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The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe

The Woman in the Dunes, by celebrated writer and thinker Kobo Abe, combines the essence of myth, suspense and the existential novel.

After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman, and together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side through this Sisyphean of tasks.

The Woman in the DunesThe Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book. I read it for PewDiePie’s Book Review/Literature Club. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys literary fiction that looks into the mystery of the mind particularly as it relates to isolation and relationships. I listened to it via audiobook, narrated by Julian Cihi, which was excellent.

The writer, Kōbō Abe, wrote in a beautifully expressive style that merged an intriguing storyline with philosophical theories of human attributes and behaviors that were taught in many of my college freshmen courses which added depth and richness to the characters.

It was an interesting depiction of impulse and cumulative response. I loved the interjections of entomology and the descriptions of sand and all its properties. It was completely engrossing within its allegorical context. I’d be curious how it reads in the original language it was written in, that being Japanese.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. ‘We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness,’ says Antonio’s mother. ‘It is not the way of our people,’ agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonio’s family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ultima watches over him. She graces him with the courage to face childhood bigotry, diabolical possession, the moral collapse of his brother, and too many violent deaths. Under her wise guidance, Tony will probe the family ties that bind him, and he will find in himself the magical secrets of the pagan past—a mythic legacy equally as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America in which he has been schooled. At each turn in his life there is Ultima who will nurture the birth of his soul.

Bless Me, UltimaBless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the premise and most parts of the story, but the writing was incredibly dry for me. I read this for Dulce Candy’s Book Club. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about the American southwest culture and stories of mysticism as told from an individual’s perspective.

The premise of the story and perspective-driven plot was interesting. I appreciated the experiences being told, as well as the cultural references as they related to daily life within the setting, and the integration of Spanish language.

I liked the idea but the delivery came across as overly embellished and was dull for much of the book. I felt myself getting stuck in the overly descriptive and play-by-play details which took away from the overall flow of the book, which ultimately moved very slowly. The writing lacked appeal and reveal. I had a difficult time getting into each scene and following them all the way through.

It contained some interesting aspects of family dynamics and culture though!

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple is a classic. With over a million copies sold in the UK alone, it is hailed as one of the all-time ‘greats’ of literature, inspiring generations of readers.

Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though this was a heavy hearted read for me, it was an excellent book. I read this for SunBeamsJess Book Club. I’d recommend it to anyone.

The author, Alice Walker, matched the writing style to the storyline perfectly. It was written using the strengths of epistolary form. The diary entries themselves reflected the growing maturity of the characters and used relevant colloquialism which gave great insight into life and culture of the time, that being the American south, during the 1930s. It took me a few pages in to appreciate the dialogue, which was depicted as a form of unrefined Southern speech that gave power to the narrative through its beautifully written expressions of emotion, identity, authenticity, self reflection, innocence, joy, pain, hardship, discovery, and transformation.

It contained graphic scenes of highly controversial subject matter, while manifesting the hopes, joys, struggles, and despair of each character without a tone of contempt which made for an even more powerful story. It paralleled personal happiness and conflict with social injustice and gain which made for a work of high value and importance.

FAVORITE LINES:

“I look over at him too. For such a little man, he all puff up. Look like all he can do to stay in his chair.”

“She looks like a wet cat.”

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Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. The Bluest Eye remains one of Tony Morrisons’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.

The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a reread for me, having read it in school, and I appreciated it just as much the second time around. Toni Morrison is one of my favorite writers. It was a heavy-hearted read. I would recommend it to those who enjoy learning about American literature, culture, and history, personal stories, and to anyone who appreciates the telling of life circumstances in its most raw form.

The author, Toni Morrison, told about moments in time with such relevant insight. Joys of innocence met with tragic yearning. The style of writing followed such a rich, loose, unrestrained, and descriptive language that read both beautifully and brilliantly. The content itself was difficult to read at times, which brought up highly sensitive, yet important topics and situations. It was a thought-provoking juxtaposition of the telling of a powerful and often painful narrative through prose and unfiltered, informal dialogue.

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“If happiness is anticipation with certainty, we were happy.”

“And you look like the north side of a southbound mule.”

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Adventure Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Humor

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances, that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote’s fancy often leads him astray – he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants – Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers’ imaginations for nearly four hundred years.

With its experimental form and literary playfulness, Don Quixote generally has been recognized as the first modern novel. The book has had enormous influence on a host of writers, from Fielding and Sterne to Flaubert, Dickens, Melville, and Faulkner, who reread it once a year, “just as some people read the Bible.”

