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review 2017-02-19 13:45
When A Man Called Ove Isn't What You Thought It Would Be
A Man Called Ove: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

When I first heard about A Man Called Ove (pronounce as 'O-vi'), it was because of word-of-mouth. Praises keeps pouring in, good reviews keeps filling up and of course, it was inevitable that I came across the book and my curiosity get the best of me. After a year of purchase, I finally sat down and read it. It has been a while since I read some thing good in some months and while many readers have read it way earlier than I do, I am glad I took my time to read it.

 

A Man Called Ove is a story of a man called Ove (I just like saying it). At first glance, he appears to be one of the grumpiest middle-age man that is so bitter about every thing, you just want to avoid him. He cusses, he's rude and he's the type that does not care about people. He has a set of principles, he follow regulations and rules that he obeyed. He hates white collar men. He despise cats. And more importantly, he doesn't want to be disturb. When a new neighbor moves in next door to his house and accidentally drives up their trailer and destroy Ove's mailbox, it begins a journey of acceptance and unlikely friendships in unexpected ways. Typical formulated story you might say, right? For plot lines, yes. For execution and development of the story, its better than I expected.

 

What I enjoy most are the characters - to each of their own it was outline nicely. There is consistency to each of them including Ove and I love each and every one of them. Characters written well is once again, a rarity and given a nice explained background to each is a good way to show how Fredrik Backman care about his characters. And then of course, what was true is Ove is not what it seems, and I like how there are layers that some times, it may not be what it seems on first impression that tells us we need to reassessment people in depth. There is so much love and charm in the characters that you just have to love them a lot, especially Ove. I like how the flow of each chapter is given care and the history behind them. For Ove, I truly understand a person like him that many people miss out in reality and this is written with truth.

 

The execution and delivery is an enjoyable one but some how, its formulated. While the characters aren't stereotypical type, the flow of the story is like one I had seen before. Would it be better if its not followed like a guideline of any books about how to write a story I can say no, but this is as good as it gets because even though its formulated, its meant to be written that way. While the depth of the story isn't deep, I enjoy the slice of life theme in it. There is positive and inspiring values very much in real life happening and not those kind of positive quotes we tend to read a lot to try to inspire us. Its just that with reality of what is happening, it keeps it real in characters and what will happen to us if thrown into a situation and A Man Called Ove is just it.

 

I can't say its the best ever book I have ever read but its near. I was warm all over when I read towards the end and it was the kind of ending I expected. I did enjoy the dialogue exchange between Ove and the characters he came across. I can say that it is a recommended read if you have not come across this book. Its a must for any book readers or lovers that for once in life, you should read it.

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review 2017-02-18 08:21
Review: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers

Quick review for a progressive read. I read this over the course of a week, and it feels like I finished a marathon (in a good way). "Redeeming Love" came as a recommended read to me and it's my first experience reading Francine Rivers. If there's something to be said about her writing, Rives really knows her characters, conflicts, and has a way of weaving the narrative to make the most of the emotional gravity contained in the story.

This is a romantic retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, set in the year of 1850 during the American Gold Rush. The story starts out showcasing the experiences of Sarah, a girl sold into sexual slavery at a very young age, ultimately being renamed "Angel" by those who exert control over her. She grows up leading a numbed life as a prostitute. While she has those she calls friends, her heart is closed, and she doesn't have a single male figure in her life that she trusts or respects given what happens to her mother and the way other people have treated her personally.

Michael (Hosea) is a farmer who falls in love with Angel as he's conducting business in the city and sees her passing by (by a guard/handler no less). While their initial encounters are tense, Hosea struggles to try to get to know Angel by buying her time with the wages he earns. He doesn't use the time for any intimacy, but rather talks to try to get to know her and break down her defenses and distrust. He ultimately rescues her by making her his wife and taking out of the abusive residence she's in. Despite his promises of love and seeing her for the person she is rather than her horrible experiences, Angel still doesn't trust him and thinks he'll end up hurting her. She flees from him many times, thinking she won't be able to escape the pain of her past and subjecting herself to what she believes she deserves. Ultimately it's a story of redemption and acknowledgement as Angel and Hosea's relationship progresses, not just between each other, but with the people they come to know - and the challenges they face in their communications and environment around them.

