book review, young adult

Review: As I Descended

Between the atheism and the lesbian thing, Lily was a terrible Catholic. Even before she’d added murder to her list of sins.

As I Descended, Robin Talley

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FORMAT: audiobook

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Delilah basically rules Acheron Academy, the prestigious Southern private school, and is set to win the prestigious Kingsley Prize that will guarantee her admission into Princeton University. Maria is second in line to win the Kingsley Prize, and her (secret) girlfriend Lily is determined that Maria beats Delilah in the prize running. If Maria wins the Kingsley, then she would be able to attend Stanford University and openly date the love of her life, Lily. The extents to which Lily and Maria will go to achieve this dream, however, have the potential to change the landscape of Acheron forever.

THOUGHTS:  This adaptation of Macbeth rocked my world. A female Macbeth totally worked, and the Macbeth’s as a LGBTQ couple also worked nicely. The combination of the Southern Gothic genre to the inherent spookiness in Macbeth works extremely well. The diversity in the cast of characters was also a huge plus.

I also appreciated the addition of Latino culture to the narrative. It only enriched the Southern-Gothic tradition in the novel, and I feel as if this perspective can be omitted from that exact tradition. It was also interesting to see how the Latino versions of ghost stories and the American versions of ghost stories intersect and interact in this novel. I adore the efforts taken on by recent authors to diversify the Young Adult genre, and this novel certainly takes a step in the right direction.

I did not give this book a higher rating due to the fact that i felt it was lacking in some explanations and detail. While this kind of omissions makes more sense in a play, it did not work as well in the novel form. However, if you like young adult books and if you like Shakespeare, then I would definitely recommend this book for you!

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book review, fiction

Review: Eligible

She might even have felt that self-congratulatory pride that heterosexual white people are known to experience due to proximate diversity.

-Eligible, Curtis Sittenfield

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FORMAT: audiobook

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: A modern Pride and Prejudice retelling in which Elizabeth Bennet is a writer for a progressive, feminist magazine based in New York City, Jane Bennet is a yoga teacher, and Chip Bingley is the newest doctor in town, fresh off the reality television show Eligible (think The Bachelor). Mary, Kitty, and Lydia still live at home, unemployed and unmarried. In fact, none of the Bennet girls are married, although their mother desperately wants them to be due to their dire financial situation. Lizzie must deal with the reality of impending financial instability, family dynamics, AND the stuck-up doctor in town named William Darcy, which makes for many interesting potential romances.

THOUGHTS: This book is utterly delectable. If you enjoy retellings and Jane Austen, this book is definitely for you. For those of us that have read Pride and Prejudice, I’ll give you a few juicy tidbits- Catherine de Bourgh as a second-wave feminist icon (think Gloria Steinem-type), Lydia and Kitty as cross-fitters, and Collins as a Silicon Valley figure.

Curtis Sittenfeld managed to capture each of these characters magnificently and translated them to the modern atmosphere flawlessly. I had my serious doubts going into this adaptation, especially since The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was so brilliant, but I was pleasantly surprised by Eligible.

Just as the original Pride and Prejudice did, Eligible combined character development with plot progression in an ideal ratio. And of course, the cast of characters could not be crazier, nor could they be more lovable and relatable. Would highly recommend for anyone who enjoys a good Austen narrative!

 

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book review, fiction, young adult

Review: The Sun is Also a Star

“Tragedy is funny.”
“Are we in a tragedy?” he asks, smiling broadly now.
“Of course. Isn’t that what life is? We all die at the end.”

The Sun is also a Star, Nicola Yoon

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FORMAT: audiobook

RATING: 3/5 stars

SUMMARY: Natasha is only a believer of observable facts, of hard science. Love is nothing more than a series of chemical reactions. Love is only temporary, a nonspecial series of catalysts and outcomes. Natasha is also an undocumented immigrant from Jamaica who is facing the threat of deportation, who loves physics, and whose family is rather complicated. Natasha is trying to find a last-minute way to save them from Homeland Security. Daniel is a wannabe poet, a Korean-Amerian boy who struggles with having parents who want him to attend Yale and medical school after. He has an almost-perfect, but completely douchebag-y older brother. He’d rather talk about the stars than study medicine, but also knows how heartbreaking that would be to his parents. These two teens find themselves, within the span of a few hours, barreling towards each other by some coincidence of the universe. But what else the universe may push them to- the brink of adulthood, of a new life, of love…it’s anyone’s guess.

THOUGHTS: This book was so adorable. The characterization is strong- Natasha and Daniel are in many ways the examples of stereotypes in terms of their character tropes and their socioeconomic statuses- however, there are many ways in which they subvert all of the stereotypes that they are privy to as well. I docked off two stars for plot points that seemed too convenient or too cliche; sometimes it was just so obvious that I couldn’t ignore it no matter how much I was enjoying those plot points.

However, if you’re a fan of Young Adult in general, you’re going to fall for this book like I did. The tension and romance between Daniel and Natasha is made of purely heightened emotions- from angst to sadness to love and beyond. They’re perfect together and complement each other so well, and none of their chemistry is forced. They even gave me serious Eleanor and Park vibes.

