The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy


This is the read of utmost unhappiness, especially because I loved “The God of Small Things.” This is an incoherent “novel,” which is more like a draft of ideas. The story (if you can call it that) meanders confusingly and floats above the characters so you don’t connect with any of them. I think a Goodreads reviewer summed it up best: Roy is now more an activist than a writer. It’s too bad she didn’t apply her skill to use this book as a vehicle for education rather than obfuscation. This is totally a publisher’s money grab, like Harper Lee’s second novel.

Gwenamon says: So painful that I couldn’t finish it and boy, did I try

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I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal


This is Ditie’s epic tale, full of dream-like descriptions and rather bizarre characters. He’s a lowly waiter whom we meet in a posh Prague hotel before WWII. As the war is about to begin, he falls in love with a Nazi gym teacher who takes him on new, misaligned adventures. I hated this book in the beginning, but that changed around page 100. I persevered only because it was a book-club pick. But I was happy that I finished it.

Gwenamon says: Worthwhile (if you follow through) and unique

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


This book! I loved it. It’s about Liesel Meminger who is the book thief. Books are her anchor during WWII, as she lives outside of Munich, with her foster family and a Jewish man hidden in the basement.

Gwenamon says: Incredible – one of my all-time favourites

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Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius


This is an incredible tale, written by a man who was trapped in his body for 10 years, after misdiagnosis during a rare illness. He couldn’t do anything physically, but he was mentally aware. After the horrible fallout, we learn how he regains his life. It’s amazing that Pistorius could come as far as he has and then write about it. Although I was moved immensely by his powerful tale, I found the use of present tense kind of confusing. Otherwise, wow.

Gwenamon says: Truly inspiring

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Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami


Although I’m a fan of all of Murakami’s novels, I haven’t enjoyed his short stories. This is the first collection that I really liked. The only difference that I can put my finger on is that these short stories have a cohesive theme. They are stronger, together. They play off of each other.

Gwenamon says: His best short-story collection

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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen


I loved this novel’s writing, but I have to admit that the story lagged for me. I think it’s because I know very little about the Vietnam War. I wish I had given myself a history refresher before diving into this book. However, I’m still compelled to research after the fact. And Nguyen’s comparisons and metaphors will stick with me – some really incredible writing.

Gwenamon says: Powerful writing, but a bit of an endeavor

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Swing Time by Zadie Smith


Swing Time is about the childhood friendship of two girls and how that friendship continues to affect their adult lives even after severing ties as young teenagers. I love how Smith can string a sentence together that sounds amazing, and evokes vibrant characters and scenes. Her dialogue is also effortless to read and very convincing. But this novel is definitely not her finest. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t see its point. It lacks momentum and purpose. And the end just fizzles, leaving some grand revelation buried for only the eager to try to devise.

Gwenamon says: Groan

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