I really appreciated the entire cast of characters in this book - they were very well drawn and vivid. While Sarah/Angel/Amanda appears to be an insufferable character due to the way she treats many of the people in this novel, it was hard for me not to rally behind her because I understood her grief, I understood her pain and how twisted it made her perceptions and relationships. It was difficult not to get emotional for what she endures and how she lashes out at the people around her when they try to help her with the best intentions. Her vulnerabilities show in places where she's challenged and doesn't know how to reconcile them, giving her due dimension. The joy for me was watching her grow as a person through the thick of it all. I liked Hosea as well, though he also had his share of stubborn streaks and flaws through the course of the narrative. The side characters in the novel were easy to follow and identify with as well. It's a compulsively readable title that gives due investment and tribute to the narrative and matters it chooses to mirror. If there were one thing that slowed the experience down for me, it'd probably be the fact that the self-references of the narrative to the characters in the Bible probably weren't needed, because it was already clear in the retelling that Hosea's character was modeled after...Hosea. It seemed a little meta to have Hosea talk about Hosea as referenced in the Bible. (He's named after the character, for goodness sake. At first I was like "Maybe this was done just to make it clear that this was rooted from a Biblical story", but you kind of get that in the context of the narrative itself. )

It was one of the strongest Christian fiction titles I've read to date, though. It doesn't feel too overbearing (certain parts of the narrative drag their heels, but it was more towards the end than the beginning). I took the better part of a week reading this just to take in the writing and the narrative for what it was worth, and I would honestly revisit the story and more of Rivers' writing given the opportunity.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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review 2017-02-17 23:56
Politics, drama, and horses...not necessarily in that order
South Riding - Shirley Williams,Marion Shaw,Winifred Holtby

I decided to tackle a rather formidable bit of fiction pretty much on a whim in the form of South Riding by Winifred Holtby. It took me much longer to read than I had anticipated but that's just a good lesson that sometimes you need to take your time with a book. :-) Apparently this book is a literary classic although I had only heard about it recently through a YouTube channel (Mercy's Bookish Musings if you're curious). What drew my interest (besides the gorgeous cover art) was the setting which is a small area of Yorkshire. (As some of you may know, I'm kinda obsessed with the English countryside and I had the very good luck to visit Yorkshire in 2015 and fell a lot in love with it. THE MOORS, YA'LL.) South Riding is a fictional area of Yorkshire where city councilmen (and a councilwoman) pretty much run the show. If you've ever lived in a small town, particularly a rural one, then you'll recognize the intricate balance between government "officials" and their fellow townspeople. This was set in 1933-35 right at the start of WWII when the country was still harboring hope that the war could be avoided. Our main character, Sarah Burton, is a headmistress who is a revolutionary (at least to the people in South Riding) and ready to shake things up. The lone female on the City Council, Mrs. Beddowes, sees in Sarah a chance to improve the reputation of the school but she also feels that she can muster some amount of control over her (spoiler alert: this is doomed to fail). There are quite a few side stories such as that of Lydia Holly who lives in poverty but aspires to be an academic success the likes of which South Riding has never before seen. Not to mention the rather despicable men who like Mrs. Beddowes are on the City Council. One of them really turned my stomach. *shudder* I went into this book thinking that it was likely to be a romantic tale but if anything the romance was between the characters and their town. It's quite plain that Holtby harbors a nostalgic love of the Yorkshire where she grew up and it's palpable on nearly every single page of this book. If for nothing else, I enjoyed South Riding because of this. Otherwise, it wasn't exactly a life changing read (read Dickens for that). I'd give it a solid 6/10.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-02-17 13:45
Stories of Your Life and Others
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang Please note that I gave this story 4.5 stars and rounded it up to 5 stars on Goodreads.

