I´m always looking for a good book. Since I´ve committed to taking it a bit easier these past few weeks I´ve been catching up on the books on my bookshelf. I buy books like some people buy produce – by the pound. It gives me something to look forward to. An as yet undiscovered adventure, or a gripping story that I just can´t put down. It’s all waiting for me on my bookshelf.
Its been very cold and windy here. As cold and windy as Valencia gets. My friend in Lugo sent me pictures from last week. It snowed quite a bit and she had a couple of inches on her car while dropping her son off at school one morning. So I have that to look forward to in the future. Perfect book reading weather. A fire in the grate. A blanket on the chaise and a good book.
Our bookshelf is filled to bursting here in el Compartimento. I´m starting to stack them under the chairs in the dining room. I can´t wait to have bookshelves built in a house over doorways, under windows, in unused spaces near the crown moldings. On my Pintrest boards, I have one dedicated to bookshelves. It’s a thing.
So I thought I would share the books I´ve been reading over the past month, in case you´re looking for something to dive into or to buy as a gift for someone for the holidays. It´s not all the books I´ve read lately. Some of them have just been easy quick filler. I woudn´t recommend them. They´re like just eating cheap frosting with a spoon out of the fridge. Sure, it´s easy because you don´t have to cook, and it tastes good. But it´s not good for you and it´s not a real dinner. These next books are real meals. So here goes:
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Smanatha Shannon is an epic tale on the scale of the Lord of the Rings. At 800+ pages it takes its time building a world that resembles our own but is threaded with magic, dragons, and sorcery with the age-old story of war, power-hungry leaders, superstitions, and epic twists and turns. What you think you know is eventually dispelled. The bad guys aren´t who you think they are. And the ultimate redemption will require the characters to give up everything they believed in. Once you get past the required work of world-building it´s a gripping story. It had me up in the middle of the night reading.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri will break your heart. The author was an aid worker in refugee camps in Greece. This story is based on her experience but it´s fiction. It takes us, mostly in flashbacks, through the journey of a man and his wife who escape the destruction of Aleppo, Syria after losing everything they loved including their home, their child, and their beloved bees. It´s told in such vivid prose you feel you are there, hiding with them in a hole, crossing a river to Turkey, fearing constantly for their safety. And then you see how a story is all the perspective of the teller and in the end, the story wasn´t what he thought it was at all. Devastating. Heart-breaking. But a must-read. I was so gripped by this book I read it in 24 hours.
Homeland by Fernando Aramburu is unlike anything I´ve ever read. First of all, it was translated from Spanish so the language and the pacing of the dialog, and even sentence structure, are very different. But the translator did a great job of maintaining the voice of the characters. He didn´t anglicize them. They read like Spaniards.
The story is about two families who are living in a village near San Sabastian, Spain. They are best friends but the nationalist movement for Basque independence tears their families apart. One, because their son joins up. The other because it causes the death of the father. Their loyalty and love are questioned. And its a tale of how easily a village can turn on one of its own. Through flashbacks, it tells the story of how these two families evolve thru pain and grief. But beyond that, how the nationalist political movement impacted the daily lives of people in the Basque regions of Spain – and peripherally beyond it in greater Spain.
This book captured me for a week. It´s a long read and the writing was hard to follow, at times, due to the translation issues. But it was worth the work. You definitely see that the author has some perspective on the ETA movement but he does a great job of telling both sides of the conflict from a very human point of view. I´ll admit my own biases against bullies and anything that foments fanaticism helped keep me engaged in the story. But the evolution of the strong characters did most of the work. Highly recommend it.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harness is the first of a series called the All Souls Trilogy. It´s about a woman who is born a witch but sees it as a character flaw after the death of her parents through magical means. But the magical world won´t let go so easily. And she is forced to face what she was born to be with the unlikely help of creatures she´s been taught to fear her entire life. Vampires and daemons.
Its set on the Oxford University campus, and having spent a fair bit of time there, I like reading books set in the centuries-old town with it’s deep rooted history and warren of streets between honey-colored stone buildings. Add in a little magic and mystery, and I’m hooked.
Much like the Harry Potter books – and even The Priory of the Orange Tree (above) – it´s essentially a story challenging the reader to question what they´ve been taught. Prejudice is learned, after all. And to learn to accept and embrace yourself for who you truly are. And in doing so you can learn to see others and the world around you in a new light. You can tell, I like stories like this. I´ll have to try to find the next one in the series. I have a Nook but I like a real book. It´s a good back up plan.
So that´s what I´ve been doing over the past several weeks. Our elevator has been broken for 5 days and walking up 7 flights of stairs with groceries isn´t my idea of fun. So what to do? I guess it´s time to select another book, make a cup of ginger tea and lose myself in to another story.