Classic/Historical · Fiction/Science Fiction

The underground railroad – Colson Whitehead

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Goodreads synopsis: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

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My thoughts: I’m sad that I didn’t like this more. Maybe I had too high hopes for it but I thought it would move me more than it did. Since Whitehead won a Pulitzer prize for this one there are obvious people who think this is literature art with some beautiful sentence, genius structure and intriguing story. However, it did not work for me and my biggest problem with the book is that it is written in this type of macro view, the chapters are jumbled and there is a big historical “fault” in the book. If the chapters were in a “correct” timeline order (except Mabel’s chapter) it would not have been too much jumping back and forth for me. I hate broken structure and time jumping like that when it isn’t done with smooth finesse.

So, let’s start with the historical “fault”. I read this book as an historical fiction because that is how it was presented to me. Now however I wish someone would have told me that it is more of an allegory. Then I would probably not have irritated over the fact that in this book the underground railroad is an actual railroad underground with train and everything. I didn’t think I was so bad on American history so I had to dedicate some time to google and find out what was true. No there was no real underground railroad as I thought. And this irritated me boundlessly.

The next thing is that I felt the book somewhat unemotional, distant, meek and cold. No real thoughts or feelings. Nothing that really moved me. Maybe it is me who are to jaded and cold for a book like this, or maybe I can’t relate on the same level since I’m not American or black and my history, family’s history and my country’s history is a lot different. If it would have been written from first person perspective, so that me as a reader would get some thoughts and feelings and not this cold storytelling, I would find it a lot stronger and more relatable. Because feelings I can relate to.

It is still an uncomfortable read with a terrible story and it do make you think. So, Whitehead have done something right. The book is not a graphic read and even though I felt somewhat detached, I think Whiteheads goal was to start some thoughts and of all the discussions I have found on the internet, he has certainly succeeded.

Fiction/Science Fiction · Classic/Historical

1943 – D. Clarke

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Goodreads synopsis: The book doesn’t have a fulfillment synopsis so I will try to write something short about it.

Here we meet Letty. A young teenager who is thrown back in time from 2017 to 1943 Harlem, New York. The time is completely different than what he is used to and you get to follow Lettys struggles to adapt to this hard times. He make friends in a world where being a woman or black is like a sin and you get to follow his struggle to find a way to get back to his own time. We meet some nice characters in this modern time travel story.

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My thoughts: I received this book from the author against an honest review and I must say that I am pleasantly surprised even though I had some big problems with it. I really like time travel books and that is one of the reasons I choosed to read this book.

First off, the language is really weird for me. Let me remind you that English is not my first language and even though I mostly read in English, it will always be a second language to me and this book was just a little too hard. There is no good flow in the language and it keeps switching from proper use of words to slang and in between there are some big words, which I feel don’t belong in the telling of the story. The lack of easy use of the English language and flow did the story hard for me to read and I had to take breaks ever so often due to the strain it put on my mind. I also feel that the book is missing some depth. Both in character reactions, feelings and story wise. This can of course be a result due to the language and my inability to read the book with ease. Unfortunately, I would not recommend the book to someone who do not have English as first language or is a stronger reader than me. Oh and I don’t like the cover. It doesn’t do the book justice.

I do however like the story itself. It is an entertaining idea and it is quite exciting. Even though there is nothing new in the theory about time travel and Clarke have clearly choosed the way that is the most simple and easiest to understand it is likable. I like Letty and I like the characters he meet in 1943. They made the story come alive. I also like the little twist with “Red” and that I didn’t know who he was until the end of the book. The story is also a little sad and it makes you think, which I see as an positive thing.

Would I read anything by Clarke again? Yeah probably. If the book have gone trough some heavy editing first by a professional who could ease up the language for people like me. Until then, No! 🙂

 

Classic/Historical · Fantasy/Paranormal · Fiction/Science Fiction · Young, New adult/College

The horse and his boy – C.S Lewis

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Goodreads synopsis: A wild gallop for freedom. Narnia… where horses talk… where treachery is brewing… where destiny awaits. On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.

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My thoughts: This is so far my favorite among the three books I have read. I really like it. The story is set in the Golden age and it takes place in the south outside of Narnia’s borders. Because Narnia is actually not that big. The book has a completely different feeling. It is somewhat darker and more medieval with fairies, horses, King and Queens and of course, War! They have swords and complete knight equipment. The ladies have big, flowing dresses and they live either in castles or poorer in small houses. They are fishermen’s, farmers or have other, not so legal ways to provide for them self’s. The story is simple and just about a Boy and a horse. Who talks by the way and it makes the story just better. More magical.

They are on an adventure through danger from both people and nature. They meet a girl also with a talking horse and decides that four are better than two. The book is about staying alive, do the right thing, friendship and fight for the weaker people.

There is also a mystery that you don’t get to know the truth about until the end of the book and it made it all more real. A little darker but still with the learning that there is light in the end of the tunnel and if you fight for what’s right, yourself and your friends, you have done alright. And even though the book is a lot darker than what I associate with Narnia, you still get that Narnia feeling.

Classic/Historical · Fantasy/Paranormal · Fiction/Science Fiction · Young, New adult/College

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

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Goodreads synopsis: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy find their way through an old wardrobe into the world of Narnia. There, they unite with Aslan to fight the White Witch and save Narnia from perpetual Darkness.