So I got this book via the library and boy was there a long wait. I think the movie "Arrival" is the main reason why this one took so long to get via Overdrive. I saw Arrival right after the elections and seriously, that was the movie I needed to see at that point. In a big theater with several hundred people getting to watch this amazing story that really showcases why words and language are so important. The visuals were great, so was the music, and the ending left me with so many questions. Once I saw the words based on in the end credits, I made a note of the title and author and promptly went home and put in a hold request. The story based on Arrival is in this collection of works by Chiang. But so are some other stories. Some that definitely made me think and wonder. Some that also made me scratch my head. And there was one that left me feeling somewhat odd and needing to go to church soon. I do love that the overall theme though is how important words and language ultimately are to the people in these stories.

For those who are not used to my reviews based on anthologies/collections, I always give each story it's own rating, and then the overall collection a rating.

"Tower of Babylon" (5 stars)- Who does not know about the Tower of Babylon? I really enjoyed Chiang's look at the workers who built the tower, and what these men really wanted. They wanted to be in the presence of the Creator and wanted to reach the vault of heaven. You actually feel a little sorry for the characters you meet, because you as the reader know how this story is going to end. However, the ending to this one does not follow the Biblical story. It ends up leaving you with a reminder about those who go in search of the divine. I absolutely loved the description of this epic tower. The people who lived within it, and what the sun, moon, and stars looked like from the top of the tower.

"Understand" (5 stars)-This was more science fiction that most of the other stories. Reading about how a man is given an injection that ends up boosting his intelligence is a trope in many movies/books (Flowers for Algernon anyone?) but Chiang goes a step further showing how this man ultimately starts to believe he is above other humans and goes about seeing hat he can do to ultimately be rid of them. There's just a small flaw in his plan. He may not be the only one out there just like him. The ending was pretty smart I thought.

"Division by Zero" (3.5 stars)- I really didn't get this one at all. Probably because I have loathed math most of my life and I still have bad flashbacks to Algebra II and Calculus I courses. I didn't get what was going on with the mathematical theorem in this one, or why the one character was slowly becoming undone by it. It didn't help that we were going back and forth between two characters this whole story who I was flabbergasted to see were more close than I thought until the end. I don't know, the ending was odd and I maybe went huh a few times. Okay a lot.

"Story of Your Life" (5 stars)-This is the story that Arrival was based on. I really enjoyed more in depth information that we got in the book. And I finally understood a few things that had me wondering from the movie. This set-up makes better sense than the movie version. Only because there's a minor issue with us seeing Amy Adams character teaching others the new alien language, though the book shows that maybe only two characters can read and understand the language. And the story leaves you with a question about divine will and what you would do if you knew you could alter something, and what if you did alter something but things stayed the same, because if something is supposed to happen, won't it still happen? This is definitely a story that will have you thinking about fate, the meaning of life, and just a ton of other thoughts meant for 3 a.m. when you can't sleep.

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"Seventy-Two Letters" (2 stars)-The X-Files did it better. Yeah I said it. Reading about a golem, some weird science fiction explanation that had me scratching my head, and this taking place I think in Victorian times (or another Victorian timeline from our understanding of it) just had me confused.

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"The Evolution of Human Science" (2 stars)- I really don't get what this was supposed to be. It was so short compared to the other stories and pretty much walks you through how there are metahumans and humans and humans should not be worried about being wiped out because of metahumans. I started humming the X-Men cartoon series theme song while reading this.

"Hell is the Absence of God" (5 stars)-This one was fairly long and I loved the idea about it. I take it based on the author notes at the end that Chiang meant this to be a more modern look at Job. And I definitely loved it from beginning to end. I also kind of love a world where angels just randomly appear and people believe in blessings, or some don't, and the question of salvation and devotion comes up a lot. I was discussing this story with one of my friends who is very devout and he loved the whole story-line. I think I may have caused him to go find this collection because he thought all of the stories sounded interesting.