The discussion of other things- like family expectations/societal expectations concerning biracial relationships, what it might be like to be a family that’s undocumented in America (this is really dope as I am an international migration studies minor), the theories behind slang and multiverses, and looks into the thoughts of minor characters. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book, because it really made it feel like Daniel and Natasha were only two cogs of a bigger machine that was completely out of control.

I think the suspense of the book and the great characters kept me grounded into this book. Yoon’s language is also swoon-worthy, and I think she really managed to capture the unique spirit of New York City with her diverse ensemble of characters.

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a solid YA rec- go check it out!

 

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book review, nonfiction

Review: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

In the beginning, I was put off by the harshness of German. Someone would order a piece of cake, and it sounded as if it were an actual order, like, ‘Cut the cake and lie facedown in that ditch between the cobbler and the little girl’.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

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AUTHOR: David Sedaris

GENRE: Comedy, Non-Fiction

FORMAT: audiobook

RATING: 4/5 stars

THOUGHTS: If you have never read a David Sedaris essay, I suggest turning around, checking out Me Talk Pretty One Day, and then coming back to this review. I typically don’t indulge in essay reading, and I am honestly not sure how common comedic essay writing is. However, I have yet to come across with a voice so strong and distinctive as Sedaris’ in my readings. His ability with the word and his sense of his ability to make people laugh are completely masterful, and as usual, I was not let down by Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.

The topics in this book ranged from healthcare in France to the inner monologue of a clueless conservative activist relying on her liberal to help her protest. If you do read this book, I recommend listening to the audiobook version, as David’s voice adds a whole other dimension to the comedy of the essays. If people look at you strangely for laughing aloud in public at seemingly nothing, you won’t even care because you will be that full of glee.

As always, I learned many interesting details about Sedaris’ personal life and wondered at the idiosyncratic details of his personality. He seems more like caricature now to me than a real person, but maybe that is just his skill and self-awareness at play. The main purpose of Sedaris’ works are always human, but every so often, there is an element of philosophy or observation that strikes a deeper chord with the reader. Sedaris doesn’t claim to be an expert in anything except himself, nor does he ever come off as preachy. But his writing has a way of drawing me back and forth from real life in a way that seems pleasanter than the way that real life actually plays itself out. If I could somehow obtain his imaginative vision as a filter to my own life, I would undoubtedly accept it.

I cannot discuss the greater details of this book without spoiling a lot of it, so instead of going on and on about it, I’m just going to tell you to drop everything and go read this for a good laugh!

 

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book tag

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Really Liked but Can’t Remember Much About

I’m back with participating in Top Ten Tuesday now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is those books that you love, but for the life of you, you really cannot remember much about those books due to time eroding information from your mind. For me, I read a lot as a kid, so many of these books are lost to my newly adulted mind due to time.

  • A Wrinkle in Time

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I’m not sure if it’s the fact that the trailer for the Disney movie is inconsistent with the actual book or that I’ve just completely forgotten the details of the plot of this book, but when I watched that trailer for the movie coming out soon, it seemed very unfamiliar to me. I think the main idea and plot seem pretty familiar, but everything else is scattered in my mind. To be fair, I did read this book at a very young age and LOVED it. I should really pick it up again.

  • The City of Ember

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Do you guys remember reading this series? I remember highly enjoying the first installment, getting bored by the second installment, and then never following through with the rest of the series. It was pretty popular for quite a bit, but I don’t remember the rest of the series taking off in the same way the first book did.

  • Inkheart

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I adored this series! I still remember the basic premise of how the main character was able to manipulate the written word in a supernatural way. The specific events and trials that she goes through, however, are now lost to me.

  • The Mysterious Benedict Society

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This was such a fun read, but the many specificities of the plot are now lost to me. I’d definitely consider rereading this book though. I can’t even remember if I read the sequel to this book…

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events

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I didn’t realize how much I didn’t remember about this book until I started watching the Netflix series. Whoops. (I highly recommend the series, by the way).

  • Graceling

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I think I only read this book because a friend of mine was reading it. I can’t even trust myself to remember the basic premise of this but all I remember is liking it. I think this was one of the first times I was introduced to a female character in a young adult book that had masculine characteristics that were praised rather than made fun of, so that’s pretty cool.

  • The Host

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I read this book unaware that the author was the same woman who had penned Twilight. All I know it’s kinda creepy and it has aliens in it. I really enjoyed it though!

  • Anne of Green Gables

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Again, I know the basic premise. But the other characters besides Anne, however, I can’t remember a thing about.

  • The Last of the Mohicans

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I read this book more recently than the rest of the books on this list. Although, I did read it at 1 or 2 AM in the morning and there were several instances in which I fell asleep reading it. Whether I fell asleep out of boredom, exhaustion, or some combination between the two, I can’t say (because I don’t really remember what this book was about).

  • Stuart Little

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I have a good excuse for not remembering this book: I was in the third grade when I read it. Again, the basic idea of a little kid having his talking pet mouse as a friend sticks in my mind. All other details are lost or have been supplanted by the details of the movie.

