Archive | December, 2014

Book Review: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (5/5). I cut my lunch short because a character made me so angry I couldn’t look at the book anymore.

8 Dec

I honestly don’t know why I grabbed this book. I was at a massive book sale last year and saw it on the $2 table and decided I needed to have it. When our library sponsor was asking for book club books, I recommended this one, always excited to get a book off my personal list and into a book club. I’m so glad I did. This book was amazing.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Summary from Goodreads:

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves.

How many ways can I say that I loved this book? There are stories without much action that drag and there are those, like this gem, that develop slowly but let you get to know the characters and watch them change and feel what they feel and fall in love. I haven’t highly recommended a book in a long time, but I’m pushing this one on people.

I loved how real the characters felt. Gogol and his family reminded me of a coworker of mine and her family. I know she struggles between her Indian heritage and the Americanization of her sons and the life around her. It’s a struggle that’s very real to immigrants of any nationality and I thought Lahiri covered it well. Gogol’s struggle in particular was something I saw growing up. I knew a girl named Young who went by Sarah, a boy named Sae-Jeung who went by Kevin and a boy named Dushianth who went by Dushy. Names can be hard to live win, especially ones that are hard to say or spell. Gogol’s anguish was understandable.

Ashima was my favorite character by far. She reminded me of my co-worker who I’m very close with. She made me think of a good friend of mine from high school whose parents were Taiwanese immigrants and who I know deeply missed their family. They weren’t able to go back to visit often. My friend had a very Americanized name but her Taiwanese name was her middle name and she didn’t tell it to any of us for a long time. It was a sort of secret that she hid, much like Gogol and his birth name. I think Ashima was very relatable.

My parents are not immigrants, nor am I, but I think the story has some very universal elements to it. I’ve already compared similar struggles to friends of mine from Eastern Asia. If you are a first generation immigrant, do you think the story is universal?

Image via The Telegraph

Image via The Telegraph

I loved the time Gogol spent with Maxine. I believe the time was very escapist for him and it was fun to watch. He was trying to become Nikhil, whoever he was, and liked exploring someone else’s life, like he was exploring someone else’s name. I loved how care-free and relaxed we see him during this time. I think it provides a stark contrast to when he tries to go back to his roots afterward.

I started to get mad at the book when Moushumi cheated on Gogol. That’s when I threw the book down on the table and stalked away. It made me so angry that the world seemed to be working against Gogol ever finding happiness and understanding. He thought that someone with his background would help him feel like he fit in, but Moushumi was rushing into a relationship as fast as Gogol was. It broke my heart to see her hurt him like that.

I loved all the messages about family in this book. Gogol tried to escape his family and become a part of someone else’s, but he realized that the things tethering him to his parents were stronger than his desire for change. But the thing he turned to for stability left him. In the end, it was his mother he could return to and his father’s memory that comforted him. I thought it was really beautiful.

Writer’s Takeaway: Wow, I don’t know what to say about the style in this book and how to use it in my writing. It’s hard to put my finger on what made the writing click so well for me. Lahiri uses long paragraphs but doesn’t get too hung up on detail. She used simple language, not bogging down the story with language and letting it move along. She used third person limited from a lot of heads but was able to keep the focus on Gogol. The things other people described either had him in the scene or directly affected his life. She had a great balance in everything she did and the writing was really beautiful.

A full five out of five for this book. I loved it so much.

This book fulfills Massachusetts for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: Book Review | Ripple Effects
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri | Ink on Paper

Friday 56, 5-December-2014

5 Dec

Welcome to the post-Thanksgiving edition of The Friday 56 hosted by Freda on Freda’s Voice. I missed last week due to travels but I’m glad to be back. Head on over there and check out the other participating blogs.

Friday 56

The way this meme works is pretty simple. If you want to join in, head over to Freda’s blog and add your link.

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book (I grab the one I’m currently reading)
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.

The book I’ve in the middle of now is These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner. It’s a story about a girl growing up in the Arizona Territories around 1880. I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Page 56 is only a few lines (end of a chapter) but this is from the bottom of page 55. It’s the narrator answering a question her brother asked her about how a man should court a woman.

Well, I don’t know those things but I tried to tell him to just wash his face and hands and comb his hair, be an honest man and a good sport and kind hearted to her feelings, and if she doesn’t like him he has got to go slow, and bring her some flowers and such and tip his hat.

I thought this was a great summary of how a woman wants to be treated whether it’s today or in the 1880s. It’s fun to read this now and see how women have been courted in the book since Sarah (the narrator) said this.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Read Along With Me #2: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar Chapters 22 – END

4 Dec

Read Along 2

Here is the final installment of my Second Read Along! I’m sad it’s over, but I’ve really enjoyed the ride. The book this time was ‘The Space Between Us’ by Thrity Umrigar which was very different from our last choice, but a great book for discussion. You can look at all of our posts on the hub page. I hope to have a new one start in January so keep on eye here if you think this is something you’d like to do in the future. Here we go!

Question from AshleeIn chapter 24, Sera comments that women live for so much more than themselves and men can take more risks because they always have suicide as an option. This comment caught me off guard. How did you ladies take this?

