Day 6: Bookquet

Day 6 Inktober 2022: Bouquet

A source of immense happiness and joy, the best companions whether you are chilling at home or stuck in traffic, they can change your mood and make you smile, get rid of those unwanted thoughts, feelings of sadness and loneliness and take you to places never imagined, they are your mentors, your guide, your buddy to laugh and cry with and with them you make lifetime memories. Books are the best gifts you can give someone (me), just like a bouquet of flowers, they will never fail to light up your mood and your mind. Read read read, it’s all that matters, stories will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

#Book Review
Historical Fiction | War | Love | Politics

An incredible novel that tells us about the Biafran civil war of Nigeria and how the lives of people are affected by the turbulence of war. It is a powerful and impactful story about Nigerian history that also discusses relationships and love. 

The story begins with Ugwu, a simple Igbo village boy who goes to a town called Nsukka to work as a houseboy for Odenigbo. Odenigbo is a mathematics professor who can speak confidently about many intellectual topics. He is a socialist and loves discussing politics. Odenigbo is in love with a woman called Olanna who is often treated with love and respect by everyone because of her striking beauty and kindness. Olanna has a twin sister, Kaniene who is not as beautiful as Olanna but is super confident, sophisticated and handles her father’s businesses. There is another character called Richard who is from England. When he visits Nigeria as a journalist he falls in love with the country. He learns to speak the Igbo language and is so fascinated by their culture that he decides to write a book about Biafra.

The story revolves around these five characters, Ugwu, Odenigbo, Olanna, Kaniene, and Richard, and how their lives are affected due to the civil war. It discusses the characters on a deeply personal level and at the same time establishes the struggles of violence, politics, and war. Each of the characters evolves throughout the book after we get acquainted with them in the initial chapters. From vulnerability, poverty, and fear to accepting change, and being hopeful.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a story that paints a very realistic image of the Biafran civil war. As a reader I got pulled into the culture, language, and history of Biafra. It highlights topics like postcolonial traditions, racism, and different ethnicities. Amongst all of this, love is also a prominent theme that remains in the book right till the end, even though it gets a little complicated and twisted due to the complexities of the characters and situations. 

It is a remarkable book that I highly recommend you to read if you are in the mood for a love story in a war background. 

Midnight Light by Brian Paglinco

#BookReview
Poetry|Love|Death|

Midnight Light romanticizes the concept of death, nature, love, and redemption making it a perfect pick for the season of Halloween!

The ideas presented in the book flirt with burial, guardian statues, left behind loved ones, and astronomical figures where the real ones include stars, lights, and night, and the unreal figures are the devil, god, and angels. A background theme that recurs in some poems deals with drugs and their intoxicating effects and how some lives are ended too early because of addiction. The combination of the words on the page along with the photographs that accompany them presents a vivid picture that guides you along a path to find your own understanding of each poem. 

The poems are written artistically and without hesitation about certain themes that are difficult to discuss. It is easy to fall into a world of imagination as you picturise each of these poems while reading them. While the poems are not very simple, they aren’t complex either, which leaves you longing for one more poem before you call it a night. 

This poetry book is a combined passionate labor of love by two friends Michael Pace and Brian Paglinco who share over thirty years of friendship. Michael weaves the rich and rhythmic poems through his writing and Brian has provided captivating photographs that frame the theme of this book which is mainly about love, death, and redemption. I lost track of time, at times, engrossed in the fascinating pictures and uniquely interesting poems which I’m certain many readers too will happen to experience while reading the Midnight Light. 

Also find my review on Reedsy.

The Lighthouse by Christopher Parker

#BookReview
Fiction|Mystery|Love|

This interesting story will take you on a mysterious journey into a magical realm where there’s suspense, love, & of course the lighthouse.

Struggling with the loss of her mother, Amy Tucker finds herself with her father following a case in the mysterious town of Seabrook. There, a chance encounter with Ryan sets in motion a chain of events. The long dormant lighthouse which is the centerpiece of the town comes alight much to the fascination and joy of the local townsfolk. 

Ryan, a ranch owner who also takes care of his ailing father is on the verge of financial ruin. Fate unites Ryan and Amy who look to each other to forget their woes in the festivities of the town. Their intense relationship within a short period of time culminates in a meeting of the hearts where unrevealed secrets spill out of overflowing cups. 

A series of eerie events in Seabrook leads Amy to the lighthouse where she uncovers a truth that shakes the foundations of her reality. The plot gets increasingly more layered and nuanced, brushing with themes of love, betrayal, relationships, death, and the afterlife. The enduring figure of the lighthouse is used as a metaphor for the theme of this book. Beloved yet haunted for the townsfolk, the lighthouse serves as the center stage for many pivotal moments in the story. The Lighthouse is a thrilling page turner written by debut author Christopher Parker and will keep you interested until the end. 

