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


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!!

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!

book review, classics, reading recommendations

Review: Little Women

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott


Click the image above to purchase on Amazon.

If you don’t know by now, I’m a sucker for a good classic. And this happens to be one of my childhood favorites.

AUTHOR: Louisa May Alcott

GENRE: Coming-of-Age, Realistic Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: I got it so long ago…I don’t exactly remember.

RATING: 5/5 stars.

SUMMARY: This story follows four sisters (Jo, Beth, Amy, and Meg) and their mother, Marmee. Their financial situation is tight since their father is gone to fight in the American Civil War. Meg and Jo must work in order to support the household. Each sister has a specific and distinct personality: Jo is the tomboy who dreams of being a writer with a best friend named Laurie, Meg is the most maternal out of all the sisters and is a natural beauty, Beth is the musical and shy sister, and Amy is the baby of the family. These four girls must face the challenges of poverty, the challenges of maturation, and above all, preserve their sisterly bonds in the face of tragedy and even happiness.

THOUGHTS: I love, love, love this novel. I read it as a child, and I aim to read it again as soon as I get through the monstrosity that is my TBR list. Alcott’s writing is clear and touching, so much so that I’d be surprised if you could make it through the novel without being choked up or crying.

The strongest part of this book is the characterization, both individual characterizations and the characterizations of friendships, in this novel. The four sisters are all unique and all flawed, but still love each other unconditionally. Each sister possesses a strong voice in the story, and anyone with a sister will recognize the origins of their bickering and the cause for their affections towards each other. This book is all about women supporting women, which I am HERE for.

Even though this book can be consumed by children easily, it still approaches the mature themes that coming-of-age novels often approach. The subjects of career, marriage, child-rearing, illness, death, love, and courting are all touched on in this novel. Alcott creates real portraits of real women that any female reading can relate to and any male reading can recognize.

So, enough of my prithering. Go read this classic if you haven’t already!

book review, memoirs/biographies, nonfiction, reading recommendations

Review: Bossypants

Some people say, “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.

Bossypants, Tina Fey


Click the image above to purchase the book on Amazon.

I love Tina Fey. I have seen Mean Girls more times than I can count and I have seen every episode of 30 Rock. Also, how can I forget her unforgettable performances and writing on Saturday Night Live? If something has Tina Fey involved, I will probably be there.

AUTHOR: Tina Fey

GENRE: Memoir, Humor

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

BACKGROUND: Tina Fey: writer, actress, humorist. This is her memoir, which follows her from an awkward high schooler to the comedian trying to make it in Chicago to the female head writer at SNL and beyond. Always witty, and always funny, she relays the events in her life and her thoughts on feminist topics, such as the use of Photoshop, the morality of abortions, and more, but always maintains a lighthearted tone. Quirky, humorous, and honest, this memoir offers a deeper insight into the events of Fey’s career and the thoughts that occupy Fey’s mind.

THOUGHTS: I think Tina Fey has a very specific kind of humor in her command. It is the same kind that branded 30 Rock. It is a kind of humor that speaks to me and entertains me, but of course, it is not for everyone. 30 Rock, while critically acclaimed, never caught on to mass popularity with the general public. So, this book may or may not tickle your funny bone, but I thoroughly enjoyed the humor of it.

It was cool to gain the insider’s perspective of all the media that I had been a fan of for so long- Mean Girls, 30 Rock, working with Tracy Jordan and Alec Baldwin, and how she was introduced to Amy Poehler. I also liked learning about what Tina Fey, who has stood up for women in the entertainment industry multiple times, thought about the certain debates in feminist thinking as well. However she didn’t lecture on the morality or the rightness or wrongness of certain feminist perspectives, which I appreciated.

Fey’s writing is captivating, as as quirky as her own personality. Many of her insecurities throughout the year are more relatable to me than would be most actress’ memoirs; Fey is a comedian, is not classically attractive, and was somewhat socially awkward in her early twenties. All of these qualities, and the experiences that accompany them makes Fey much more relatable to the average reader than other actresses or celebrities that may write memoirs.

If you are a fan of Tina Fey and her work, and if you enjoy a good laugh, I would highly recommend this read!

book review, play, reading recommendations

Review: Death of a Salesman

A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man

Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller


This is probably my favorite play of all time, just a warning! There will be considerable gushing for this particular work.

