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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book review, memoirs/biographies, reading recommendations

Review: Persepolis part one

The revolution is like a bicycle. When the wheels don’t turn, it falls.

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

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Click image to purchase on Amazon. 

Okay, I don’t read graphic novels. Like, ever. But when I was required to read this book for English class, I basically fell in love. I am not saying that I will continue to read graphic novels in the future, but I might make an exception for Persepolis’ sequel.

AUTHOR: Marjane Satrapi

GENRE: Coming-of-Age, Autobiography, Graphic Novel

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: Amazon

RATING: 5/5

THOUGHTS: So Persepolis is a novel about Marjane Satrapi’s early life growing up in Iran; this is an autobiography, but it is written from the perspective of someone who is both Western-educated but also deeply familiar with the culture of Iran. When Marjane, or as she is referred to in the book, Marji, encounters the Islamic Revolution during her childhood, she is forced to reconcile some adult themes with her young and inexperienced age. Marji’s parents are quite liberal and quietly stand up against the Revolution in their own way. Marji herself takes after her parents, reading radical doctrines such as Marx’s Dialectical Materialism and staging government coups in her backyard with her friends.

However, Marji also encounters the horrors of war and revolution in her daily life. She loses friends, whether to distance or to death, she watches family friends get arrested, tortured, and sometimes killed, etc. She tries to grasp a lot of it but often the events around her become filtered through her childlike worldview. Persepolis is ultimately a deeply moving, honest, and enlightening look at what a typical Iranian’s life might have looked like during the Revolution, and perhaps what it would look like now.

Satrapi does an excellent job of making this book accessible to a Western audience by incorporating Western motifs such as citing Michael Jackson and jean jackets. She also destroys many Western stereotypical assumptions about Iranians, which is quite useful especially when relations between the West and Iran are tense.

As much as the plot and the dialogue are skillful, what is more important to me is the way that Satrapi’s art can evoke emotion and move a story along so that sometimes no words are needed. She draws minimally, so as not to overwhelm the reader, and she draws with purpose. Most of her illustrations are beautiful, and those that lean to the abstract side and are probably of the same caliber as your run-of-the-mill metaphors and similes are some of my personal favorites. The layout is aesthetically pleasing as well.

Maybe the best part about this book is that it can be accessible at any age and isn’t necessarily directed towards one audience; adults and children alike can devour Persepolis, momentarily step into a world that is not their own, and leave with a better understanding of Iranians, Iranian culture, and the Iranian revolution. I would highly recommend this book.

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book review, fiction, young adult

Review: Eleanor and Park

“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell

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GENRE: Young Adult

WHAT FORMAT: paperback

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Eleanor and Park are two high school strangers turned into almost, but not quite, star-crossed lovers. They meet because they don’t have anywhere else to sit on the bus, crammed with crappy, judgmental high school kids. They soon bond over comic books, good music, and odd fashion choices. However, other people always worm their way into the relationship and test it- this ranges from unwanted, abusive step-parents, loving parents, high school bullies, or personal insecurities. It all makes for a tragedy of two kids in love for the ages.

THOUGHTS: My friend quite seriously told me that if I didn’t like this book, then she would have to reconsider our friendship. This is her favorite book of all time, and after reading it, I can understand why. I sped through this book in a couple of hours, unable to put it down.

I have read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell before, and to be honest, I did not love it. I was surprised by the tone that Rowell had in Eleanor and Park because it was completely different from Fangirl– in a good way, of course. I really enjoyed the contrasting voices of both Eleanor and Park. Beyond the stylistic elements of it, the dual narration also advanced the story quite well since neither Eleanor nor Park offer up intimate information easily.

Rowell’s romantic timing was also superb and perfect. This can be such a fickle thing but the way in which Eleanor and Park come together feels so natural, and there is not one part of their relationship that feels forced. Rowell captures exactly what it is like to be young and in love- it’s awkward, it’s dampened by a lack of communication, it’s passionate, and it’s like nothing else you’ll experience in the rest of your life.

The relationships that Eleanor and Park have with their families are so important as well- the slightly dysfunctional family that only seems perfect on the outside is there, and the absolutely messed-up family that is barely holding together. I love the focus on family because it takes up so much of a young adult’s life and has the power to determine what happens in a young adult’s relationships. It reminded me of just how little control teenagers can have over their own lives, and how frustrating it can be.