Don QuixoteDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! It’s one of my all-time favorite novels and was even better the second time around. This was a reread for me, having read it in high school. For this read, I attempted to interpret several excerpts in Spanish and followed along with the Open Yale Course, SPAN 300 which was excellent and it made for a rich learning experience about comparative literature, art, and Spanish language and culture. I would highly recommend this book to everyone and to check out the course as a supplement to your reading as well.

The author, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, wrote with such depth, expression, humor, and passion. It transcended literature in the areas of ethnic, cultural, and gender expression at the time it was written and today, it marks such a bountiful telling of a story and text with representation, idealization, and realism that anyone at any life stage can appreciate.

The storyline itself was so full of adventure, emotion, and surprises. A picaresque novel at its finest.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Classics Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

1984 by George Orwell

The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia”—a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

19841984 by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent book! This was a reread for me, having initially read it in high school and it was amazing to think how relevant the concepts are to today. I actually listened to it this time around as an audiobook, narrated by Simon Prebble which was excellent. I would recommend it to everyone.

The author, George Orwell, was a genius at conveying terrifying, yet fascinating hypothetical scenarios that were engaging and relevant from concept to implementation. Only thing is, is that the concepts and unfolding of scenes really weren’t far off from truth and the tone remained insistent of the consequence of those truths. The characters each had a specific supportive role that helped to depict intellectual and emotional response that drove the storyline. This made for a chilling, yet sound plot that developed into fearful characteristics that come with a society that experiences corruption, deception, and ultimately dehumanization.

FAVORITE LINES:

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

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Adventure Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

French naturalist Dr. Aronnax embarks on an expedition to hunt down a sea monster, only to discover instead the Nautilus, a remarkable submarine built by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Together Nemo and Aronnax explore the underwater marvels, undergo a transcendent experience amongst the ruins of Atlantis, and plant a black flag at the South Pole. But Nemo’s mission is one of revenge-and his methods coldly efficient.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Extraordinary Voyages, #6)Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for the classic sci-fi seafare adventure that it is, which doesn’t contain romance.

The author Jules Verne, was able to display his great appreciation for marine life and excitement for futuristic foresight quite accurately through his writing, given the time it was written in, having not any inclination of what deep sea exploration truly consisted of. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of sea life creatures and the suspense that came with the discovery of such unknowns as the characters set out to partake in unknown territories.

The plot and subplots were simple, exciting, and original, though some parts did drag on in over-abundant detail. The book contained illustrations which I also very much appreciated. They added depth to my imagination of the setting and characters as well as to the perception of discoverable laws and behaviors of physics, marine life, and humanity at the time the book was written.

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“And to the question asked by Ecclesiastes six thousand years ago, “That which is far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out?…”

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television ‘family’. But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people did not live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a reread for me, having read the book in High School, and recently again for Dulce Candy’s book club. It was just as intriguing and confusing the second time around. I would recommend it to anyone who would enjoy learning about the societal implications of extreme censorship and the consequence of having too much governmental control over one’s personal life. This book takes some patience to read though.

As far as content is concerned, I did like reading about the overall idea. I felt that the premise was definitely still pertinent to today and that is what I enjoyed the most. The hound I believe was supposed to represent the government which cleverly sought out the programmed injustices of book hiding with ruthless vigor to a seemingly exaggerated, yet highly achievable extent. The unavoidable indoctrination of government agenda blasting through the television and severe consequence for disagreement was not a far off concept when this book was written in the early 1950s and the concept is still relevant to today.

I wasn’t too fond Ray Bradbury’s writing style, was a bit squirrelly for me. I found myself rereading parts of it. The overuse of adjectives and word salad, ugh, all I kept thinking was “Is this prose or has this now turned into poetry?” Yet I didn’t find it consistent with characters or circumstances like Shakespeare’s writing style so it was really confusing to me.

I couldn’t understand the patterns of behavior of the other characters though. Montag and the girl at the beginning- was it supposed to be a romantic relationship or symbolize something else? And his relationship with his wife was wishy-washy. They were emotionally detached and I couldn’t understand how the rift developed between them. It was coupled with a lack of sympathy for each other and I wasn’t convinced that either character had it in the first place so I didn’t really know how to feel.

At any rate, it’s scary to imagine a life without books, the results would be societal and personal devastation and this book does a good job illustrating that.

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