I didn’t like this comment and at the same time understood it. Women are hardwired to be caretakers; we want to help stray puppies and play with orphans. These feelings are only magnified for our families, especially children. Women live for their children and while many men do as well, it’s not as natural for some of them. I think Sera’s point is that a man is more likely to see suicide as an option because he doesn’t see as much duty to those around him whereas a woman wouldn’t consider it because she would be scared of what would happen to her family if she weren’t around.

 

Question from Claudia“Will Serabai ever be able to forget those words, to bury them under the protective layers of forgetfulness and denial?” More secrets! I cannot help but wonder what Sera will do now that she has discovered the truth behind Viraf’s cruel undertaking on Maya. What do you think is the “right” thing to do? As a mother, friend, sister, daughter, would you open up about the truth on something as unsettling as this?

I’m still wondering if Sera believed Bhima’s story about Viraf. I’d like to think she completely believed her and knows that her son-in-law is a sorry excuse for a man. I’d like to think she knows Bhima better than anyone else and knows that she’d never lie or steal. However, I’m afraid that she’s been conditioned by those around her to distrust her friendship. her neighbors and friends have been telling her that she can’t trust Bhima because, in the end, she can turn on Sera, stealing and killing if she needs to. I think it’s easier for Sera to believe Viraf. It fits in more with her friend’s ideal and keeps her family together. By simply rejecting the words of her servant, she doesn’t disgrace her son-in-law and saves her daughter from loads of pain. I think this will always haunt Sera but it’s something she’ll have to live with.

 

What a wonderful book! I won’t write a full summary of it because I think it’s been discussed enough here, but I’m so glad I got to read this title with these two wonderful ladies. I’ll be announcing the next read-along after my semester ends next week. I’m not really able to think of anything else until then.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 3-December-2014

3 Dec

Time for MizB’s WWW meme yet again! I’m still at the tipping point for many of my books so expect a bunch of updates to come in a rush. It’s more fun that way, right?

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  My ebook is still The Domesday Book by Connie Willis. As always, it’s progressing slowly though I’ve been able to read a few good chunks of it in the last few days which has been great.
I’m getting close to the end of Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett on audio but haven’t made much progress since I’ve been out-of-town. I’m getting antsy to finish it soon, though!
The audiobook on my phone is California by Eden Lepucki and I’ve finally made it to Chapter 10. I’m going to put this on hold, though, so I can concentrate on an e-audiobook from the library. Darn due dates.
I’m in the middle of my last book for the When Are You Reading? Challenge, These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner. I really disliked this book at the beginning, but I’ve since been sucked into it and I hope to finish soon!

Recently finished: I finished The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver last Wednesday and I loved it! I’m excited to have my book discussion with the work girls tomorrow.

Reading Next:   My next physical book will be The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood for a book club. I’ve also got Paper Towns by John Green checked out as an e-audiobook which I’ll be starting on ASAP. I’ve only got 18 days to finish it up and I’m super excited.

The school semester ends next week and I hope to get some quality reading time once it’s done. That will be my Christmas present. How is your WWW? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Challenge Update, November

2 Dec

Okay, some progress. It’s minimal-ish. I’m right in the middle of the book that will finish the Historical Fiction challenge so I’m looking forward to being able to call that one DONE before the end of the year.  You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in October:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (4/5)
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (4/5)
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (5/5)
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (5/5)

Only two reviews behind! (For now.)

When Are You Reading? Challenge

12/13
This is my challenge to read a book from 13 different time periods. You can read about it here. My timeline tracks when my books take place and it’s pretty obvious I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary. And I promise I’ll fill in the last period within the week! I’m over halfway through a book that fits right in and I’m loving it so it’s flying! So pumped.

Where Are You Reading? Challenge

21/50 (+18)
Hosted by Sheila. In the challenge to read a book from every state, I’m not focusing enough on American settings. My map shows some clusters, but I’m trying to spread it out.

Yay for states! I’ve added three states with this months completions: Missouri (Gone Girl), Massachusetts (The Namesake) and Arizona (The Bean Trees). The Space Between Us didn’t add anything because I’d already read a book set in India.

Goodreads Challenge

55/35

DONE! I’m so awesome. Don’t mess with me.

How are your challenges going? I hope you’re not too far off pace just yet! If you want any more information about the challenges I’m doing or you’d like to join me, leave a comment and check out the links. There’s also information in my Challenges tab.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Life of a NaNoWriMo Rebel: Week 4

1 Dec

It’s over! Congratulations to everyone who participated in any capacity; you’ve added words even if it’s not 50,000 of them. My rebellious nature continued and here’s what I’ve got:

 

Day 24: Nothing

Day 25: 1 hour (write-in)

Day 26: Nothing

Day 27: 1 hour

Day 28: Nothing

Day 29: Nothing

Day 30: 1.5 hours

Again, spotty but good enough! I was in California visiting family over Thanksgiving so all my writing was done on the plane there and back. Kudos to my husband for dealing with my elbows in his lap.

It’s not a full NaNo and this is bothering me, but at the same time I’m fine with it. I got about 32,000 words which is huge! And this draft feels a lot more flushed out than my previous one did. I’ve been able to add scenes, smooth character progression, and I’ll be changing the ending so things are about to go crazy!

I’m really proud of this and I’m not going to call myself a NaNo Winner per say, but I met my goal (on average) for every day this month. I’m really excited about this and I’m hoping I can make writing time a more regular part of my schedule throughout the year. I’ve got a lot in my head I’m dying to get out to share with the world.

How was your NaNo? How many words did you get?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!