Honestly, the only thing that I found fault with in this book is Park’s name. It felt too stereotypical for a Korean American character, maybe bordering on ignorant.

Other than that, this book is everything- it’s cute, it’s angsty, it’s emotional, and it will most likely (definitely) wreck you at the end. It’s really the closest thing we’ll get to the twenty-first version of Romeo and Juliet, in that you know what will happen with these two intense, perfect lovers but it will take you by surprise anyway. So what are you waiting for? Go read this book!!

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book tag

Reading Habits Tag


I stumbled across the Reading Habits Tag, which originated with The Book Jazz. All the questions involved will be in bold, in case you’d like to also participate! So without further ado…

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Yep, it’s called my bed. The bed in my dormitory is probably my favorite place, just because my desk is reserved for homework and all things studying. It’s also a small bed, so it’s easy to make and then flop down on to get a few chapters done!

Where do you like to read?

I like to read outside or places with ambient noise, such as the dining hall or in a coffee shop. But honestly, I read everywhere I can: the gym, while walking, while waiting for class or for appointments, on the bus, and while eating.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Random piece of paper. I used to have a million and one bookmarks, but now, since my life is so disorganized, I instead use any piece of paper I can find lying around.

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter / certain amount of pages?

This depends. I think it typically I like to stop after I have made the progress that I wanted to make. Sometimes, though, if I’m reading while waiting for something, I can and have to just stop reading.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Yes, of course. Sometimes I will read an ebook but most times I will listen to an audiobook.

Music or TV while reading?

Maybe music if it is music that I am familiar enough with it. Otherwise I get too distracted. I have never tried TV while reading, but I have a feeling that it wouldn’t go down all too well for me.

One book at a time or several at once?

Several at once! Especially since I consume books in multiple formats, I am always usually reading an ebook on my phone, listening to an audiobook, and reading a physical book. I get through my TBR so much quicker this way and listening to an audiobook allows you to multitask while reading.

Reading at home or everywhere?

Everywhere! I wouldn’t get as much reading done if I only read at home, that’s for sure.

Reading aloud or silently in your head?

I find that I read quicker silently in my head, but I will read aloud if I want the information to stick.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

NEVER. Nope, I don’t see the appeal. I like to maintain the integrity of the plot.

Break the spine or keep it like new?

Keep it like new! Although I do have a few gently used books that I have acquired from thrift stores, and book sales, and I do like the lived-in feel of these books. But for newer books, I always keep them as pristine as possible.

Do you write in your books?

I will write in my books if I am reading them for school; those annotations and highlighting helps me keep track of passages I’d like to discuss in class or write analyses of. My copy of Romeo and Juliet and my copy of Jane Eyre are all marked up.

Who do you tag?

You, if you’d like to do this tag!

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book review, memoirs/biographies, nonfiction

Review: The Year of Magical Thinking

Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

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Click on the image above to purchase the book on Amazon.

I picked this book up at a book sale not knowing much about it other than knowing it was one of the books on Rory Gilmore’s Reading Challenge list, but I was pleasantly surprised.

AUTHOR: Joan Didion

GENRE: nonfiction, memoir

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: at a book sale

RATING: 5/5 stars

BACKGROUND: Joan Didion is a writer, and so was her husband, John. Her memoir A Year of Magical Thinking takes us through the year immediately following the passing of her husband, John. There are many personal reflections on the significance of her grief, memories described that detail moments the writer lived through with her family and her husband, and there are even clinical and scientific considerations of what grief is or what it does to the human psyche.

THOUGHTS: I believe that anyone who has had to go through the painful experience of losing someone that is close to them can understand and take something away from this memoir. Since I personally had a bad experience with trying to understand my grief, I found this book to be intriguing, educating, but ultimately I found that I could relate to what Didion’s descriptions of her grief portrayed.

Didion’s writing is clear, succinct, and engaging. I flew through this book in the span of less than a day; it is easy to read, and it gripped me in every page. Didion has all the tricks and marks of an experienced writer, but it also felt like she did not hold much back in this memoir. I could not think of much criticism to lend this book, so I gave it the 5/5 stars that it deserves.