Also find my review on Reedsy.

A Season of Disruption by Jacqueline P Walker

#BookReview
Cultural|Ethnic|Family|Loss|Courage

This beautifully written memoir is heartwarming and inspirational. Life can present us with unpredictable situations for which we aren’t ready most of the times. One such event occurred in the life of an eight-year-old child and this story is about how the family faces this devastating loss. What makes this book so powerful is the determination and courage of the family during times of distress.

When Murna Moreland loses her husband, the responsibility of her five young children falls upon her. Being a homemaker, she has no idea how to provide for her family. So she entrusts her eldest daughter, Hope, to take on the role of a guardian for her younger siblings. Murna goes to the United States to work so she can provide her children with a better life.

During the time away from their mother, the five siblings continue to live their life diligently while taking care of each other. Murna works hard every single day without losing hope and by curbing her fears so she can reunite with her family soon.

A Season of Disruption is a short yet impactful memoir written by Jacqueline P Walker. It discusses death, family, relationships, courage, and hope. Through her story, we can learn how to face challenges, and even though things might seem like they are falling apart at the moment, they will eventually fall back into place. It’s all about holding onto hope and staying strong.

Synopsis of A Season of Disruption by Jacqueline P Walker,

Obstacles are a part of life. Overcoming them motivates others to persevere and soar! A Season of Disruption is a fictional memoir that tells a story of courage, love, and the willpower to withstand challenges that often break and defeat families.

Widowed due to a twist of fate, Murna Moreland, a Caribbean homemaker, makes a nearly unimaginable choice. She leaves her children—alone— in Jamaica and journeys to the US to find opportunities. Murna anticipates that she will be able to have the children join her soon.

Meanwhile, with their father’s death and mother’s departure, 15-year-old Hope assumes guardianship for her four younger siblings. Together the children strive to survive, believing that the separation from their mother will be brief.

In the US, Murna diligently focuses on reuniting her family but obstacles delay and derail her plan. Unwilling to accept defeat, she crafts a risky scheme that will either quickly bring her family back together or keep them apart indefinitely.

You can also find my review on the website: Reedsy

Close Watch by Signe Christensen

#BookReview
Thriller|Fiction|Suspense

Nobody likes the feeling of being closely watched or followed but it’s terrifying to know when somebody actually breaks into your house!

Close Watch by Signe Christensen is a fictional story about Amber, a normal person trying to live a normal life. After her recent breakup with her boyfriend, Sam, she feels like she is constantly being followed to a point where she feels creeped out in her own house. When she reaches out to the police, it leads nowhere because of the lack of information. However her two friends, Karen and Maya, are a great support. Amber relies on them the most, they are always by her side and try to keep her safe. But after Amber’s several attempts to ignore the feeling of being stalked and being threatened, she decides to escape from the city for a while and spend a few days in her aunt’s cottage in Dorset. What happens if this turns out to be a wrong decision?

Close Watch is a entertaining thriller that is easy to read. The story is well narrated, the element of suspense and character building is strong. As a reader I felt dragged into the story right from the start. The book is lighthearted and not too intense. Even though, you might get the feeling that you know who the stalker is going to be, it is a nice read right till the end.

Also, find my review on this website: Reedsy

Happy Here and Now by Matt Tracy

#BookReview
Self-Help|Happiness|Motivational|Self-Improvement

Happy Here and Now: Lasting Happiness You Can Count On gives you the tools that are required to stay happy during the sunniest of days and stormiest of nights.

We are all happy in one moment and sad in the other. We are beings with so many emotions and feelings that sometimes we get carried away by them and end up losing ourselves. We don’t often pay attention to the little joys of life and also the little problems.

Sometimes acting on every emotion like anger, fear, or sadness can have a negative impact on our life. It can even make us regret our actions. Happy Here and Now by Matt Tracy is a self-help book that discusses situations and behaviors that we usually don’t pay attention to or tend to neglect. It is more like a guide that will train us to understand those emotions better, process them, and sometimes learn to let them go.

Grieving must happen, and emotions must be felt, whatever they are. Fear or hatred or worry or disgust must be acknowledged. That is healthy.

Matt Tracy

This book also talks about understanding what happiness really is, how to be grateful, thankful, and forgiving. It’s about listening to our thoughts, becoming more aware, and believing in ourselves. At the end of each chapter, there is a section called Living It that we can follow to pay attention to our emotions and bring changes in our day-to-day lives by being more aware of our habits and trying to improve them.

I found this book interesting to read and found myself agreeing on multiple points that I never considered important. Happy Here and Now is a must-read!

Being aware of your thoughts leaves room for intuition to flourish.

Stop living for the future. Enjoy now.

