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text 2017-08-23 03:01
Reading progress update: I've read 70 out of 189 pages.
Caín - José Saramago

How much will I earn, asked cain, The treaders all earn the same, Yes, but how much, That's not my business, besides, if you want my advice, don't ask, they don't like it, first you have to show what you're worth, in fact, don't ask anything, just wait until they pay you,

 

*grimace* yeap, true story

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review 2017-08-22 21:23
A kaleidoscopic novel about India, gender, politics, class, society, and humanity, demanding of its readers but rewarding in the same measure
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: A novel - Arundhati Roy

Thanks to NetGalley and Hamish Hamilton (and imprint of Penguin Random House, UK) for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This is not an easy novel to review. So far I’ve found that with all the novels longlisted for the Man Booker Prize that I’ve read so far. They all seem to defy easy categorisation.

I know the author’s first novel has many admirers and I always felt curious when I saw it (be it at the bookshop or the library) but as it was also a long novel I kept leaving it until I had more time. That was one of the reasons why I picked up this novel when I saw it on NetGalley. I thought it would be a good chance to read one of the author’s works (and I know she’s published more non-fiction than fiction), and I must admit I loved the title and the cover too.

As a starting point, I thought I’d share some of the fragments I highlighted as I read. Some because of the ideas expressed (that made me pause and think), some because of the author’s powers of description, some because they were funny, some beautiful…

I’m not Anjum, I’m Anjuman. I’m a mehfil, I’m a gathering. Of everybody and nobody, of everything and nothing. Is there anyone else you would like to invite? Everybody is invited. (This one I added at the end, when I reread the first chapter, that had intrigued me but at the time wasn’t sure exactly of who was narrating the story, or even if it was a who, a what, a ghost, a tree…)

And she learned from experience that Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.

Then came Partition. God’s carotid burst open on the new border between India and Pakistan and a million people died of hatred.

Saddam had a quick smile and eyelashes that looked as though they had worked out in a gym.

He spoke like a marionette. Only his lower jaw moved. Nothing else did. His bushy white eyebrows looked as though they were attached to his spectacles and not his face.

…a mustache as broad as the wingspan of a baby albatross…

When the sun grew hot, they returned indoors where they continued to float through their lives like a pair of astronauts, defying gravity, limited only by the outer walls of their fuchsia spaceship with its pale pistachio door.

Normality in our part of the world is a bit like a boiled egg: its humdrum surface conceals at its heart a yolk of egregious violence.

She walked through miles of city waste, a bright landfill of compacted plastic bags with an army of ragged children picking through it. The sky was a dark swirl of ravens and kites competing with the children, pigs and packs of dogs for the spoils.

These days in Kashmir, you can be killed for surviving.

In Kashmir when we wake up and say ‘Good Morning’ what we really mean is ‘Good Mourning’.

I think the first quotation (and one I mention later on), in some way, sum up the method of the novel. Yes, it is the story of Anjum, a transgender (well, actually intersex) Muslim woman from India who, from a very young age, decides to live her life her own way. She joins a group of transgender women (who’ve come from different places, some who’ve undergone operations and some not, some Christian, some Hindus, some Muslim, some young and some old…) but at some point life there becomes impossible for her and she takes her things and ends up living in a cemetery. Although she starts by sleeping between the tombs, eventually, with a little help from her friends, ends up building up a semblance of a house (that incorporates a grave or two in each room), where she offers room and boarding to people who also feel they don’t belong anywhere else. Her business expands to include offering burials to people rejected by the official church. But the story (yes, I know it sounds weird enough with what I’ve said) is not only Anjum’s story, the story of her childhood, her struggles, her desire to be a mother at any price, but also the story of many others. People from different casts, religions, regions, with different political alliances, professions, interests, beliefs… The story, told in the third person, also incorporates poems, articles, entries from a peculiar dictionary, songs, slogans, pamphlets, in English, Urdu, Kashmiri… The telling of the story is fragmented and to add to the confusion of characters, whose connection to the story is not clear at first, some of them take on different identities and are called by different names (and many difficult to differentiate if one is not conversant with the names typical of the different regions of India and Pakistan). Although most of the entries in other languages are translated into English, not all of them are (I must clarify I read an ARC copy, so it is possible that there have been some minor changes in the definite version, although from the reviews I’ve read they do not seem to be major if any at all), and I clearly understand why some people would find the reading experience frustrating. All of the fragments of stories were interesting in their own right, although at times I felt as if the novel was a patchwork quilt whose design hid a secret message I was missing because I did not have the necessary key to interpret the patterns.

