The Golden House – Review: ARC

The Golden House coverThe Golden Houseby Salman Rushdie – DNF (no star rating)

The Golden House is the type of book I tend to love: high literary fiction which is satire and political commentary. However, even I have my breaking point with such novels and The Golden House has hit it. At almost 30% (chapter 13), this is a DNF for me and I suspect I won’t be picking it back up.

While I do not think literary fiction needs to reference other fiction or the like in order to be literary fiction, I don’t mind it in stories and I do find, when well done, it contributes greatly to the story line. However, in The Golden House, the name dropping is incessant and unnecessary. Very quickly it feels like Rushdie is simply doing it to prove that not only has he been well versed in the classics, like Greek mythology, but he is also completely up to date on news stories and happenings throughout the world. The references are all over the place and quite often add nothing to the story but frustration. The references are often obscure, almost on purpose, and many other times, are things only a few well read people would have come across. The reader is left feeling throughout the book that s/he must be missing something crucial by not understanding all these references. This will be a major impediment to this book finding an audience.

I personally have no problem reading a book that regularly refers to a few pieces of literature, even if I do not know them that well or even have never heard of them. I will stop reading the book to spend time going over the literary reference. Referring to other literature can be an effective literary device and I was interested in the Greek mythology references tied to the characters names in The Golden House. Readers of my blog will note that I highly recommended The Judgement of Richard Ritcher, which continuously throughout the book references a story I had not heard of going into the book. It was an effective literary device. I strongly suspect that had I finished The Golden House, the references to Greek mythology would have been highly effective literary devices. I am not critical of those references. I am critical of nearly every other reference, including to “famous” people and other very specific Manhattan snobbish, high-minded references.

Underneath the layers of random, unnecessary, obnoxious references is a typical literary fiction story, in which the first part spends significant time on character development. If one can ignore feeling in the dark because of the references, there is rich enough character development that I do not think it is entirely necessary to understand the random references (of course, the Greek ones are vital to the story). At about 15%, I decided to not slow down for the references I was unaware of and simply pushed through them. In doing so, I saw the beauty of Rushdie’s character development. It is an unusual style that is a bit challenging to get into, random references aside, but then at some point, it becomes crystal clear who the character is, was, and will be. The reader feels s/he is fumbling along through long sentences that do not seem to be going anywhere, until all of a sudden, one arrives at the destination. I fully grasp why people praise Rushdie’s writing. There is much beauty in it.

Ultimately, the random, incessant references were not why I gave up on this book. I was willing to look past them. By this point in the book, I am mostly invested in the characters and am interested in seeing how this plays out. The reason I gave up reading this book was personal. It is not something easily put into words, in part because of its intimacy and vulnerability, but mostly because it is simply a feeling I get from this book. It would be challenging to write a book about the Trumps, err Goldens, and not leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth. There is something seedy, dirty, misogynistic, and unsettling about this book, but it is just a hint of a feeling, but a feeling strong enough it was becoming increasingly more challenging to read this book. As some one particularly sensitive to such threads in a book, I trust that this book will only become more challenging to read as it progresses and I am currently not in the head space to cope with those challenges. If my dog weren’t dying, maybe I would be, but right now, I am not in a space to read a book that goes down the rabbit hole of the Trumps, err Goldens. I do hope to get back to this book, but I won’t try to read it again until I am able to read reviews by people other than those whom excitedly requested the ARC or snatched up early copies. Only then will I get a true sense of what I am in for if I finish this book and without that sense, I do not see me picking this book back up anytime soon.

I received this book from Netgalley and Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Add to your Goodreads TBR! The Golden House

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Little Gold – Review: ARC

Little Gold coverLittle Gold by Allie Rogers – 4/ 5 stars

Trigger Warnings: Suicide attempt (not graphically depicted) and sexual assault (not graphically depicted)

Little Gold is a touching, heartfelt story about a little girl called Little Gold who is struggling to navigate a family falling apart and a world which is not accepting of who she is: a tomboy and a lesbian. Her neighbor, Peggy, an older woman, with grandmother like qualities, befriends Little Gold in part to bestow upon her acceptance and information Little Gold would otherwise not have received.

This book was challenging to get into at first. It is heavily British and there are many words which I was not familiar with, though they made sense in context. It is a slow start and it was not entirely clear where the book is going. In fact, I expected the book to go into more depth about the girls who bully Little Gold for dressing like a boy, but that storyline faded away quickly. This is not exactly a coming of age story, particularly around Little Gold’s identity and sexuality. Instead, it is a coming of age story during a family crisis and a significant shift in living standards. It is a story of navigating through the dark.