Matt Tracy

Also, find my review on this website: Reedsy

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Book Review

Memoir | Inspirational | Politics | Success Journey | Autobiography

Where do I begin? How can I say something different about this book that you don’t already know, I guess I cannot because this book is about Michelle Obama. But I can certainly say that it will have a lasting impact on its readers in its unique way. Becoming is a memoir about Mrs. Obama’s personal experiences from childhood to becoming the former First Lady of the United States. It’s about her journey, her successful journey, that was not just rosy but also about taking the rough with the smooth. What makes this journey so amazing is that it’s relatable and at the same time inspiring.

Here’s a memory, which like most memories is imperfect and subjective – collected long ago like a beach pebble and slipped into the pocket of my mind.

Michelle Obama

There are three parts to this book: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, Becoming More.
Just the name of the chapters is good enough to inspire me. Sometimes the hardest part can be understanding yourself, your limitations, your strengths, and it’s all about learning to embrace them.

In the first part, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson talks about her childhood. The place where she grew up which is the South Side of Chicago, about her close-knit family, her neighborhood, and her school. As a kid, she was competitive, a go-getter, and was determined to excel at school. She also took piano lessons from her mother’s aunt, Robbie, at a very young age. Even though they had little money while growing up, her life was filled with rich experiences that have taught her to appreciate the little joys. Her brother, Craig, has been a constant support in her years of growing up. Her father taught her to be strong, brave, and to keep going no matter how hard life gets at times. Her mother taught her the most valuable lessons while she was growing up and she continues to be her role model. Despite the racial inequalities that she had to face at times, she managed to study at Princeton University and also graduated from Harvard University.

Time, as far as my father was concerned, was a gift you gave to other people.

– Michelle Obama

The second part, Becoming Us is about Michelle and Barack Obama. There was excitement from deep down when I reached this part. It’s hard for anyone to not get attracted to Obama’s magnetic personality and his mesmerizing smile, not that Michelle is any less charismatic. When these two powerful personalities come together sparks are bound to fly. Becoming Us is Michelle and Obama’s journey – of how their relationship evolved from colleagues, friends to lovers. When they were truly connecting, I was all starry-eyed while reading it, and it has to be one of my most favorite love stories. Further on, Michelle talks about the good times as well as the bad times that they had to go through because of their immensely demanding jobs. Although, it felt like Michelle had to make more sacrifices in this relationship we cannot hold Obama responsible for any faults since politics is a field where your life belongs more to the public than to your family. She also talks in-depth about motherhood and their lovely girls, Malia and Sasha.

Barack was serious without being self-serious. He was breezy in his manner but powerful in his mind.

There was no arguing with the fact that even with his challenged sense of style, Barack was a catch. He was good-looking, poised, and successful. He was athletic, interesting, and kind. What more could anyone want?

– Michelle Obama

The last part, Becoming More, is about what it takes to be the First Lady and its tremendous responsibilities. She talks about how she managed to learn things that nobody tells you about and how it feels like to be living in the White House. Never a fan of politics, Michelle Obama was worried how their lives will no longer be private anymore. Every little thing was going to be noticed, criticized, or appreciated. Doing the most mundane things like sitting on the balcony to enjoy a cup of tea was out of reach for her. They had become the most important people and with that came many duties towards their country. As the First Lady, Mrs. Obama tried to make the most of this opportunity by putting effort into inspiring children and young girls with the Let’s Move and Let Girls Learn initiatives. Her Joining Forces initiative along with Dr. Jill Biden was aimed towards supporting military families and the Reach Higher initiative encouraged young students to take charge of their future. Even though the Obamas couldn’t bring an immediate change, they worked towards making the country as they think it should be with the hope that future generations will see a better world.

We were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient.

Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?

– Michelle Obama

What makes this book special is telling normal people, like me or us, that celebrated icons have a normal life too and that in turn can make us feel special. They also go through the same emotional ups and downs but nobody shares it in such depth. She is like one of us, living a simple life, doing simple things, and having similar dreams. Nothing over the top, just a normal person getting through life one day at a time. Some excerpts in this book have taught me how life is so short and how we need to make the most of it. She talks about things that sometimes we are terrified to even think about, like death. Nobody tells us how to deal with death, by sharing her intimate experiences, she tells us that even the difficult times will pass, and soon dealing with the terrible pain of loss will not be so hard.

This is an autobiography that’s not just about her, I guess it’s her way of teaching valuable life lessons like a mentor who is looking out for us. It’s not a self-help book but when you have a guide like Michelle Obama why wouldn’t you want to look up to her and learn how to deal with the difficult times. Her honesty and deeply personal experiences are not a boastful act but a subtle way of motivating people to face challenges and to be courageous.

There are so many amazing quotes in this book, I wish I could list all the ones that I have highlighted while I was reading it but then I guess I will end up quoting the entire book. I will hold myself back and only share some of the best ones that you might enjoy reading too.