For those of us who would rather read a book that is more lighthearted or would like to stray from the emotionally heavy -this book may not be for you. Of course, reading about darker matters in fiction books is significantly different than reading about the same subjects in a nonfiction book. The stakes are real, and the descriptions that Didion offers in this book are quite hard to forget, or at least they are for me.

However, if you have had a personal struggle with grief- with dealing with it, with defining it, with reigning it in and letting it breathe, then I would highly recommend this book to you. Didion is almost everyman in this book, besides her glamorous lifestyle as a successful and career writer, but I almost assure you that you have something to gain from the details of her pain and the journey she went through. Additionally, she did all of the research on grief, so you don’t have to. The humanity of this memoir is probably its best quality, however- everyone, no matter their life experiences, can take solace from this book about how those who remain living, even when their loved ones pass, can engage in magical thinking until they are ready to return to a world that is not dominated and defined by loss.

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memoirs/biographies, nonfiction, Uncategorized

Review: Between the World and Me

I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Click on the image above to purchase on Amazon.

I was given this book by my University last year; it was assigned to all First Years as a “Common Book”, or a book that would help us in culminating an accepting and diverse campus. And let me tell you- it’s one of the most valuable books I’ve been given. Valuable, I mean, in terms of the potential it has to enlighten readers.

AUTHOR: Ta-Nehisi Coates

GENRE: Non-fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: my university gifted it to me

RATING: 5/5 stars

BACKGROUND: Ta-Nehesi Coates writes this book in the format of a letter to his young son, and with it comes advice for how to navigate through the modern American society as a black man. Coates touches on his own experiences, and those of his friends, to piece a picture of what the black experience in America was, and what it might be in the future. Coates employs self-introspection, evidence from the world around him, and past and contemporary events in order to define what really stands between the world and himself, in the hopes that his son will be able to understand where he is coming from and understand what his father is pushing him to do in order to protect himself in a society that values black bodies less than most other bodies.

THOUGHTS: There is not a whole lot of criticism aimed at this book, but I remember discussing it with a friend whose political views differ from my own. I remember that he told me that he didn’t agree with what the book was saying, and that it was written from a skewed perspective (I’m paraphrasing). However, I do not know if this is a valid criticism of the book because a) my friend is not a black American, so why did he think that his view of how African-Americans experience the world is more valuable than that of an African American’s and b) even if you disagree with the conclusions that Coates come to, it doesn’t mean you can invalidate his feelings and his experiences because they are uniquely his own.

With that out of the way, I thoroughly enjoyed this read because I realized that this is the closest that I will ever get to understanding what it is like to grow up as a black person in America, and that is a valuable thing to obtain. I am not an African American, but I am still a racial minority in this country that is definitely more socially privileged than African Americans are. Reading through Coates’ experiences, takes on the world, and advice to his son, I encountered, figuratively, many aspects of racial discrimination that I had not previously been exposed to in my personal experiences. I learned, not only the why and how things were, but more importantly, I could see how Coates’ experiences tied into his conclusions and his worldview. Although it is different than my own, I was grateful for further understanding why someone with remarkably different experiences than me would view American society in such a way as Coates does.

There are also aspects of this book that are universal, or at least more identifiable- the worry a father has for his son, the despair of a person who watched his friends suffer invisible tragedies, and the struggle of a community who has every odd against them. There is also the celebration of the value that community can bring, and the liberty that one or two books can provide. There is the questioning of the world around one’s person- and more importantly, the question Why? is echoed over and over.

Most of all, I appreciate the book’s acknowledgement of reality and it’s realistic approach to the subject- yes, there is hope, but more importantly, there is skepticism. After all, the history between American society and African Americans is brutal and horrific, and there is nothing that indicates that the future of their relationship will be drastically better. But it is not overly pessimistic either; Coates has not given up hope for his son, for the future of his race and his people. And that, to me, is the most important part of this book- acknowledging the mountain that lies ahead of you, and attempting to climb it anyways, driven by the slight hope that this time, you might make it to the top, because it will be worth it when you do reach it.

Even if this book does not sound like your cup of tea, I’d recommend it to you. I promise you will gain something valuable from it, even if it is only the perspective of someone that differs from you.

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