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 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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book review

Microreview Monday


Here are some of the books that I finished in the month of August but did not have the time to write a fully fleshed out review for!

  • A Magical Reckoning by N. R. Hairston

RATING: 1/5 stars; GENRE: Fantasy

I voluntarily received an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

I honestly just didn’t enjoy this book; if I had picked this book up without being committed to reviewing it, I would have put it down again. I didn’t find the plot lines particularly interesting, nor did I identify with any of the characters. A lot of times, characters that were not the protagonist were underdeveloped. The whole theme connecting the five stories together was magical betrayal, but the relationship between those who were betrayed and those who did the betraying were never fully fleshed out. You always had to take the word of the one who was betrayed that the relationship was strong, never experiencing the strength of the relationship for yourself, and that made it hard to be invested in the relationships or feel anything when the betrayals were revealed.

There were also a lot of magical elements in all of the stories in this book, but it was hard to be anything other than confused because there was not a lot of world building that occurred and the reader was thrown into the action without getting a heads-up of what meant what. The last story took place in Virginia of all places, and this was hard for me to wrap my head around because as far as I know, the other stories did not take place in our own world. Or maybe they did- it was kind of hard to tell.

I also have to say that the concept of a woman having to buy the men she courts physically pairs of shoes or anything…is just horrifying to me? Why does a woman have to owe a man anything just because he slept with her? It’s degrading.

  • Before We Die Young Books 1-3 by L.T. Quartermaine

RATING: 3/5 stars; GENRE: Young Adult

Just a personal note…I was the first one on Goodreads to review this book! which was exciting for me but whatever.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

For those who are survivors or victims…there is definitely rape, sexual assault, murder, general violence, and abusive relationships portrayed in this book. Read at your own discretion.

I tore through the three novels in this book, because of the always-engaging, fast-paced action and the lovable, almost invincible characters. I liked the idea of animals and humans bonding together to help each other out, and I liked how each next novel built off the others preceding it. These books reminded me of those superhero movies that have so much action going on that you barely have time to process what’s going on. It kept the book enjoyable, although the more meaningful points in the plot may have been lost on me because I spent so much time trying to keep up with what was happening. The characterization was also nicely done, but this book is definitely for those who prefer plot development over character development. The prose is clear and suits the storyline as well.

I am slightly saddened that this book succumbs to the common YA trope of two characters engaging in sexual relations only because they are on the brink of death. Other than that, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes intriguing stories that are packed with action.

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book review, fiction, young adult

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

And being alone made me want to talk to someone my own age. Someone who understood that using the “f” word wasn’t a measure of my lack of imagination. Sometimes using that word just made me feel free.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz

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AUTHOR: Benjamin Alire Saenz

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

FORMAT: audiobook

RATING: 4/5 stars

BACKGROUND: Aristotle is a troubled, young teenager who desperately wants to have more communication and/or knowledge about his brother, as well as a more open relationship with his father. Dante is a shy, bright teenager who is extremely close with his own parents. Dante and Aristotle do not have much in common, but their friendship proves to be one for the ages. They come together to really understand many of the mysteries of transforming from a child into an adult, as well as the secrets of the universe.

THOUGHTS: Aristotle, or Ari, was a completely relatable character. I know the trope of the angsty teenage boy who is angry at the world is overdone, and personally, I got bored of it when I first ran across it in The Catcher in the Rye. However, I found a breath fresh of it in the character of Ari, who is not only deeply troubled by the lack of understanding from his parents, but also profoundly sad. He has the kind of sadness that is perfectly poetic, and perfectly understandable to those of us who have harbored it.

Dante is that wiry, smart-ass, bright kid that cares too much that makes you want to root for him from the very beginning. He is also unapologetically honest, which is not uncommon for teenage boys. He and Ari make for an unusual pair, but one that fits. Their chemistry throughout the book was unbelievable, both as friends and as what they end up in the end.

There is the beautiful element of Mexican culture intertwined throughout the book, and also relevant cultural issues that come up. This includes traditional Mexican views on homosexuality, crime, family, and masculinity. The idea of being a partial Mexican or half Mexican due to the possession of certain character traits does surface, and it makes for an important point about what culture should and should not have a lasting impact on.

I believe the prose was written completely beautifully, but a couple of plot points kept it from the full five-star rating for me. I found that the timing of the novel was not exactly to my liking; I felt that the end was very rushed. I also thought that it was strange that, for a coming-of-age story that beautifully depicts family relationships and friendly relationships, the main discovery that the protagonist makes about himself practically had to be force-fed to him by adult authorities. However, this was a small complaint on my part and was really a non-issue for the majority of the book.

Also, if you are into audiobooks, Lin Manuel-Miranda reads this particular audiobook, which is a joy because his voice is capable of so much. There are also two instances into the audiobook where you hear Lin express disinterest in Alexander Hamilton, which is just the most beautiful irony ever.

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