"Liking What You See: A Documentary" (5 stars) This should seriously be a Black Mirror episode. If I hadn't binge watched the most reason season I probably would not have thought that, but seriously, this short story would be pretty cool to see on screen. The idea that people have the ability to have something called a calli turned on and off. Calli allows you through something called Spex to view people as if they had cosmetic surgery. In people's minds, if everyone is equally beautiful this would lead to a utopia since no one would be discriminated against for not being beautiful or having perfect features. This whole thing is messed up and I adored every second of it. I think an article I read a few years ago talked about this about how people are more apt to think a beautiful person is telling the truth than those who are not deemed beautiful. I distrust most people until I know them better, and have had grown men and women look me in the eye and lie to me (and yeah I knew it, sometimes I love my job, other times I just sigh) so I think that depending on your job, beauty doesn't factor into it much. I tend to look at body language a lot when talking to anyone in order to determine if someone is not being truthful. Anyway, this documentary style story was great. You get to follow several characters and follow a proposal that would enforce all kids who attend one college to always have calli due to many thinking lookism causing a lot of problems in the world.
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review 2017-02-16 19:56
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen - Jazz Jennings

I don't often read nonfiction. Not because I don't like reading it. It's just something I don't naturally gravitate towards. I tend to reach for more fantastical worlds as a way to relax from the ever polluting realities of our own world. However, this year I want to do something a little bit different. This year I want to read more nonfiction. I want to educate myself about different cultures and experiences. I've always been a very diverse reader, but I want to do that with my nonfiction reading as well. So when my partner and I saw Jazz Jennings memoir at the library, we both decided we HAD to read it.

 

I really enjoyed reading Jazz Jennings's memoir. She writes in a very conversational tone. Almost as if she is in the room with you, just chatting about her day. It was a very relaxing way of conveying her story and message. I enjoyed reading about all the advocacy work she does and I especially loved learning about how loving and supportive her family was. I am fully aware that for some transgender teens and adults, that's not always the case, but I am so happy that Jazz Jennings has a family that loves, supports, and protects her so she can be herself. To be happy. I thought that was beautiful.

 

That's not to say that her life wasn't without struggle. Being transgender, she encountered difficulties when it came to using the girls' restroom in school or being prohibited from being on any female teams when playing sports. Her family fought long and hard so that Jazz could be treated fairly and equally just like other girls. And in the end, it paid off! What makes this an amazing accomplishment is that they paved the way for other transgender kids to have these same rights without having to go to court and fight for them. (Although, I know that no matter what, there will always be struggles for anyone who is transgender or who is considered "different" in our society. But this is why I believe educating yourself and having an open mind could help us better understand one another, so that there's less hatred and violence. Please treat each other kindly.)

 

All in all, I really liked this book. I think if you know a teen who is transitioning or is thinking about transitioning, this is a great book to introduce them to the idea. Or if you know any adults who has a child or teen that is transitioning, they should read this book so that way they can learn to be understanding of their child and their needs. To support their child in any way they can. Parents, more than anybody else, need to try and understand that their child is their child. No matter what. And parents should love their child unconditionally. Whether their child is male, female, trans, intersex, non-binary, etc., remember to always love your child. The world is cruel enough as it is. Do not add to the hatred by discriminating against your own child. 

 

So I do recommend this book for people to learn from. The only downside to this book is that Jazz Jennings writes from a very privileged perspective and she knows that. She points out throughout the book multiple times that she is fully aware she's lucky to have been blessed with understanding parents and the financial needs to transition. So, a lot of the treatments and experiences she talks about in her book are not something everyone will be able to afford or experience themselves. Nevertheless, I still think there are things in this book everyone can benefit from by reading it. Please give this book a read if you come by it. A little bit of education goes a long way.

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