Tag Archives: novels

Birds Without Wings: Review

I cannot now bury my friends without bringing to mind the atrocities and the realities that they lived through. I cannot leave them in the ground without thinking of the joys they experienced, the pains they knew, and the questions that they never had answered.

This is the feeling that I was left with when I closed the last page of Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres. The book is set in the early 1900s in Southwestern Turkey. de Bernieres chose a really unique style of writing that mixes the reader into a small, tight community and instantly builds connections with the different families in the town. He then zooms out and looks at what is going on in the world at large and what is happening on the bigger scale. The story follows not only the small town of Eskibahçe, but also the life of Atatürk, the battles of World War 1 and the Turkish War for Independence. I won’t share too many details, because that is the beauty of the story. If you’ve read my review of Island of the World, I would say that this book falls into a similar category. The driving storyline is not so much towards a main action, but rather centers on people and life.

I have very mixed feelings on sharing this book. I absolutely loved it. I found it fascinating and enthralling, especially because I am living in this part of the world and I found it completely relevant and enlightening for my own personal life. The book is so beautifully written as well. de Bernieres has a profound vocabulary and a beautiful story-telling style that is very pleasing to a literary mind.

However, I must also offer up a disclaimer. This is not a  family book. The book is candid and raw and honest. It shares realities of a time that people shouldn’t be proud of. As de Bernieres shares, there were very Holocaust-like atrocities that took place in this part of the world that no one talks about or knows about. de Bernieres doesn’t hold back on his descriptions of what happened, nor does he camouflage realities with gentle language. So, if you have any qualms about reading books with vulgar depictions and language, than I would advise that you not read this book. I will say that my intrigue was heightened by my living in Turkey and my understanding of the area and the cultures that were being referenced. If this is not a topic that you are interested in, then this is not a book that you should just pick up out of the blue. It is significantly long, and it will work its way into your heart and mind, so choose carefully. However, if this is an area of the world, or a time period that interests you, don’t hesitate to pick this book up, because it is a beautiful and honest depiction of life in this part of the world.

If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!!

Summer Reading Wrap-Up

Surprise, surprise, I did not read as much as I had hoped to. But! That’s okay, because we had an amazing summer, and I got to spend a lot of time with family and friends, and it was totally worth it. But, I wanted to give you a quick run down of some of the books that I read this summer and my thoughts on them. This is not going to be a full review of all of these books, just a paragraph or so on my initial thoughts. What did you read this summer? Let me know in the comments section!!

 Honour by Elif Shafak: (my apologies because this is really hard to find in the USA, I bought it at the airport in Istanbul) I read this because I was really interested in getting a Turk’s perspective through literature. It was a very interesting book, but written in a different style than I am used to. It was deep and sad and eclectic. I recommend it, but it is a little heavy and the reader needs to be committed to appreciating culture and perspective and not expect the book to cater to their own wants.

Here is my review.

No Greater Love by Levi Benkert and Candy Chand: I really liked this book. I have a lot of interest in both orphans and Africa, so this memoir really captured my attention. This is the story of how Levi and his wife Jessie moved to Ethiopia to work in orphan care with children who had been condemned by their tribe and were going to be put to death. I thought this was a gripping and heartbreaking story, but one of hope and one with a sliver of encouragement that things can be done to change the plight of unloved children.

Read my review here.

 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: This was a NY Bestseller that Jeremy and I purchased for a road trip. I have to say I really enjoyed the story. It is emotionally engaging and the character development is extremely well done. I do have to caution you that I would not openly recommend this book because there is objectionable material and language. We read the book within two days, though, and it’s the kind of book that you can attach yourself to and will be really sad to finish. But, overall I really liked it.

Beyond the Summerland (The Binding of the Blade, Book 1) by L. B. Graham: This book was recommended to me by a friend who I usually share tastes in books with. However, I am sad to say that I was quite disappointed with this book. It took me forever to read this one and there were aspects of a good epic storyline, but I had a lot of critiques as well. Sadly, I do not recommend this book very highly.