It is hard for me to describe this book as it is an emotion that carries one through to the end. Somehow, Little Gold grew on me and I felt for her as she watched her family fall apart, helpless to do much of anything. Yet somehow, this is not a book which made me cry; there is always this sense that things will work out.

This book tends to be a bit vague, though the major plot points are resolved. I was a bit disappointed with how well things wrapped up in the end as it was a bit too convenient. But it was so heartwarming, the end didn’t much affect the rating.

I recommend this book to the serious reader; the kind of reader willing to push past a slow beginning to get to an amazing story. This book is not for everyone, but it is an excellent book for the right type of reader.

I received this ebook free from Netgalley and publisher Legend Times Group in exchange for an honest review.

Add to you Goodreads TBR! Little Gold

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through and This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

The Shadow of the Wind – Reflection: Sexism

23682460491_1547feaeed_oPhoto credit: Ad busting: Stop sexism | luckyfotostream | CC 1.0

When I was reading The Shadow of the Wind I found myself getting angry and frustrated with the level of constant sexism. Worse though, I started attributing it to Spanish culture, even though I know this was simply one account of how things might have been in Spanish after the war. I kept flashing back to my time in Spain as a teenager and struggling to navigate a more aggressive sexual culture than what I had experienced in Midwestern America. I was uncomfortable with that experience and the book reminded me of that discomfort. But this time, I was uncomfortable with my discomfort.

When I watched the television show, Mad Men, I was not particularly bothered by the sexism. Yes, it angers me that that’s how it used to be, but I expect to see it during that time period. So why was I unable to chalk up the sexism in The Shadow of the Wind up to the time period? Is racism driving my concern that this type of sexism isn’t simply the time period, but part of a culture.

In the United States, there is a perception that in Latin American cultures, there is an aggressive sexual culture where men after forward and crass about their desires. I have previously dismissed this as likely a racist view of a culture people do not understand. Yet, when I was reading The Shadow of the Wind, I found myself assuming this was more of a cultural issue than a time period issue. I let a stereotype become true because I saw it in one book set in Spain.

I am still sorting out my reaction to the sexism in the book. I dislike sexism and I have no problem with my revulsion to some of the scenes in the book. Yet, I fear I focused too much on it to the point where I missed out enjoying a good book because I was so angry at a culture for treating women that way. I read this book with my perception of the world and was not able to fully put that aside. While I stand by my rating of the book, this is something I need to be more aware of in the future as I come across books with scenes I detest. I give American authors leeway I failed to give a Spanish author and I want to do better in the future.

When reading a book set in another time period, in a culture different from your own, how do you understand the rampant sexism in the book? Is it something to chalk up to a different era or a different culture? Should there be criticism for a book reflecting a reality? When do you let such things go?

The Shadow of the Wind – Review: Library

The Shadow of the Wind coverThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – 3.5/ 5 stars

When I walked into my library and saw this book on display, I immediately wanted to read it. I took it home and had to convince myself I needed to wait to read it until I finished the book I was currently reading. It’s not often that a book calls to me in such a way that I want to drop everything to start it, but The Shadow of the Wind called to me, which is a bit poetic since the entire premise of the book is that a book called to Daniel and led him down a path of mystery, intrigue, and danger. I wish this book had been as compelling for me as Daniel’s was for him. While I started with really high hopes, those hopes crumbled throughout the book.

In The Shadow of the Wind, a young son of a bookstore owner, Daniel, comes across the book, The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Yes, both the actual book and the fictitious book have the same name. Daniel devours the book and then seeks to learn more about the author. What he learns is that there are no other books by Julián Carax left in print because someone has been systematically destroying them. I found this to be an intriguing premise and to a certain extent I was captivated by its slow reveal, but there were several aspects which left me unsatisfied.

