December Book Haul

December is a month where I usually get a lot of books because of the holidays, and this month has been no exception. I bought and received 12 books this month, and while I haven’t yet had the chance to read all of them, I have enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far.

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The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Synopsis:

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.

This is a novel I bought at the beginning of the month and subsequently read. I bought it because I had heard a lot about it being an excellent classic and I had the opportunity to buy it. I gave it four stars, though I had quite a few mixed feelings about it. The main character, Holden, was either extremely annoying or extremely entertaining with little to no in-between. The plot itself was excellent, and the pacing was perfect. I did like how the novel used the teenage slang and language of the time, and there were other aspects that I enjoyed as well. I just couldn’t decide how I felt about the main character, but overall I did enjoy it.

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Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Synopsis:

Kyoto, Japan, 1948. “If a woman knows nothing else, she should know how to be silent. . . . Do not question. Do not fight. Do not resist.” Such is eight-year-old Noriko “Nori” Kamiza’s first lesson. She will not question why her mother abandoned her with only these final words. She will not fight her confinement to the attic of her grandparents’ imperial estate. And she will not resist the scalding chemical baths she receives daily to lighten her shameful skin.

The illegitimate child of a Japanese aristocrat and her African American GI lover, Nori is an outsider from birth. Though her grandparents take her in, they do so only to conceal her, fearful of a stain on the royal pedigree that they are desperate to uphold in a changing Japan. Obedient to a fault, Nori accepts her solitary life for what it is, despite her natural intellect and nagging curiosity about what lies outside the attic’s walls. But when chance brings her legitimate older half-brother, Akira, to the estate that is his inheritance and destiny, Nori finds in him the first person who will allow her to question, and the siblings form an unlikely but powerful bond—a bond their formidable grandparents cannot allow and that will irrevocably change the lives they were always meant to lead. Because now that Nori has glimpsed a world in which perhaps there is a place for her after all, she is ready to fight to be a part of it—a battle that just might cost her everything.

Spanning decades and continents, Fifty Words for Rain is a dazzling epic about the ties that bind, the ties that give you strength, and what it means to try to break free.

This is a novel I had wanted to read for a while, and I bought it at the beginning of the month, and then read it in one sitting. It was a solid four star read for me, I loved the characters and most of the other aspects. The only criticism I have for it is that the plot was a bit outlandish at times, though it was only during certain portions, and the rest of the plot was quite good.

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The History of the World: From the Dawn of Humanity to the Modern Age by Frank Welsh

Synopsis:

In a narrative beginning almost 1.5 million years ago with the emergence of Homo erectus, Frank Welsh takes the reader from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, from the Industrial Revolution to the age of terrorism.

Using his masterly storytelling skills, he recounts the epic story of human growth, survival and achievement across all continents and ages.

Providing insight into the lives of ordinary people in every corner of the globe, this comprehensive book is the perfect introduction to the human history of our planet.

This is a novel that I haven’t yet read, but that I will be getting to soon. I always enjoy reading books that tell a general and broad history of the world, and because of that, I decided to pick up this book. I’m hoping that this will be a useful and interesting book about world history.

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Synopsis:

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

I have been reading quite a few of Adichie’s books lately, and this is the one I purchased, because I had heard the most praise for this novel, therefore I’m hoping it will live up to the hype. The synopsis sounds interesting, and I have already enjoyed Adichie’s writing style and other aspects of her novels; I’m excited to start this novel.

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Black Widow by Waid & Samnee: The Complete Collection by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee

Synopsis:

A knockdown, drag-out tale of action and espionage! The award-winning creative team supreme of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee takes Natasha Romanoff to new heights — by forcing her out on the lam! The world’s greatest superspy has a lifetime of secrets — and when some of the darkest ones are made public, nobody is safe. As S.H.I.E.L.D. turns on its once-greatest asset, the Widow seeks out her own answers. But will Natasha’s hunt for the Weeping Lion send her back to the one place she never wanted to go? There’s an all-too-familiar room with a dark new name in the Widow’s future. And there awaits the deadly Recluse — who’s fixated on proving her worth by killing Natasha!

This was an enjoyable graphic novel, that was on my TBR for quite some time. I liked how the comics were all put together into one graphic novel, so the story could be read in its entirety. The plot and art were both excellent, and overall it was an enjoyable read.

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Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine by Barry S. Strauss

Synopsis:

In this essential and “enlightening” (The New York Times Book Review) work, Barry Strauss tells the story of the Roman Empire from rise to reinvention, from Augustus, who founded the empire, to Constantine, who made it Christian and moved the capital east to Constantinople.

During these centuries Rome gained in splendor and territory, then lost both. By the fourth century, the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire had changed so dramatically in geography, ethnicity, religion, and culture that it would have been virtually unrecognizable to Augustus. Rome’s legacy remains today in so many ways, from language, law, and architecture to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Strauss examines this enduring heritage through the lives of the men who shaped it: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Constantine. Over the ages, they learned to maintain the family business—the government of an empire—by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost.

Ten Caesars is a “captivating narrative that breathes new life into a host of transformative figures” (Publishers Weekly). This “superb summation of four centuries of Roman history, a masterpiece of compression, confirms Barry Strauss as the foremost academic classicist writing for the general reader today” (The Wall Street Journal).

I bought this book on a whim, I had never heard of it before and it just seemed interesting in the moment. It proved to be interesting, giving a brief and informative overview of ten Roman Emperors. The author manages to give a decent amount of information on each of them, despite the limitations that the 300 page (without the bibliography or notes) length of this novel seems to pose.