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My thoughts: This is the second book (chronological order) in the children series about Narnia. I have never read the books before but I have seen some movies, which this is the one I remember the most. I did not expect that the book would be so short and actually a little meager. I remember the movie as so much more and even better now after I’m done with this book. I do not know if that is true so I need to watch the movie again.

But yeah, it went to fast, was a little meager and actually a little bizarre. I feel that the emotions of the children that was in the first book was more realistic and here, this kids just took it all a little to easy. But I do have to say that the movie (as I remember it) is a great and match the book perfectly.

I have to remember that these books are written for children and that I am not a reader of the genre children and young adult. I try but I cant lie to my self and you when it comes to the rating, just because everyone else loved it. I do however think that children to appreciates this book so much more than me, and that I will read this for my children in the future.

Classic/Historical · Non-fiction · War/Military

War’s unwomanly face – Svetlana Alexievich

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Goodreads synopsis: This book is a confession, a document and a record of people’s memory. More than 200 women speak in it, describing how young girls, who dreamed of becoming brides, became soldiers in 1941. More than 500,000 Soviet women participated on a par with men in the Second World War, the most terrible war of the 20th century. Women not only rescued and bandaged the wounded but also fires a sniper’s rifle, blew up bridges, went reconnoitering and killed… They killed the enemy who, with unprecedented cruelty, had attacked their land, their homes and their children.

Soviet writer of Bychorussia, Svetlana Alexiyevich spent four years working on the book, visiting over 100 cities and towns, settlements and villages and recording the stories and reminiscences of women war veterans. The soviet press called the book”a vivid reporting of events long past, which affected the destiny of the nation as a whole.” The most important thing about the book is not so much the front-line episodes as women’s heart-rending experiences in the war. Through their testimony the past makes an impassioned appeal to the present, denouncing yesterday’s and today’s fascism…

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My thoughts: I feel bad for giving this book only an three in rating. But it is not like I rated the history or something like that. It is the books broken structure that bugs the hell out of me. Let me start from the beginning.

In 2015 Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel price in literature. I bought this book back in 2014 (yeah it as been in my bookshelf for 3+ years) and that she later on won a Nobel price has just gone pass me. Maybe I would have read it earlier if I knew it but oh well. Got to it eventually.

It is hard to write a review on a non-fiction book. This is history. This is true stories from a female perspective. Stories about how they stood at the front line with all the male soldiers and fought for their land. It is hard to believe. Some of them wasn’t even older than 16 year. I’m lucky enough to be born in a time where the war still was “fresh” and people who survived it still live and remember. In a time where most followers on Instagram, biggest lips or most money not was the most important in the world. I do, however, regret that I did not ask them more about that time. How was it for my family? Now, I have the stories in books and movies and it is not until now that I realized that all those stories is mostly told by men. And non of them is told by my family. So I will probably never know.

I’m not gonna talk so much about the books contents. It is hard stuff to read, hard stuff to hear and terrible. Just so terrible that there is no words to describe it. It gives you nightmares and it is hard to image a time like that. Hard to image that type of patriotism where you fight until death for your country. I left my country on my own free will, I don’t even know if I would be willing to fight for it if it ever came to that. That is how different our countries and time has taken us. We women (and men) today, should respect and celebrate those women who stood up like that, with fear and children on there backs. Fighting for what was theirs. Fighting for there country and a future for their children.

The big problem I have with this book, and the reason for its low score, is the structure. It was hard to remember who is who, it kept jumping back and forth in time and place and was just mostly confusing. Eventually, so that I would not quit the book, I started to ignore names. I started just to read the stories and listen for the history. Now I can’t say who did and said what. That is to bad, but the stories and history that these women told, is forever lodged in my head. And even if the structure is bad, I feel that everyone should read the book. Not for the history of it but for the perspective. And to have something who weighs against all the stories out there, who have been told by men.

Classic/Historical · Fiction/Science Fiction

To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Goodreads synopsis: The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature. 

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My thoughts: This is an hard review to write. Trying not to step on any toes here. I dont really know how I should put my thoughts and feelings in understandably words. This is one of those classic books that “you just have to read before you die”. Well I haven’t read it before and the story intrigued me so why not? However I dont think it made the same impact on me like on the other millions of people. I have grown up with the learning that every human being, no mater skin color or sex, should not be treated different. We should treat all humans and living things, like for an example animals, such as we want our self to be treated by others. That is such an obvious thing for me that it is hard to think that this is not an reality all over the world. I have seen racism and I have friends who have experienced it. And quite frankly it is hard for me to imagine that people have been and still are, that mean, selfish and disgusting.

In that time period when this book was published (1960’s) the story takes on an really important topic that, at the time was highly discussed and Martin Luther King was on the way up. I know the books was banned from several states in the US and that really shows how close minded some people are and I wish to believe that this book did some great things with lifting some of the problems. Today I think it’s more used as an history novel and classic that shows us how it was and still are at some places. To not forget and to learn and understand and not do the same mistakes again. Do you understand what I mean?

To make a point with this review, the book is really great. Not an full five star rating from me because in this day and time, I do not perceives it as any greater than many other books about the similar theme I have read. I like the story, the characters and Lee has done a wonderful work with describing both the story line and surroundings so that me as an reader gets a feeling that I’m really there. I would totally recommend it to anyone who would listen and feel that no mater where in the world you are from, you should read it.