The first was how Daniel responded to this information. While the book blurb seems to indicate that Daniel will set out immediately to solve this mystery, actually, he is much more focused on a girl than the book or the story around the author of that book. While there is value in this story line, it drags on for entirely too long. In addition, this is where I stopped having a great affinity for Daniel. Like his father, I was incredibly disappointed with a choice that Daniel makes and honestly, it made much of the rest of the book unbelievable to me. This one action greatly shows who Daniel is and it isn’t a kind of person who would much care about unraveling a mystery, especially at great cost. While I enjoyed the unfolding of the mystery, I struggled to understand why Daniel was a central figure in it or why there was no movement on the mystery for many, many years and pages. My loss of affection for Daniel was a serious blow to the book as I care much more about characters than I do plot and this ended up costing the book a full star.

I also had problems with Daniel’s love interest. Unfortunately, it is challenging for me to say much about my problems without possibly spoiling the book. Suffice it to say that one love interest is better developed and makes much more sense in the context of the book and what the author is trying to accomplish where the other one is annoying instalove with little development and does not fit well within the broader story. Add to the top of that the constant, horrible, unnecessary sexism and it was hard to read much of the plot on the love interest at all. Of course, the sexism was not only towards Daniel’s love interests, but nearly every female character in the book. Yes, I understand that during the time period the book is set in, there was significant sexism and also that there may be differences in cultural views on women, but in the end, much of this commentary was strictly unnecessary and simply detracted from the enjoyment of the book. Again, I care much more about characters than I do about plot and these comments prevented me from having great affinity for nearly any male character in the book.

Since I found myself unable to connect to male characters, I pretty much was unable to connect with any character as nearly all female characters were background characters used to drive the story along. The most depth we get from female characters is from two different women who reveal much of the solution to the mystery. Whether men or women tell these stories, the characters always know significantly more than is possible for them to know. Their stories are told to other characters in the books, but yet they are written as simply another narrator, who is privy to personal thoughts, feelings, and background information of other characters in the story. This was unbelievable as some of these characters did not have the connections necessary to possibly know these things, let alone access to the internal struggles of characters outside themselves. This was a significant detractor from the book. Even Daniel, the main narrator and written from his point of view in the first person, knows things he cannot possibly know and the book is written as though it was in the third person, but since there are endless I’s throughout the book, it was instead written in the first person. I honestly found myself thinking it was written in the third person throughout the book and thinking that it made sense to know this much information, but then I would see the use of I and remember that Daniel cannot possibly know all of this information. This book would have been much more effective if it had been written in the third person, possibly from the point of view of more than one character, but only in the author would have been able to make those points of view distinctive, which I suspect would not have happened since the few moments we get of perspectives from other characters sound just like Daniel.

The final point of disappointment with this book is the ending, which is a little bit too perfect and covers too much ground. It was these last chapters that ruined the story for me as again I found it unbelievable and hard to connect with the characters. I do not understand why there are so many highly positive reviews and endorsements for this book, except for the fact that it is a book about books. As a avid reader, of course am intrigued by books about books, but I also know that it is simply a device to get more readers to read the book, so there better be something substantial to the book. There were several plot points I figured out less than halfway through the book, yet they weren’t revealed until the end of the book. In my opinion, the book was simply too long. Yes, it was incredibly well written and that matters greatly to me, but there needs to be more than simply well written sentences to push a book to a 4 or 5 star rating. There needs to be well developed characters the reader can connect with and this book lacked that for me. Without that, then it falls back on the plot and there was too much time spent on irrelevant plot, not enough time spent on relevant plot (though this is dangerously close to the lack of character development I mentioned before), too many unbelievable elements (not magical realism unbelievable – that was fine – but as discussed above), and too much unnecessary sexism to make this plot enough to carry the book. There are great lines in this book and those lines pushed me to continue the book in hopes that the final plot reveal would make up for the frustrations that worsened throughout the book, but in the end, the ending sealed for me that this was not the book for me. I wanted to love this book, but I simply could not. It was vastly better than Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which seems to want to be this book, but it was not on par with 4 star books, though it had potential to be. If you are interested in reading a mystery about books and know that is sufficient for you or you really love gothic books, than this is a definite read. If gothic books aren’t really your thing or you prioritize characters over plot, then I would suggest passing on this book, mostly because it is so very long.

Add on Goodreads! The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books,  #1)

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through and This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

Still Here – Reflection: Social Media

5209796269_3b538042c8_oPhoto credit: Social Media | Sean MacEntee | CC 2.0

I thought I’d do something different for this reflection. My copy of Still Here came with Extra Libris: A Reader’s Guide and I’m hoping it will spark discussion. I write reflections as a way to engage dialogue on books and I’m hopeful that this topic will spark lots of discussion. The question is:

How did reading Still Here and watching these characters interact with social media change the way you look at you own life online? Did you see any similarities or differences?