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book review, nonfiction

Review: Hamilton: The Revolution

History is entirely created by the person who tells the story

Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter

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AUTHOR: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter

GENRE: Non-Fiction

FORMAT: audiobook

RATING: 5/5 stars

BACKGROUND: In hindsight, it seems that most revolutions are inevitable. This applies to both the American Revolution and the revolution that Hamilton, the musical, has made in both musical theatre and rap. However, when you are in the midst of completing a revolution, nothing seems inevitable. This book tells of the process that shaped Hamilton from a mixtape, a concept album, to one of the best musicals of our generation- from the first performance that Lin did at the White House to the opening night on Broadway. It also includes the annotations to the libretto of the musical.

THOUGHTS: Okay if you have not listened to Hamilton or seen the show, this is maybe not the book for you. It will be so much more meaningful if you are familiar with the show in any capacity. So, if you have not but are intending to listen to this show, maybe consider not finishing this review.

Another disclaimer: I have been a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda for the longest time so I enjoyed this book more than the casual fan of Hamilton would.

I absolutely adored every moment of listening to Hamilton: The Revolution. Being as big of a fan of the show as I am, there were plenty little tidbits included in the book that were news to me, which was quite enjoyable. Getting to know exactly what it takes to pull off such a phenomenon, and exactly how risky it was, is much more enjoyable to know now that the musical is indescribably popular.

The emotional moments of creating the musical, especially since there are so many elements of overcoming racial disadvantages and marrying modern music with musical theatre, are a joy to read. There are quite a few times during the audiobook in which I shamelessly teared up, or straight up cried. The fact that the cast of Hamilton tends to come from immigrant parents and very diverse backgrounds make the story of how this family came together very touching. The story of Anthony Ramos in particular broke and mended my heart in a turn of a sentence.

The inevitable intermingling of this story with the story of American history AND contemporary American politics also adds to the complexity of the story. The story of the American revolution and in particular, Alexander Hamilton, embodies so much of what we would now call the American spirit. Any patriot, any person who is proud of the multiracial, diverse, and yet united America will feel immense pride in how perfectly Hamilton seems to usher us into a new cultural, political, and social age– even though it is set in our deep past. You need to see it (or read it) to believe it.

If you are a fan of the musical, or a hip hop geek, or a musical theatre geek, or a history buff, you will definitely enjoy the annotations that Lin have provided on the libretto. I pinky promise.

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book review, fiction

Review: Attachments

Every woman wants a man who’ll fall in love with her soul as well as her body.

– Attachments, Rainbow Rowell

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AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell

GENRE: Fiction/Light Romance

FORMAT: paperback

RATING: 4/5 stars

SUMMARY: Think a 90s romantic comedy. It is currently the precipice of the new millennium, and that means the introduction of the Internet and the phenomenon of e-mail. A newspaper hires a thirty-year-old computer specialist named Lincoln to sit in a room at night and read through flagged emails sent by its employees for bad behavior. Lincoln finds himself constantly reading the email chains exchanged between Jennifer and Beth, which are flagged for innocuous reasons. In the process of reading these emails, he finds himself falling more and more for Beth, a girl he has never seen but knows the most intimate details about. Beth is similarly infatuated with a guy who hangs around the office late at night, but who she actually knows nothing about. How will they extract themselves from this seemingly intractable situation?

THOUGHTS: Again, this book was loaned to me by my friend who apparently likes to feed my newborn Rainbow Rowell addiction. Unlike the other books that I have read by Rowell, like Fangirl and Eleanor and Park, this is NOT teen fiction. That means it touches on subjects like pregnancy, and what it really means to grow up and separate from your parents. As someone who is only a year away from graduation, there are many moments in the book that I was more keen to: the decision of Lincoln to move out of his mother’s home, his debate over whether he should continue working or go back to school, his search for when and where his life is supposed to start. Of course, I haven’t gone through these steps yet, but it gives me a nice glance into what the rest of my 20’s will look like.

Lincoln’s introspective and inner struggles to achieve true adulthood are what struck me the most. And of course, there is the cute romantic-comedy element of the book that kept me coming back for more (and didn’t make me as depressed about adulthood). The friendship between Beth and Jennifer is enviable, and both are incredibly smart and witty. The issues that they go through in their respective relationships portray that there’s a lot more to adulthood than career and just finding a partner- there’s all the things that come after too. The possibility of marriage? The possibility of children? And how can you even approach these topics when you are not sure if you want either?

Luckily, the creepy-guy-reading-emails-and-being-ethically-dubious is addressed as well, as it is a very self-aware novel. If it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I never take issue with authors attacking problematic issues and topics as long as they acknowledge that its problematic, but in case you’re the kind of person who can’t get around that sort of thing, then maybe this book isn’t for you. I don’t know if Rowell wanted to address implications of new technology, and how surveillance in an information age could shape the nature of modern relationships, but I would say that a small part of that is at play in this novel as well.

All in all, this is a cute and thought-provoking read. Would definitely recommend.

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