new readers of J. California Cooper, readers who don’t mind reading slave narratives, and readers looking for a short novel that packs a punch.

Overview:

“In this wise, beguiling, beautiful novel set in the era of the Civil War, an award-winning playwright and author paints a haunting portrait of a woman named Always, born a slave, and four generations of her African-American family.” (Family, back cover)

 

 

Family – J California Cooper

Publisher:  Anchor

Pages:  240

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 19

baublesToday’s recommendation is a book by Philip Roth, the prolific 20th century American author who died last year in the month of May.  Now I’m sure some of you might be ready to sign off my post, since you’ve seen I’m plugging a book by Roth.  I beg of you to stay with me and hear me out.  The book I’m plugging today is The Plot Against America.  I read it in 2017 as a buddy read with a few Booktubers I enjoy reading with: mementomori, Mel’s Bookland Adventure, Britta Böhler, Garden Scriptorium. Go check them out! We really enjoyed it. So much so that we continued on a buddy read in October of the same year of American Pastoral.  Sadly I hated it, but The Plot Against America was so intriguing and its  storyline was ingeniously written. It’s one that also gave us vibes of Trump’s America. Scary.  I was happy to be introduced to Roth’s writing through The Plot Against America.  It’s not sexually provocative like some of the other novels he’s known for which put readers off.  Even though I didn’t like American Pastoral, which is the first book in the the American trilogy, we continued on and read book two called I Married a Communist this year in March.  So we only have The Human Stain left to finish the trilogy.

Roth often wrote from a semi-autobiographical stand point, which is the case for The Plot Against America.  It’s historical fiction turned on its ear. We’re following the story from a  young boy’s (Roth) point of view.  It’s a story about a Jewish American family in an America being led by a white supremacist, Lindbergh.

Roth carefully maps out the before and after Lindbergh’s arrival as president.  The storythe plot becomes more and more sinister and will continue to remind the reader of what can happen when a country becomes totalitarian – how do people treat each other, how do people live life and react to the political changes that are affecting their friends, family, neighborhood, country.   I won’t give away any more but the book is brilliant and will make you think about a lot of things.  We had great discussions while reading this one.  For me the story didn’t falter at all.  It was well told and I loved the voice of the young boy throughout.  I recommend The Plot Against America to readers who have never read a Roth novel before (great place to start), love reading Philip Roth novels and historical fiction (with an alternate history base).  Check out the video below where Roth gives some interesting answers to Katy Couric’s questions.  Have you read any Roth novels? It so, which one(s)?  What did you think of it/them?

Overview:

“In an astonishing feat of narrative invention, our most ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American history. In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected President. Shortly thereafter, he negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism.

For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threatens to destroy his small, safe corner of America – and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.” (The Plot Against America, back cover)

 

 

The Plot Against America – Philip Roth

Publisher:  First Vintage International

Pages:  391

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 18

baublesI had only read one excerpt from Alexandre Dumas’ writing in French many years ago, but this past October and November we all had the pleasure of reading in full The Count of Monte Cristo.  I say all for those of you that joined in on my read along of this 1,276 page mammoth novel.  Full of humor, intrigue, and large doses of shadiness, The Count of Monte Cristo kept me engrossed.  So much so that I couldn’t be bothered to read very much alongside it.  Beautiful writing that eases the reader into the period, the well constructed storyline, and the marvelously developed characters symbolize top reasons why the novel is so enchanting.   It’s lovely to see how the rope of revenge tightens slowly and accurately over all the right people, at the right time, and without too much work.  That’s the beauty of fiction.

This 19th century French classic has stood and will continue to stand the test of time.  There’s something to say for a novel that uses themes that will always remain relevant – jealousy, revenge, affairs, business deals gone bad, etc., but more importantly they need
to be used in the right way.  I recommend The Count of Monte Cristo for readers who enjoy reading the classics, French classics, and stories of revenge. Not to mention, this Penguin Clothbound edition pictured below would make a wonderful Christmas gift!