For those of you who have not yet read the book, here’s the relevant, non-spoiler quotes on how the characters interact with social media. From page 60, Regina is the lurker or someone who “rarely posted anything herself and almost never commented or liked.” From page 61, Vica is the affirmer and “‘liked’ everything and posted all these uplifting photos of their family trips.” The narrator forgets the name type for Sergey, but explains his type as one who “never posted anything himself, but would often butt in on his friends’ discussions with an especially lengthy intellectual comment, and then comment on his own comment.” Finally, Vadik thrived on social media as it “allowed him to try all those different personalities,” with a different personality for each platform.

What is your online presence like? Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions?

Starting around Thanksgiving 2016, I stopped checking Facebook. I haven’t actively checked since, though I log on every so often when I get an email that I was tagged in something or when I know pictures have been posted. I was an early adopter of Facebook (I signed up in 2004 when it still was The Facebook), but I didn’t ever quite figure out how to use it in a way that fit me. I want Facebook and social media to be another way to deeply connect with people, but that’s not how it works in practice. If one shares deeply personal things, it comes across as an overshare. Yet, at least for me, surface sharing just feels fake. I’m a person who strongly dislikes surface, how’s the weather kind of conversations, even with good friends. Social media feels more like these surface conversations, where people try to show the best version of themselves, but aren’t really connecting.

I thought I would really miss being on social and feel less connected to the world, but I don’t. Every so often, I think about going back to Facebook, but I never quite see the point. It would absolutely be different if I still lived far away from my family as seeing pictures of my nephew brought me endless joy, but now that I see him regularly, I don’t need other people’s pictures. I do have a Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr page for this blog, but things are automatically posted to those accounts, though I do go on them to interact with followers. I’m fine with this level of interaction with social media, but I don’t have much desire to engage more fully than that. I had gotten to a point where it consumed too much of my life and I’m glad I didn’t put the apps on the phone I bought last December.

I do see the value of social media and I understand how people different from me would love it. I usually post on Facebook whenever there is a crisis in my life; but I have yet to post about the current crisis. I’ve preferred to directly reach out to friends for support. Sometimes I feel obligated to post on social media to inform everyone what is going on, but this time, I do not. I need to deal with this in whatever way keeps me sane and not being on social media does that for me.

While Still Here didn’t go as deeply into the concept of an app that would preserve someone’s online presence after death as I was hoping, I did ponder whether I would want it to appear I was still there, reaching out from the beyond. I do not think I do. I find it a bit unsettling to have thoughts attributed to me after death and I’m not that bothered by not having a legacy. I do like the memorial page concept and I have found that helpful for the grieving process when I’ve lost friends. I don’t feel the need for more. All the things that went unsaid will forever be unsaid and no app can remedy that.

Interestingly, I just finished reading The Circle which take social media to a different extreme. It was an interesting contrast to read these books essentially back to back. There are so many aspects of social media we often do not take the time to think about, but as the technology continues to advance at an alarming rate, it’s not a bad idea to stop and think about who you want to be and what you want to share on social media.

What social media type are you? What are your thoughts on social media? Would you be interested in an app that maintained your online presence after death?

Still Here – Review: ARC

Still Here coverStill Here by Lara Vapnyar – 4/ 5 stars

The book blurb seems to imply the book will spend a significant amount of time on the “app designed to preserve a person’s online presence after death” which will “[spur] questions about the changing perception of death and the future of our virtual selves.” But this story isn’t really about the app, nor is does it set out to answer the questions “how do our online personas define us, and what will they say about us when we’re gone?” Instead, the description that is most accurate is that Still Here “follows the intertwined lives of four immigrants as they grapple with love, a new home, and the absurdities of the digital age.” It reminded me of a Seinfeld episode where nothing really happens, yet something does happen, all the while being amusing, with the added bonus of being about Russian immigrants.

This is an amusing tale about four Russian immigrants whose lives intersect in intricate ways, which is made all the more complex by the emerging situations they must confront. This is not a typical immigrant story as all four characters have all been in the United States for some length of time, but they do discuss current and previous struggles with how to fit in in New York City. These struggles to adapt to NYC are partly general identity struggles and ones which come up in a city with vast diversity in terms of income and ethnicity. I found myself relating to their struggles as I myself had struggled to find my place in NYC when I moved there. Still Here is a book about general life struggles and how four friends work on addressing those struggles. The struggles range from motherhood, employment, dating, housing, marriage, money, identity, among other things.Thus this is a story where everyone will have something to relate to.

