Books of the Month - February 2016
It's time for the February 2016 wrap-up, and as expected, in this love celebration month, I read my fair share of romance. But that's not all!
1. Isabel Allende - The Japanese Lover. I've been wanting to read this book ever since I heard about it. Isabel Allende is one of my all time favorite writers, so I was very happy to know that she released a new love story.
In her inimitable way, she tells the saga of a 70 year old romance, between Alma Belasco, a rich artist and Ichimei Fukuda, her childhood friend. The book is touching in many ways, as it explores the questions of interracial relations, identity, abandonment, and the way fate has an implacable influence of our lives.
This multi-generational love story takes us from 1939 Poland, to San Francisco in times of World War II, to concentration camps, where Japanese Americans were sent in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, all the way to today's nursing home where Alma is living her final days assisted by Irina Bazili, a Moldovan girl tormented by her own demons of the past.
The Verdict: I would say this is one of my favorite Isabel Allende books. It is a must read for her fans, it is heartwarming and sweet, the ultimate love story that proves once again that love conquers all, as throughout their lifetimes Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, no matter of the difficulties fate throws in their way. I would definitely recommend this to any hopeless romantic!
2. Alice Walker - The Color Purple is also a love story, focusing on the bond between sisters, relatives and friends in rural Georgia, in the 1930s. The main themes of this book are sexism and racism, reflecting the social context surrounding the novel's setting.
The chapters are actually letters that Celie writes first to God and then to her absent sister, Nettie. Celie is a poor, uneducated African-American girl, who is abused and raped by her step father, and then married off to a man she did not love.
Nettie, the younger sister, is taken in by a missionary couple, and ends up living most of her life in an African village, where she finds that there is not only racial disparity in the world, but also gender disparity.
The Verdict: This book made me feel angry, sad and helpless. It made me sad that things like this happened in the world and unfortunately still do, it made me feel angry that people who are supposed to protect you and empower you end up being your worst enemies and it made me feel helpless because there is nothing we could do about it. But at the same time, it projects hope and it presents pure, raw human emotions. It's not a comfortable book, but it's definitely a story that cannot be ignored.
3. Marissa Meyer - Cinder is a science fiction Cinderella story, set New Beijing, the capital of the Easter Commonwealth. In the aftermath of World War IV, Earth was divided in five regions, and the world was inhabited not only by people, but also by cyborgs and androids. At the same time we find the Moon as a developed nation, lead by an evil monarch, Queen Levana, whose ultimate goal is to rule planet Earth. To make things interesting, the world is ravaged by a deadly plague and only Lunars have the cure.
Living in this dystopian universe, Cinder is a 16 year old cyborg mechanic, living with her legal guardian and her family, whose only friends are her step sister, Peony and her android, Iko. One day, while working at her shop, Cinder is approached by none other than Prince Kai, the heir to the throne of the Eastern Commonwealth, who asks her to fix his android and ends up falling in love with her.
This encounter ends up developing a new chain of events, in which Cinder discovers the truth about her own origins and finds herself at the center of political intrigues with the Lunars.
The Verdict: I liked it overall, it was a captivating read, a classic story made into a modern fairy tale, only bloodier and more violent. It seemed to me rather predictable though, since it was built on the Cinderella story and I thought there were too many clues revealing Cinder's true identity throughout the book. However, this is the first of the Lunar series and the fairy tale element seems to be exhausted now, so I'm curious how will this story develop in the next three books. I'll keep you posted!