The settings are brought to life by a mixture of lyricism, precise description, and an eye and an ear for the rhythms and the ebbs and flows of the seasons, the towns, and the populations; the characters are believable in their uniqueness, and also representative of all humanity, observed in minute detail, and somewhat easy to relate to, even though many of them might have very little to do with us and our everyday lives. But their love of taking action and of telling stories is universal.

There is a lot of content that is highly political about the situation in Kashmir, religious confrontations in India, conflicts in different regions, violence, corruption, class and caste issues, gender issues, much of it that seem to  present the same arguments from different angles (all of the people who end up sharing Anjum’s peculiar abode are victims of the situation, be it due to their gender, their caste, their religion, their political opinions, and sometimes because of a combination of several of them) and I read quite a few reviews that suggested the novel  would benefit from tougher editing. I am sure the novel would be much easier to read if it was thinned down, although I suspect that’s not what the author had in mind when she wrote it.

This is a challenging and ambitious novel that creates a kaleidoscopic image of India, an India made up of marginal characters, but perhaps truer than the “edited” versions we see in mass media.  I have no expertise in the history or politics of the region so I cannot comment on how accurate it is, but the superficially chaotic feeling of the novel brings to mind the massive contrasts between rich and poor in the country and the pure mass of people that make up such a complex region. Although stylistically it is reminiscent of postmodern texts (made up of fragments of other things), rather than creating a surface devoid of meaning to challenge meaning’s own existence, if anything, this novel’s contents and its meaning exceed its bounds. The method of the novel is, perhaps, encapsulated in this sentence, towards the end of the book, supposedly a poem written by one of the characters: How to tell a shattered story? By slowing becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything.

As I’ve written many times in my reviews, this is another book that I would not recommend to everybody. Yes, there are plenty of stories, some that even have an end, but it is not a book easy to classify, nor a genre book. There is romance, there are plenty of stories, there is poetry, there is politics, history, war, violence, prejudice, friendship, family relationships, but those are only aspects of the total. And, beautiful as the book is, it is not an easy read, with different languages, complex names, unfamiliar words, different styles and a fragmented structure. As I have not read Roy’s previous novel, I don’t dare to recommend it to readers who enjoyed her first novel, The God of Small Things. From the reviews I’ve read, some people who liked the first one have also enjoyed this one, but many readers have been very disappointed and have given up without reading the whole book. I’d say this is a book for people who like a challenge, who are interested in India from an insider’s perspective, don’t mind large doses of politics in their novels, and have the patience to read novels that are not page-turners full of twist and turns only intent on grabbing the readers’ attention at whatever cost. Check the book sample, read other reviews too and see if you’re up to the challenge. I know this is a novel that will stay with me for a very long time.

 

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review 2017-08-22 04:58
Hearts of Purpose: Real Life Stories from Ordinary Women
Hearts of Purpose: Real life stories from ordinary women doing extraordinary things for the glory of God. (The Call) - Gail G Nordskog

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Title: Hearts of Purpose: Real Life Stories from Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things for the Glory of God.
Author: Gail G. Nordskog
Publisher: Nordskog Publishing
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:

"Hearts of Purpose: Real Life Stories from Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things for the Glory of God" by Gail G. Nordskog

My Thoughts......from this wonderful read...where each author brings their story alive.

These were beautifully written stories about ten women on their remarkable journeys that made a 'great impression' on Gail Grace Nordfskog as well as to its readers.

I will introduce each other and offer up a discussion question. Now, you will have to pick up this good read to see for yourself and be able to answer the questions that are offered up at the end of each ones section of their story.

First we have Chapter one with Mary Ann Ambroselli whose main focus was on 'Counseling on Keeping PreBorn Babies Alive.
Discussion Question: This one caught my eye...Mary Ann suffered many losses in her family. Have you ever wondered where God is when tragedy strikes?

Second Chapter we visit with Cindy Reynolds whose main forcus was 'Ministry to Orphans in Linjiang.
Discussion Question:What does this mean "If you depend upon Jesus, your enemy will become your Friend? I found this quite interesting!

Chapter Three...Audrey Forster whose focus was 'Worldwide Adoptions and Aid to Orphans.
Discussion Question: When you reflect on your talents and gifts, what do they include?

Chapter Four: Patricia Blanco Steele focus on: Transforming the Lives of Abused Women and Children
Discussion Question: In reading Trisha's thoughts on "Love," which items impact you the most?