While it took me awhile to get into Still Here, in the end, I found myself greatly enjoying it and I devoured it over two days. I found the story drew me in, though it is challenging to pinpoint exactly what this book is about or what it was that drew me in. The first four chapters are devoted to each of the four main characters: Vica, Vadik, Sergey, and Regina. While I was reading those chapters, they felt a bit like excessive backstory, but it becomes clear soon after that instead of being excessive, it’s the exact right amount of information needed in order to move the story forward while letting the reader understand the complexity of their relationships and the story unfolding. Their complex interconnectedness is what holds the book together throughout the novel and it is also is the heart of why this is such an intriguing story.

The most significant criticism is that the memory of this book is already failing. The feeling remains, but the details, the specific plot points, almost seemed to fade as soon as I finished the novel. While I greatly enjoyed the book, I struggle now to pinpoint why I enjoyed it or why I won’t remember it. In addition, while I enjoyed the prose, I won’t be running out to read another book by Lara Vapnar. I do hope to read some of her other books, but they will likely get buried on my to-be-read list. Maybe this is partly me; after all, I do not remember most Seinfeld episodes either, though I enjoyed everyone. Plus, it is not as though every book needs to stay with me. Entertainment is sometimes just that and like Seinfeld for me, this entertained, but won’t make a lasting impression.

If you are a reader who greatly prefers books with clear plots that have arches and end up resolved, this may not be the book for you. There are things that happen in the book and it is mostly wrapped up at the end, but the book also ends a bit open-ended while also not having strong plot points which drive the story. Instead, there are philosophical conversations and inner dialogues. There are personal internal struggles and misunderstandings. Much of what happens feels a bit like what happens in their everyday lives, though some of the events are not something which would occur every day. For me, this is what made the story so powerful. While not much happens, one becomes apart of their lives and ends up reflecting on death and social media.

I greatly enjoy books with strong character development and which make me think, especially along the lines of philosophy. This made Still Here a perfect novel for me. While it is less dark than many other novels I have read by Russian authors, it does have some elements of this; there is a decent amount of discussion about death after all. This novel also carries the tradition of philosophical and metaphysical questions which I love in Russian novels. If you also greatly enjoy Russian novels, than this book is for you. It is much more accessible than classical Russian novels and likely has a way of conveying its intended meaning better than them since there is no translator involved. If you enjoy literary fiction, you will also greatly enjoy this as it does an excellent job of transporting the reader through descriptive language. This is a book I would love for everyone to read, but I know there is a group of readers out there that strongly dislike books without strong plot and so I caution those readers before picking up this novel. But outside that, I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading. It’s deep and yet light; it’s literary and yet an easy read; it’s about nothing and yet it is about something. I encourage you to pick this book up as it may be interestingly different from the books you tend to read.

I received this book from Blogging For Books and Hogarth in exchange for an honest review.

Add on Goodreads! Still Here

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through and This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

A Man Called Ove – Reflection: Representation and Diversity

8750275571_5fda61700d_zPhoto credit: The Diversity MaskGeorge A. Spiva Center for the Arts | CC by 2.0

Trigger Warning: Suicide mention

A few years ago, I suddenly and unexpectedly developed a chronic pain condition as a result of a very minor injury. That chronic pain condition had an autoimmune component, which triggered a long list of health-related issues. Within six months of the initial injury, I was no longer able to work. My life was ripped out from underneath me and all of a sudden, everything was different, harder, longer, worse, and I did not know if I could go on. Thoughts of suicide began to creep into my head. At the same time, something else phenomenal happened; I gained an entire community of people willing to give as much of themselves as they could in order to be there for me. After watching the movie, Collateral Beauty, I have been calling it my collateral beauty. I lost a lot, but gained even more.

That’s not to say that it is not hard sometimes to adjust to this new life, which constantly is shifting under my feet. I’ve wanted to see my story, my loss, my pain, my grappling with how to go on in someone else’s story. I have read a few books with the hope of hearing my life echoed in them, but none have resonated. Enter, A Man Called Ove, and my heart sang. Here was my story, for the most part – a person whose early life was filled with tragedy and loss; an introvert who believes in doing right and working hard, finds the one thing that brings sense, structure, calm, and meaning into the world is ripped away from her/ him. But among that loss is so much beauty, it is almost too bright to look at. I needed this story. I needed this story more than I knew and more than I can explain here. Because my soul has been dying and I needed to see that another person’s soul also was dying, but that the light they gained was enough. I needed to feel this in those dark moments when it is just still a tad bit too hard and the pain threatens to swallow me whole.