I was so proud once I’d finished this huge book.  I also kept thinking about how interesting a modern retelling of this story would be.  Now that I can scratch one book off my list of books to read by Dumas, I’m looking forward to picking up The Three Muskateers next, hopefully in 2020, which is the first book in the series called The d’Artagnan Romances.  Check out the live chat below where I discuss The Count of Monte Cristo with Musical Tati and Michael Reads!  We had a great time and Loved the book.  I’d like to give a big Thank You to those of you who took the time to catch us live on YouTube and participated in the discussion.  I also urge you to go to Youtube and Count of Monte Cristocheck out these two Booktubers, who make superb videos. 🙂

 

Overview:

“Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of the Château d’If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and becomes determined not only to escape but to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.” (The Count of Monte Cristo, Goodreads description)

 

 

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Publisher:  Penguin Classics

Pages:  1,296

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 17

baublesToday’s recommendation is an oldie but a goodie.  It’s called Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins.  If you haven’t read anything from Tom Robbins all I have to say is what rock have you been reading under.  He’s probably one of the most creative writers out there.  Count on a rip roaring story full of satire, social commentary, and the unexpected.  It sort of looks like a car crash in the beginning but, don’t worry in the end it’s all going to work out.

Tom Robbins is an author from the the twentieth century that challenges readers to look at what a story can be and how language adds to the originality of what can be conveyed.   If it’s your first attempt at reading a Robbins novel I urge you to try it and hang on to it even though things are just plain weird.  It’s worth it and you’ll love the originality of his writing. He’s just that special.  As he says in the video below, “A good story is not the same thing as a well told story.”

It’s been a while since I read Jitterbug Perfume but since I’m writing about it I’m anxious now to maybe do a reread of it next year. I recommend this book to readers who want to read something different, something satirical, something backlist vintage! Check out the video of Tom Robbins below. It will give you a sense of who he is, why, and how he writes.  Let me know below if you’ve read Tom Robbins’ novels and what you think of them. Which one(s) are your favorites?  My two factories are Jitterbug Perfume and Skinny Legs and Alljitterbug perfume

 

Overview:

Jitterbug Perfume
is an epic.

Which is to say, it begins in the forests of ancient Bohemia and doesn’t conclude until nine o’clock tonight (Paris time).

It is a saga, as well. A saga must have a hero, and the hero of this one is a janitor with a missing bottle.

The bottle is blue, very, very old, and embossed with the image of a goat-horned god.

If the liquid in the bottle actually is the secret essence of the universe, as some folks seem to think, it had better be discovered soon because it is leaking and there is only a drop or two left.” (Jitterbug Perfume, cover)

 

Jitterbug Perfume – Tom Robbins

Publisher:  Bantam

Pages:  352

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 16

baublesToday’s recommendation I discovered in the spring of 2015.  Water Street was one of the first few short story collections I had read in a long time that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fourteen connected  short stories set in Stanford, Kentucky in the black community.  I was amazed  to see how well Wilkinson linked each character and unveiled their secrets.  Water Street has that southern literary flair that I love to read.  The style of writing is through short narratives and monologues.  You’re probably thinking that this makes the short stories feel unfinished but in fact they are full of impressions and feelings that are familiar.

Crystal Wilkinson is a wonderful writer who develops her stories through her characters.  She doesn’t need an excess of pages to make the reader understand something.  I envy her capacity to shape the story with the minimum means.  It’s a gift in writing.  I strongly urge you to check out this author who should be praised more.  I also recommend three of her other works that I enjoyed just as much as Water Street, Blackberries, Blackberries (short story collection), The Birds of Opulence (short water streetnovel), and Holler (short story).

I recommend Water Street to readers who enjoy short story collections, African-American literature, and southern literature.  Check out Wilkinson in the video below talking about her writing and where her inspiration comes from.  She has quite the personality and you should follow her over on Instagram at crystalwilki.

 

Overview:

On Water Street, every person has at least two stories to tell. One story that the light of day shines on and the other that lives only in the pitch black of night, the kind of story that a person carries beneath their breastbones for safekeeping. WATER STREET examines the secret lives of neighbours and friends who live on Water Street in a small town in Kentucky. Assured and intimate, dealing with love, loss, truth and tragedy, Wilkinson weaves us in and out of the lives of Water Street’s inhabitants.

 

 

Water Street – Crystal Wilkinson

Publisher:  Toby Press

Pages:  179

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 15

baublesToday I’m continuing on with another recommendation of a poignant and informative graphic novel called Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  Told in 4 books, Persepolis was separated into 2 books:  Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, books 1 and 2 and Persepolis:  The Story of a Return, books 3 and 4.  I decided to read The Complete Persepolis.  I’ll link my earlier blog review here.  Essentially, Persepolis takes us on a discovery of the Islamic revolution in Iran through the eyes of a young precocious Marjane.  We see her grow up and evolve through the revolution.  I enjoyed reading about her character and seeing her grow into a young woman who won’t stop fighting for her rights.  She’s brilliant and snarky and you’ll be rooting for her and her family until the end.  This book is great for readers who want to learn more about the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it effected the people before and after.