Chapter Five: Julie Dawson Focus: To Bring Healing to the Nations through the Multiplication of Medical Ships and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To Disciple Nations through Evangelism and the Multiplication of Leadership Schools for the South Pacific ad Asia
Discussion Question: Do you believe that "all things work together for good: Romans 8:28

Chapter Six: Lisa Shidler focus: Helping and Training Special Needs Orphans
Discussion Question: In reading about special needs children, what stands out in your mind about them?

Chapter Seven: Marilyn Pulis Minister, Ordained by the Assemblies of God Pulis Ministries
Focus on: Spreading the Gospel
Discussion Question: When was the first time you felt the presence of the Lord?

Chapter Eight: Lili Vaehr: CFO, MovieGuide & Good News Communications Inc.
Focus on: Biblical Guide to Movies and Entertainment
Discussion Question: Instead of a question here I would like to just add Lil's Five Don'ts to Help You Succeed in Parenting, Marriage and Life..

Don't Create Your Walls
Don't Wait
Don't Compartmentalize
Don't Be Afraid
Don't Quit

Chapter Nine: Nita Hanson Director, God's Hidden Treasures
Focus on: Bringing Hope to the Forgotten
Discussion Question: Have you ever felt that you are a "mistake?"

Chapter Ten: Sharon Daly President, The Mossy Foot Project, Ethiopia
Focus on: Providing Mossy Foot Patients with Support through Education, Prevention, Medical Treatment, Vocational Training and a Message of Hope
Discussion Question: I loved this one coming from the read....

"I have been in every moment of your past,
My hand formed you
I am with your now.
I will be with you in the future.
All tomorrows are in My hands.
Trust Me daily.
Trust Me moment by moment.
I am your life and your portion.
Trust me for everything.
I will never leave you or let you down?"

All that is left to say after reading and absorbing it all from these wonderful well written stories is to thank this author for presenting such a good reads to the readers. I didn't know when I picked this read that I was about to receive so much from each one of the stories that will truly stay with me forever. I even tried to pick a favorite one but couldn't because each one of the reads touched me in different ways.

I loved the 'Two Pertinent Devotions in Closing from New Every Morning from the author of this book: Gail Grace Nordskog.... A Daily Devotional Glorify the Lord....Oh, magnify the Lord, with me, and let us exalt His name together. [Psalms 34:3] and If God Be For Us...When then shall we say to these things? If god is for us, who can be against us? [Romans 8:31]

Thank you to the author and WNL for sending me your novel for me to give my honest opinion of its read. These were truly "Real-life stories about ten ordinary women doing extraordinary things for the Glory of God."

 

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review 2017-08-19 21:09
Great take on the Cycle
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

It was gloriously awesome. How much of the merit goes to Gaiman and how much always belonged to the myth compendium has little bearing in my enjoyment.

The stories are tall tales indeed: huge, fun, magical, gruesome. The characters are as great as flawed: Odin lies, cheats, seduces and steals; Thor is a block-head to which every problem is a nail (hah); and Loki is the charming psychopath. All this is more or less merit of the Edda.

The book is a fast read, very approachable, very engaging, and the order of presentation and building makes it easy to follow the names and elements. The text is cheeky, and has many little asides that had me in stitches, turning wistful and lyrical as we come to the bittersweet end. All this, plus some nuances to the dialogues that made them hilarious (or creepy, or bittersweet), was Gaiman I reckon.

It is a book I want to buy. I want to re-read it, whole and by pieces. Have it as a reference. Read from to my children. Also, as an object, it is a beauty. Full stars.

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text 2017-08-19 02:42
Reading progress update: I've read 210 out of 256 pages.
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

"Loki examined the berries, the stems, and the leaves. He thought about poisoning Balder with mistletoe berries, but that seemed too simple and straightforward.
If he was going to do harm to Balder, he was going to hurt as many people as possible."

 

He's been an unmitigated bastard (though a fun and charming one) so far, but his malice in this one is so starkly revealed, so cruel. It truly is of epic, godly, proportions. Not to mention ambitious, lol.

 

“How terrible. How sad. You have killed your brother,” said Loki. But he did not sound sad. He did not sound sad at all.

 

Calls me back to the story on his children (which is neat, given the general direction), and this description

 

"Loki was handsome, and he knew it. People wanted to like him, they wanted to believe him, but he was undependable and self-centered at best, mischievous or evil at worst."

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