This is why representation matters. We need to see stories of ourselves and feel just a little less alone. We need to carry in our hearts the knowledge that we are not the only ones. Even in our hyper-connected world, it can be easy to feel alone. Other people on the internet can feel one-dimensional and even people in real life can hold a lot of themselves back. It is the magic of books where we get to see that internal struggle, those darks thoughts, the things we don’t talk about, and feel more whole for having seen we are not alone. Representation in books matters so much exactly because it can show all the sides of what it is to be a flawed, beautiful human.

But this leads to the question of who can write that representation? Does it matter that this story, the one I finally connected with, was written by a straight white Swedish guy? Does that make it less representative? Wouldn’t it have been better if an American disabled lesbian had written the story – someone more like me? I do not have a great answer for those questions. They are questions I have been grappling with for nearly two decades now. What I can say is that, on the whole, it is hard for authors to write outside of their own perspectives. This is not a critique, but a fact of life. We all are stuck in our realities and ways of viewing the world. At best, we can try to overcome them and sometimes succeed. But it is also important to remember that there are some aspects to life that are universal, loss being one of them. Because of that, I could have potentially seen my loss in nearly any story about loss, but this one resonated with me because it captured a few other aspects of myself as well. Which brings me back to the statement that representation matters. The problem with continuing to allow marginalized voices to be marginalized is that all sorts of important representation is not out there for people to connect with, but also, there are all sorts of universal aspects of representation that are not out there either. This means that there are stories we will not read with the potential to connect us and show us that even among our greatest differences, there are commonalities, namely, we are all human. If A Man Called Ove teaches us anything, it is that even the most different people can be connected through a bit of vulnerability and humanity and that connection is what makes life worth living. So yes, this blog will continue to focus on traditionally marginalized voices, and though one could make a case that a Swedish voice is uncommon in American literature and could thus fall under the concept of “traditionally marginalized voices,” it is a bit of a stretch. But from time to time, when extremely compelling, other books which do not strictly fall within traditionally marginalized voices may be reviewed here. After all, ways of diversifying perspectives comes in many forms and I’d rather error on the side of inclusivity over exclusivity. A Man Called Ove impacted my perspective, so for now, it is on this blog. Plus, it serves as a great launching point of discussion for what makes a book diverse.

What do you think? How do you feel about representation that comes from a person of a traditional majority group? What does representation mean to you? Is a perspective outside your country of origin diverse enough, or does it need to be outside a larger culture (for example, non-American versus non-Western)? Share your thoughts below!

A Man Called Ove – Review: Own

a man called ove cover.jpgA Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman – 4 / 5 stars

I’ve struggled to figure out what to say about this book. I’m a bit late to reading it, so it feels as though there is not much I can contribute beyond what has already been said. This is an honest, raw, incredibly well-written book that will touch you deeply and sneak inside your heart. The description does not do it justice, but it’s nearly impossible to put into words what transpires throughout this book. I will do no better than the official description, but will try anyway.

In some ways, this is a story about a grumpy old man and why he is grumpy. But it is more than that. This book does not preach or harp about how we all have reasons for the way we are, though the human connection of sadness, loss, and challenges is part of what makes this book so amazing. But it would not be a great story if it was outspoken about it; its beauty comes in its subtlety, the way it slowly builds to this deep, rich, and full life picture of a grumpy old man. Yet, that is not the full picture of this story. It is also about how much impact we have on those around us without even knowing it. It is story on the powers of community contrasted with the desire for control. There are many layers here and it goes far beyond a grumpy old man having to deal with new neighbors. In the end, it teaches us all a little bit about accepting everyone around us and accepting all the beauties life has to offer.

This story is very touching, but also a little bit too perfect. The book is initially a bit challenging to get into because there is so much grumpiness and so little understanding of all the characters involved. The writing style is perfect, but there’s use of language that is a bit unsettling. This is a moving and touching story, but not one that changed my life or I will carry deep in me for eternity. For these reasons, it is not a 5 star, favorite book rating. But it is a book I highly recommend to everyone. I doubt there is any type of reader who will not like this book. So stop waiting to read it and pick it up today!

