Joie de Vivre

A friend of mine is a writer. I’m very lucky that she allows me to beta read for her, also. Her previous book, Rise, is excellent, but haunting. The war in Syria is something Katherine is very passionate about, and Rise is a reflection of that. However, I can happily announce Joie de Vivre is a delight. Literally translated, the Joy of Living, the title matches this one perfectly.

The story follows Scott and Ophelia at a chance meeting in college. They are thrown together in the worst of circumstances, a tornado, leaving Ophelia scarred and Scott looking for more out of life. Several years later, they meet up again, this time in New Orleans, very unsure what they mean to each other, dancing around the event that left them physically and emotionally scarred.

I’m not a fan of romance books, but Katherine writes some really great ones that aren’t just smut and empty plots. They are full of heart, dynamic and realistic characters, meaningful thoughts, and excellent writing. Ophelia is a character you will love, but will also make you want to tear your hair out in frustration with wanting her to just be okay. You can identify with Scott wanting to be a good man who follows his heart, but also letting Ophelia find herself. This book link to purchase will be released in November and I highly recommend it.

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The Namesake

I’ve been really trying to branch out in my reading. I feel like there are so many amazing pieces of literature out there that I have missed. So, I posted a question on the Great American Book Club FB page asking for recommendations of more “important” books about different cultures and ethnicities. I was thinking along the lines of books by Khaled Hosseini, who I just love. Thankfully, the kind readers on the FB page gave me hundreds of suggestions. When I got my Kindle Unlimited subscription, this book was one that I was able to get. I had heard book things about it but really was unfamiliar with this one. And I can honestly say it’s been a really long time since I enjoyed a book written so simply and so beautifully.

The story begins with a couple getting married and moving to the US. His mother, Ashima, is very nervous about being away from home with her unfamiliar arranged marriage husband but makes the best of it. Once their son is born, they anxiously await a letter from their ancestor who, by tradition, names the baby. The letter never comes, so they are forced to select for him. In their Bengali culture, babies have two names- a “good” name and a nickname. The good name is for school, paperwork, etc and the nickname is how their friends and family name them. His nickname is Gogol, after the author, who his father has an emotional connection to. When they place Gogol in kindergarten, they are then forced to pick his good name and settle on Nikhil, although Gogol refuses to answer to it.

The story follows Gogol, mostly, and his struggles to find his place in his world. He, like most kids, wants to blend in and be accepted and is constantly embarrassed by his parents and their cultural differences. He is forced to visit family in unfamiliar countries for months on end. He leaves home for college, desperate to find himself and who he really is. He falls in and out of love, finds a job, and deals with life.

This book is spectacular and captivating in the most simple of ways. It’s just about a man and trying to figure out life. There’s no crazy plot mystery, so hidden twists, just a good character book, and I absolutely loved it. I’m not like Gogol because I am not torn between two cultures. My family has been in American for generations. But that didn’t matter. I still wanted to read about his life. Books like this are so important for representation. Just because I’m not Bengali-American doesn’t mean I didn’t see myself in Gogol at times. But, I imagine, to people (not necessarily Bengali, but of any one of two cultures) who do deal with, a book of this beauty must be of great comfort. Seeing yoursel fin a book, a tv show, a movie, is life-afffirming, and we need so much more of it.

A House at the Bottom of the Lake

Back on Prime Day, Amazon was giving its members a subscription to Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents. I jumped right on this deal and figured I would be able to find something from my hundreds of books long wish list that was available on Unlimited. I clicked on every single title (Amazon needs to make some changes to what info you can see on the wish lists) and found that 11 of them were on Unlimited. I also learned that you can only borrow 10 titles at a time.

I sorted the titles by length to create an order in which to read them, and this little novella ended up first. I’m a HUGE fan of the author, Josh Malerman. I’ve read and reviewed Bird Box and Black Mad Wheel and Unbury Carol and loved them all, Bird Box being my favorite. I was really excited to dive (pun intended) into this one.

James and Amelia are teenagers who are on a first date boating on a lake. They take a few harrowing narrow tunnels and find a hidden lake. As they paddle around, they notice there’s a house below the water. They hold their breaths, dive, and look around. It appears as if the house has been lived in with fixtures, furniture, knick-knacks, and working lights. Yep, under the water.  Clearly, something fishy (yep, pun intended again) is going on.

The teens can’t get enough of the house. They are magnetically drawn to it, getting scuba gear, and making their explorations just about every day. The power the house has over them begins to invade their “away from the lake” lives. I loved this book. After Bird Box, this was my favorite story of Malerman’s. He is such a great slow-burn horror writer. Instead of gore, he pulls in with suspense and mystery. I look forward to reading a lot more from this talented guy.