I’ve smiled for photos with people who call my husband horrible names on national television, but still want a framed keepsake for their mantel.

It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful—a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids—and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.

I’d been raised to be confident and see no limits, to believe I could go after and get absolutely anything I wanted. And I wanted everything. Because, as Suzanne would say, why not?

Dominance, even the threat of it, is a form of dehumanization. It’s the ugliest kind of power.

When I was a kid, it was easy to grasp: Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people.

Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end

– Michelle Obama

It was hard for me to write a review for this book without getting carried away and adding my opinions on situations that resonated with me. Thank you for reading this review till the end. Clearly, I am a huge fan of the Obamas, I will keep it short by saying, “I highly recommend this book so, please go read it!”

PS: I remember the day when somebody told me that I look like Michelle Obama and I had gotten annoyed because obviously, they were not comparing personalities, it was about my skin color. I guess the annoyance came from my childhood experiences where I was often told that I look like Halle Berry or Kiran Bedi because I was a brown-skinned girl with a boy-cut hairstyle. Even though it was supposed to be taken as a compliment I found the comparisons to be a little crude. But now, I feel proud that the person who compared me to Mrs. Obama has given me one of the best compliments ever and I hope that someday I get to be a strong and wonderful woman like her. Here’s to becoming like Michelle Obama!

Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.

– Michelle Obama

Gorgeous Quote #6

To bake a cake in the eye of a storm; to feed yourself sugar on the cusp of danger.

By Ocean Vuong

This quote is from the book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Every line in this book is like poetry, beautiful, graceful and so impactful. The title of the book itself was amazing enough for me to pick it up and start reading. This literary fiction discusses some serious elements like trauma, violence, race, war, and survival.

To explain the above quote, the author says, “In the story, when a girl and her grandmother spot a storm brewing on the green horizon, instead of shuttering the windows or nailing boards on the doors, they set out to bake a cake. I was unmoored by this act, its precarious yet bold refusal of common sense.”

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

#Book Review
Fantasy Fiction|Thrilling|War|Magic

This book was on my Want to Read list for really long, I finally decided to read it and I am glad I did. Uprooted by Naomi Novik is a fantasy novel that will take you on a magical journey through a homely village, a Dragon’s cold tower, warring kingdoms, and the corrupted Wood.

The protagonist of this story is Agnieszka, a 17-year old girl, who loves her village – Dvernik, her family, and her beautiful friend Kasia. The villagers of Dvernik always live in a certain kind of fear, the Wood surrounds the village and many of them have lost a loved one to the Wood. It is not that the people get lost in the forest, the Wood is pure evil and whoever enters the Wood encounters horror and death.

“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”

Naomi Novik

The Dragon, a powerful wizard, protects the villagers and keeps the corruption of the Wood under control. However, the people pay a terrible price for the Dragon’s help. Every ten years, the Dragon takes a young girl from the village to serve him. This year everyone was sure that Kasia would be chosen as she was an ideal choice – young, beautiful, well-mannered, and she could manage all the household tasks. Agnieszka on the other hand was a messy tomboy. Agnieszka knew the Dragon would never choose her but she feared for her dearest childhood friend, Kasia. When the day of choosing arrived, everyone was surprised with the Dragon’s choice.

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true..

Naomi Novik

Now, this is not a story about a Dragon and a girl, it is a lot more! That was just the beginning, honestly I couldn’t believe that a book with around 450-pages could have such a dense plot line. Just when you start thinking, “Alright, now this is where the story is going to build up, bam, mystery solved!” I guess, this is something that makes the book all the more interesting to read. The story keeps you going, it isn’t boring, and it doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the story is super descriptive. You can vividly imagine how it must feel like to be in the Dragon’s tower, Agnieszka’s room, Prince Marek’s mythical kingdom of Polnya, and the dark, creepy forest.

Every day I could watch the Spindle running riotous white with melted ice, and a band of open grass widening from the lowlands, chasing the snow up into the mountains on either side. Rain swept over the valley in silver curtains.

Naomi Novik

Uprooted is a story that has magic, magic spells – Vanastalem being one of my favorites. It is about a strong bond of friendship, romance, war between kingdoms, and the ultimate war with the evil Wood. The only part where I felt slightly let down was how the book ended, I found it way too convenient and more like a happy ending of a movie, but I still enjoyed reading it.

I recommend that you definitely read, Uprooted, if you want to escape reality and enter into a realm of fantasy. Somehow, it even feels real and believable. It’s easy to get absorbed into the story, I loved the character growth of Agnieszka, and the fantastic world-building. The underlying theme of being uprooted affects not only the protagonist but also the other important characters involved in the story.

I was a glaring blot on the perfection. But I didn’t care: I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.

Naomi Novik

They come and go like seasons, the winter that gives no thought to the spring.

Noami Novik