Add it on Goodreads! A Man Called Ove

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The Judgment of Richard Richter – Review: Kindle First

I am breaking my review schedule to post this review because it is the first Kindle First book I’ve greatly enjoyed and it is currently free to Prime members through the Kindle First program through the end of August (you do not need to own a Kindle reader, but do need the Kindle app). If you are not a Prime member, it is currently on sale for $1.99 through the end of August. I wanted to make sure you can snag it if you’re interested in reading it (I will NOT receive compensation if you decide to download it). I will not be reflecting on this book.

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the judgment of richard richter coverThe Judgment of Richard Richter by Igo Štiks 4/ 5 stars

Trigger Warnings: Suicide (not graphically depicted); suicide ideation (discussed at length); wartime violence (not graphically depicted); incest (discussed at length; not graphically depicted)

While I enjoyed this book more than I expected, it is not a book for everyone. It is a work of true literary fiction, in the style of Dostoevsky and Joyce, with long descriptive sentences, which often contemplate on the ideas of fate, war, destiny, and identity. Long passages in the book debate and reflect on these ideas, without really moving the plot forward. This style of writing can be boring to some, laborious to others, and enjoyable to readers like me.

The Judgment of Richard Richter is written in the first person with Richard Richter narrating and writing a personal memoir, thus going back and forth between his writing of the memoir and the actual story he is writing the memoir about, sometimes without clear transitions signaling the change in timeline. Richter is a writer who upon separating from his wife, moves back in with the aunt who raised him. It is here where Richter finds the information that upends the truth of his life and sends him searching for answers. To say much more would give away large sections of the plot.

In Richter’s search, there are plot points which become obvious before they are related to the reader and then other plot points which come as a surprise. Much of what is obvious is meant to be so as Richter himself greatly alludes to how certain parts of his story play out. This is connected to the theme of fate, as though it was inevitable for certain things to happen, and in the present, he laments on the cruelty of fate. These lamentations are often melodramatic and highlight Richter’s cynical nature. This follows the writing style of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, two of several authors whom Richter references in his writings and calls them friends.

The story unfolds slowly, spending time building up all the necessary pieces and giving enough depth to the main characters to make the reader more invested in their story. The tone throughout the book is foreboding and suggests there will not be a happy ending. Richter makes that clear as he sits in Vienna writing down the events which recently transpired. Yet, the story is not sad, it simply feels inevitable, and thus, one walks away with more satisfaction from having learned all the details than with sadness for all which has transpired.

This writing style is not for everyone as in addition to the long descriptive sentences and passages, Štiks makes uses of literary references and other languages. There are several specific references to several specific books and if one has not read those stories, it can be a bit challenging to understand the deeper symbolism, but one can still understand the plot. These references can at times be lengthy and used as explanation for what is happening in the scene. The story also makes use of many different languages including French, German, Bosnian, and Spanish and these phrases are only rarely translated. There are also times when one is not quite able to garner their meaning from the context. Richter argues that Simon’s use of all these languages mixed in with his English makes his speech richer. While for the most part, the use of untranslated language did add to the book, there were a few times it was frustrating and partly detracted from the book.

As one can garner from the trigger warnings, this subject matter is not for everyone. The theme of suicide and incest are throughout the book, making it advisable to pass on this book if discussions of such topics are triggering for you. The book is not graphic in its depictions of any potentially triggering scene, but the sheer length and depth of discussion around particularly incest could potentially be as triggering as graphic depiction. The theme of suicide is throughout the book, but it is not discussed to the same length or depth as incest is. In addition to the discussion of incest itself, there are several references to Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and Max Frish’s Homo Faber.

I found this to be a beautifully written book contemplating fate through a slowly developing story, but one of my favorite novels is Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. I found the long contemplation on various concepts to be engaging, but I enjoy deep, intellectual conversations and reflections. I enjoyed the long sentences and long passages with descriptive, overly written language, though I appreciated that it was more accessible than Dostoevsky and Joyce. I did not mind that the book was long and that there was not much in the way of plot. This is the style of book I am looking for when it is labeled literary fiction and I am so glad this book satisfied. A decent number of books today do not live up to the literary fiction labels, but this one does.

I received this book free through the Kindle First program, though this did not affect the honesty of this review.