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Famine by Liam O’Flaherty

Synopsis:

Set in the period of the Great Famine of the 1840s, Famine is the story of three generations of the Kilmartin family. It is a masterly historical novel, rich in language, character, and plot–a panoramic story of passion, tragedy, and resilience.

I had read and greatly enjoyed O’Flaherty’s The Informer, and I was interested in reading another one of his novels. For Christmas, I was given a first edition copy of this novel from 1937, which was very exciting. I’m planning to start reading it soon, and I’m very enthusiastic to start it.

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A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

Synopsis:

This is the women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s. They have waited long enough for their turn . . .

This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of them all . . .

In the middle of the night, a woman wakes to find her beloved city engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over. Troy has fallen.

From the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks, to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf, to Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, to the three goddesses whose feud started it all, these are the stories of the women whose lives, loves, and rivalries were forever altered by this long and tragic war.

A woman’s epic, powerfully imbued with new life, A Thousand Ships puts the women, girls and goddesses at the center of the Western world’s great tale ever told.

This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, so I bought a copy and I’m going to be reading it soon. I love the point of view that it takes, as it is different to write about the women’s point of view during the Trojan War, which I haven’t read before.

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Normal People by Sally Rooney

Synopsis:

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

This is a novel that I’m reading for a book club that I’m in, so I thought I would get my own copy and try to annotate it. I haven’t annotated novels before, except maybe a few times for school, so this will be something new for me. If I enjoy annotating, I may begin to do it for other novels as well. I have heard a lot of praise for this book, and the synopsis sounds interesting, so I think I’ll enjoy it.

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Take Courage : Anne Brontë and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis

Synopsis:

Anne Brontë is the forgotten Brontë sister, overshadowed by her older siblings — virtuous, successful Charlotte, free-spirited Emily and dissolute Branwell. Tragic, virginal, sweet, stoic, selfless, Anne. The less talented Brontë, the other Brontë.

Or that’s what Samantha Ellis, a life-long Emily and Wuthering Heights devotee, had always thought. Until, that is, she started questioning that devotion and, in looking more closely at Emily and Charlotte, found herself confronted by Anne instead.

Take Courage is Samantha’s personal, poignant and surprising journey into the life and work of a woman sidelined by history. A brave, strongly feminist writer well ahead of her time — and her more celebrated siblings — and who has much to teach us today about how to find our way in the world.

I love the Brontë sisters’ novels, and I’ve read a lot about them over the years (especially Charlotte), so I thought it would be interesting to read about Anne, who is definitely the least discussed of the three sisters. I hope this will be an enjoyable and informative read.

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Le pays de autres by Leïla Slimani

Synopsis:

En 1944, Mathilde, une jeune Alsacienne, s’éprend d’Amine Belhaj, un Marocain combattant dans l’armée française. Après la Libération, elle quitte son pays pour suivre au Maroc celui qui va devenir son mari. Le couple s’installe à Meknès, ville de garnison et de colons, où le système de ségrégation coloniale s’applique avec rigueur. Amine récupère ses terres, rocailleuses ingrates et commence alors une période très dure pour la famille. Mathilde accouche de deux enfants : Aïcha et Sélim. Au prix de nombreux sacrifices et vexations, Amine parvient à organiser son domaine, en s’alliant avec un médecin hongrois, Dragan Palosi, qui va devenir un ami très proche. Mathilde se sent étouffée par le climat rigoriste du Maroc, par sa solitude à la ferme, par la méfiance qu’elle inspire en tant qu’étrangère et par le manque d’argent. Les relations entre les colons et les indigènes sont très tendues, et Amine se trouve pris entre deux feux : marié à une Française, propriétaire terrien employant des ouvriers marocains, il est assimilé aux colons par les autochtones, et méprisé et humilié par les Français parce qu’il est marocain. Il est fier de sa femme, de son courage, de sa beauté particulière, de son fort tempérament, mais il en a honte aussi car elle ne fait pas preuve de la modestie ni de la soumission convenables. Aïcha grandit dans ce climat de violence, suivant l’éducation que lui prodiguent les Soeurs à Meknès, où elle fréquente des fillettes françaises issues de familles riches qui l’humilient. Selma, la soeur d’Amine, nourrit des rêves de liberté sans cesse brimés par les hommes qui l’entourent. Alors qu’Amine commence à récolter les fruits de son travail harassant, des émeutes éclatent, les plantations sont incendiées : le roman se clôt sur des scènes de violence inaugurant l’accès du pays à l’indépendance en 1956.

I really enjoyed Slimani’s novel The Perfect Nanny, which I had read in English because I wasn’t aware at the time that she was actually a French author. This is her latest novel, which I bought in French and I am going to read soon. I’m interested in the plot and especially the setting of Algeria in the 1950s, which is a setting that I haven’t read before.

Les Hauts de Hurlevent (Romans éternels #2) by Emily Brontë

Les hauts de hurlevent (Wuthering Heights) by Emily Brontë

Synopsis:

Set in the Yorkshire moors, Wuthering Heights presents the story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliffe, whose doomed love destroys everyone around them. Early reviews of Wuthering Heights were mixed between those who praised the sweeping scope and vivid imagination of the novel and those who found the story overly dark and full of unlikable characters who constantly exhibit hatred and cruelty. This is certainly a dark novel, but one which has become a masterpiece of English literature.

I have an English copy of Wuthering Heights, but this month I got a copy of it in French, and I want to read it soon. I have been trying to read more in French lately, and since I was already familiar with this particular novel, I thought it would be a good choice. I’m hoping that it has a good translation as well.

Overall, that’s it for my book haul!

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