Good Reads // June 2015

ReadingBench

Hello friends and fellow bookworms!  It’s time for my monthly book reviews post.  Enjoy!

Rating System
★★★★★ = Amazing!
★★★★ = A great read
★★★ = It’s good
★★ = Just ok
★ = Not for me

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book_malalaTitle: I Am Malala
Author: Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
Series: NA
Published: October 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (Hardcover)
Pages: 327
Category: Non Fiction, Autobiography, Feminism, Education, Middle East
Overall Rating: ★★★

The first lines: “I come from a country that was created at midnight.  When I almost died it was just after midday.  One year ago I left my home for school and never returned.  I was shot by a Taliban bullet and was flown out of Pakistan unconscious.  Some people say I will never return home, but I believe firmly in my heart that I will.  To be torn from the country that you love is not something to wish on anyone.” 

Summary from Goodreads: When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.  On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.  Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.  I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.  I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.

My thoughts:  I really really really wanted to love this book. I don’t think anyone can deny the difficulties this young girl has faced, or the impact she has had on the world; however, I felt like the book never quite came together in a cohesive narrative that makes this a must read.  The first few chapters meander all over the place with no clear destination – with the odd jumble of Pakistani history and politics interspersed between a collection of memories and family stories.  At one point the factual information about the history of the Swat valley became so difficult to follow that I had a very difficult time staying engaged and put the book down for a few days.  But then, the story becomes a little more streamlined as Malala starts to recount her older childhood years leading up to the banning of education for girls.  I know that a lot of people are not educated (partially or fully) on the history of Taliban or Pakistan, but it just felt like the author was trying too hard to “fit in the facts” versus “filling in the gaps” to Malala’s narrative.  It is certainly beyond inspirational to read how Malala and her father spoke up in defiance of politicians, local mullahs, and the Taliban.  And as long and disjointed as the first part of the book was…the opposite can be said about the second and third parts – these parts were fully descriptive, exactly how I imagined the whole book would be – and yet it ended too fast!  In my humble opinion, I do not believe this book is a full reflection of Malala – as anyone who reads between the lines can see that she is an extraordinary brave and interesting young woman!  However, all of that being said, I still rated it 3 stars – meaning that I liked it and would recommend that others read it.  I have many friends who absolutely adored the book, and I would not deny anyone the opportunity to read this story.

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book_SwanTitle: The Swan Thieves
Author: Elzabeth Kostova
Series: NA
Audiobook Narrated By: Treat Williams, Anne Heche
Length: 17 hours, 58 minutes
Published: Hachette Audio, Released December 2009; Hardcover published January 2009.
Pages: 565 pages (Hardcover)
Category: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Art, Mystery
Overall Rating: ★★

The first lines: “I got the call about Robert Oliver in April 1999, less than a week after he’d pulled a knife in the nineteenth-century collection at the National Gallery.  It was a Tuesday, one of those terrible mornings that sometimes come to the Washington area when spring has already been flowery and even hot – ruinous hail and heavy skies, with rumbles of thunder in the suddenly cold air.  It was also, by coincidence, exactly a week after the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado; I was still thinking obsessively about that event, as I imagined every psychiatrist in the country must have been.  My office seemed full of those young people with their sawed-off shotguns , their demonic resentment.  How had we failed them and – even more – their innocent victims?  The violent weather and the country’s gloom seemed to me fused that morning.” 

Summary from Goodreads: Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has a perfectly ordered life–solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient. In response, Marlowe finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this genius, a journey that will lead him into the lives of the women closest to Robert Oliver and toward a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism. Ranging from American museums to the coast of Normandy, from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love, The Swan Thieves is a story of obsession, the losses of history, and the power of art to preserve human hope.

My thoughts Ugh.  I hate rating a book that has been on my To-Be-Read list since 2011 so low.  I don’t even know where to begin…I honestly could not put into words what I thought about the novel.  I dived deep into the reviews on Goodreads, and thought these two most closely captured what I liked and disliked about the book:

Kostova’s newest book, her highly anticipated follow up to “The Historian,” is a difficult book to review. I’ve no doubt that the book, with its rich tapestry of characters and intrigue, will appeal to a great many people. I, too, found the book interesting and compelling at times; the problem, though, is that those times were too few and too far between. The book is, quite simply, tedious – it virtually collapses under its own weight with pacing that slogs more than it trots and with characters who talk about passion, but who exhibit none.” Jeff (2010)

This story builds up in layers, just like a painting would on the easel. It’s lush and rich and detailed and only slowly becomes clear to the reader.  I can see why opinions on this book could be polarized. It’s like watching an artist at work. The process can be fascinating as the picture slowly comes alive as the layers are added and seeing how those layers interact and play with the former layers. Or it can be excruciatingly slow and dull if one wants to skip the slow development of the work and jump directly to the completed picture. The tension of this work isn’t action based, but a slow revealing of the past, its mysteries and secrets. Each layer is added carefully and reveals only a hint towards a solution to a mystery which has no clear definition. I found myself pulled in more with each new development.  I really enjoyed how Kostova brought Art alive. Her descriptions of the paintings and the painting process brought the works to life.  I would have liked to have heard Robert Oliver tell more. His character is dominant, vibrant, interesting…..and told from other perspectives. How much of a person gets lost when others tell his/her story?” Petra (2011)

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What are you currently reading? 
Jen
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3 thoughts on “Good Reads // June 2015

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