 Becoming the Woman of His Dreams: Seven Qualities Every Man Longs For by Sharon Jaynes: Maybe this is weird, but I love this genre of books. I love marriage and relationship books! So, I thought that this one was great. It went really really fast for me, and it has a lot of good material in it. It walks through 7 qualities that guys desire in a wife and practical ways and lists of ideas to incorporate those qualities into your life. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it for any wife who is looking to grow in her relationship with her husband.

In Between: A Katie Parker Production (Act I) by Jenny b. Jones: I loved this book! I read it so quickly. Now, it isn’t really classic or deep . . . it is just a fun story about a foster girl and her struggles to adapt to a new family and a new way of thinking. It is a Christian fiction book and is funny without being cheesy, and incorporates ideas of faith without preaching. Every now and then I just need a light fun book to read to relax from my heavier reading, and this was perfect! I definitely recommend it.

Now, I am just biding my time until tomorrow when Opening Moves: The Bowers Files (Patrick Bowers) comes out. I am pretty sure that you will not want to miss that book. I do not have a negative word to say about any of Steven James other books (in fact, he is the only author so far that I have committed to buying every novel that comes out for the last three years!! I have currently purchased or been given 8 of his books.) so I am EXTREMELY excited about this novel coming out tomorrow!! Go pre-order it now at Amazon!! I did . . . as well as the first book of his new series that comes out in November: Placebo: A Jevin Banks Novel (The Jevin Banks Experience).

Honour by Elif Shafak: Review

I’m going to switch up my style a little on this review and start out with my recommendation. I usually save that for the end, but it is more fitting here, in my opinion.

I would recommend this book for those who are interested in learning more about Turkish and Islamic culture through literature. I believe strongly that one can learn a lot about a culture and a people by reading their literature and observing their arts. This is no exception. The story takes place partly in Turkey and partly in London, but you cannot read the book without being fundamentally introduced to Turkish culture and thinking. Obviously, I do not encourage you to read this book so that you can create stereotypes and have one opinion of Turkey, because that would be ridiculous! But, you will definitely be introduced to ideas and thought processes that are present in the Turkish and Islamic mindset.

However, I would not recommend this book for a young audience. There is some objectionable material in the book between illicit relationships and language, so you need to be aware of that before picking up the book. However, that being said, this is one of those books in which the objectionable material is very true to life and is included in the book for the purpose of strengthening the story line.

Okay, so on to the story . . . this is an extremely sad story, and I have only just finished it moments ago and am still trying to process it myself. The story is told in an asynchronous fashion, and at times I found it difficult to figure out what pieces were important and where they were reconnecting with the larger story line. I think that Shafak was aiming for a cyclical feel to the story as pieces of the characters’ lives kept coming back into play or repeating themselves.

I do think that the story is beautifully woven and that Shafak develops her characters and setting in a marvelous way, but I was sometimes left with a feeling of discomfort that I didn’t really understand the driving force of the story. I cannot point to a climax or a point of rising action. The story was centered on one horrific act of murder but at the same time, that seemed to be a side issue. The thread of feminism peeked in periodically, but it never took center stage. There were relationships that began to deepen and change, and then all of a sudden they were terminated or left hanging. I do not know if I am ready to state this as a criticism, or to explore it as a different style of writing. I chose this book for the purpose of learning more about Turkish culture and philosophy, and it is very probably that this method of story-telling is giving me the very information I was looking for. Whereas in American literature there must be a problem and a hero and a climax and then a resolution, perhaps that is not the proper mindset with which to approach this book.

I do not like to give away the story lines of the books I read, otherwise there is no point in recommending them! But, I will tell you that this story follows both the past and present of a Turkish immigrant family in London in the 1970s. The family faces deep struggles of love, belonging, contentment, shame, and honour. These themes are going to change and alter the family, but in the end, they are going to find themselves in very similar if not the same positions as their predecessors. What does that mean for their system, their way of life, their belief system? Does it leave them with satisfaction and meaning?

I myself don’t know. It will take some mulling to come to some conclusions. But, isn’t that the mark of a good book? It continues to make you read it even after you have closed the last page.

I do apologize that the book is not the easiest to find, but if you have an electronic reader, you can purchase it from the Amazon UK store. Otherwise, you may have to hunt for a bit to find it!!