 

 

 

Watch Marjane Satrapi talking about Persepolis below.

 

Watch below a few scenes from Persepolis the film.

 

The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi (translated from the French by Mattias Ripa, Blake Ferris, Anjali Singh)

Publisher:  Pantheon Books
Pages:  341
My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 14

baublesContinuing on with graphic novels, today I’m suggesting the Aya de Yopougon series (Aya Yop City in English).  These graphic novels are colorful and well illustrated.  The best thing about them is that they are about people in the Ivory Coast who live in the city and are living their lives.  The series contains 6 books and is full of drama and humor.  Marguerite Abouet, the author, has based these graphic novels on some personal experiences living in the Abidjan where she’s from and that’s what makes them so authentic.

It has been turned into a movie which you can watch below, although I wasn’t able to find it in English.  Even though it’s in French you can get a sense of the liveliness of the characters and story.  I recommend Aya to readers who like to read stories set in Africa and enjoy reading graphic novels with light themes.

 

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Overview:

“Ivory Coast, 1978. Family and friends gather at Aya’s house every evening to watch the country’s first television ad campaign promoting the fortifying effects of Solibra, “the strong man’s beer.” It’s a golden time, and the nation, too–an oasis of affluence and stability in West Africa–seems fueled by something wondrous.  Who’s to know that the Ivorian miracle is nearing its end? In the sun-warmed streets of working-class Yopougon, aka Yop City, holidays are around the corner, the open-air bars and discos are starting to fill up, and trouble of a different kind is about to raise eyebrows. At night, an empty table in the market square under the stars is all the privacy young lovers can hope for, and what happens there is soon everybody’s business.” (Aya – Aya #1, back cover)

 

 

Aya (Aya #1) – Marguerite Abouet, Clément Oubrerie (artist)

Publisher:  Drawn and Quarterly

Pages:  112

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ / ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=browngirlreading

24 Books to Christmas – Day 13

baublesMy love for graphic novels began when I moved to France 29 years ago.  I have always been a fan of comic strips left over from my young days of scrambling for the the comic section every Sunday morning.  But, graphic novels have added something else a little special to my reading.  Today’s recommendation is The Arab of the Future:  A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf.

So what’s a graphic novel?  It’s a story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.  It’s usually lengthy in size.  The Arab of the Future is a graphic memoir, which is a comic or sequential art that tell an autobiographical story. Graphic memoirs are sub-genres of graphic novels and comics.  Examples of comics would be Black Panther and Saga.  The Arab of the Future consists of 4 volumes originally written in French, and they are translated into 21 languages.  Surprisingly, it has not been translated into Arabic because only the first volume was ordered by publishers.  Sattouf refused to accept that his graphic memoir wouldn’t be integrally published in Arabic, so it hasn’t happened.

Riad Sattouf has taken the time to recount his coming of age and family life while moving between Libya, Syria, and France.  He’s blatantly honest about his experiences and at times it can be painful to read.  This being said humor is what he does best.  Through his simplistic, but expressive drawings with colorful backgrounds each color representing a country; he takes us on an emotional rollercoaster we are not ready to forget.  It’s interesting to see culture in Syria and Libya in the late 1970s to mid 1980s.  If you start reading volume 1 make sure you have all the others so that you don’t have to stop reading.

I recommend this series of graphic novels to readers who like reading them (because this one is easy to follow), are interested in learning about culture in Syria and Libya, and enjoy graphic novels in series.  I can’t wait for the release of volume 5 (in French) which is slotted for October-November 2020!  You my have to wait a year or so for the translation into English.  Check out the video below where Riad Sattouf speaks about The Arab of the Future. 🙂

Overview:

“In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rural France, Gaddafi’s Libya, and Assad’s Syria–but always under the roof of his father, a Syrian Pan-Arabist who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation.” (The Arab of the Future, book cover)

 

 

The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A graphic Memoir – Riad Sattouf

Publisher:  Metropolitan Books

Pages:  288

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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