AUTHOR: Arthur Miller

GENRE: Drama, Tragedy

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: school library

SUMMARY: Willy Loman is a less-than-mediocre salesman that seems utterly incapable of coming to terms with his own mediocrity and average state and with the lack of conventional success in his two sons’ lives, Biff and Happy. It is revealed in the play that Willy had always imagined that his two sons would experience great success, as Biff was the quarterback of the football team and was predicted to go to college on a football scholarship. Their neighbor, Bernard, is a smart kid who had constantly reminded Biff to study so as not to fail his high school classes. It is also apparent to the audience that Biff as a kid was a bully, full of himself, irresponsible, and a troublemaker. Willy is as blind to his son’s flaws at that time as he is in the present, and Biff and Happy strive to prove to their father that they will lead ordinary lives. Their mother, Linda, pushes them to make their father happy by pursuing prospects that do not really exist and careers that ultimately would not make them happy. Willy refuses to listen to his kids’ protests, and his children desperately try to play in his fantasy world while Linda moderates, but eventually all of these tensions come to a boiling point and a climax that the family cannot ultimately return from.

RATING: 5/5 stars

THOUGHTS: There are many reasons why this is one of my favorite plays, and one of the reasons is because the theatricality of it is so thought out and employed so well. All of the details and thought put into the stage directions is amazing and helps the reader really envision the work; it is a play that can exist as beautifully on stage as it does on paper. Specifically, the flute music that is supposed to accompany the story and Willy’s memories is one of my favorites details, and Miller’s details concerning how the house is supposed to be set up embody the feeling of the story so perfectly.

This is also a story about the American Dream, but not in the way that more classical works like The Great Gatsby address the materialism accompanied with the American Dream. One would think that Willy’s son Biff was the perfect high-school hero, as a popular kid and the star of the football team. However, his future did not pan out as well as Willy might have hoped it would, and this mostly resulted from the character flaws of Biff and from some of Willy’s. Instead, the expectations for a standard American life and the entitlement that can sometimes embody American culture are the subjects of this show, and I think it only reveals why idealizing anyone else’s idea of the perfect life can be so damaging and demoralizing.

Willy Loman is the epitome of a tragic hero, and it is unclear what exactly, in medical and psychological terms, what it was that he was afflicted with. There is no need to really know what could possibly be affecting Willy’s mental and emotional state, because it is family expectations and an idealized world that ultimately would be his downfall, and he pushed these things that poisoned his life onto his sons, continuing the cycle of abuse. He has no consciousness that these are his weaknesses though, except maybe at the end, and this makes him a fascinating character that I love to investigate over and over again.

This is a simple family drama but it is ultimately a reflection on American culture, and it is almost certain that everyone has something to draw from the story. I think that is what makes it timeless to me, that as a high schooler in 2016, I could still relate to the character of Willy Loman from decades ago. He only ever strived to be a great man and not just another chip off the block, and I believe that a lot of us strive to be one of the “greats” when the reality is, that most of us are the flecks of dust and not the flecks of gold. However, this can be embraced in its own way and has its own beauty, a message that Willy Loman never learned but one that perhaps Arthur Miller did and was trying to convey through this work.

book review, historical fiction, reading recommendations

Review: All the Light We Cannot See

What do we call visible light? We call it color. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr


Click link to purchase on Amazon.

This book is probably the single thing that kept me from going insane during my second semester of my senior year of high school. Instead of procrastinating and refreshing my college application sites every three minutes, I was transported to the wonderful world of this novel instead.

AUTHOR: Anthony Doerr

GENRE: Historical Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: I got this for my birthday

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Marie-Laure is a French, blind, adolescent girl whose father is employed by a museum. Her father is forced to flee with her and they go to live with her uncle, who is pretty much a recluse, in a French sea town. Her father is in possession of a jewel that has mythical powers and is said to be protective against physical dangers. The Germans are after this particular jewel and therefore, after Marie-Laure’s father. Werner is an bright adolescent in the German countryside with a knack for trigonometry and technology; he joins the Hitler Youth and eventually the Nazi Army as the expert in technology. These two live through the realities of World War 2, and eventually their two paths converge in a tragically beautiful way.

THOUGHTS: I honestly don’t have many criticisms of this novel, except I might argue the necessity of a few plot points? However, I absolutely loved the rest of this novel- the language, the style, the set up of the book, the motifs, the plot, etc. It was all very beautifully crafted and so unlike anything that I had read before, especially from the genre of historical fiction.

I must dedicate some time to praising Doerr’s unique and ethereal style of writing. Doerr beautifully marries vignettes and the novel form, and it is so unlike how I have seen these styles combined in other novels (like in The House on Mango Street). Also, the figurative language, especially the metaphors and the imagery, felt fresh and not at all cliched- they were refreshingly new and at the same time, felt familiar and made sense, as if they had been cliches.

Doerr is also one of those writers that can make you sympathize with a Nazi and only feel slightly guilty about it. There is such a beautiful humanity given to Werner, who became part of the German army because that was the only way he could pursue an education that he so desperately craved. It is such a twist to experience the events of World War 2 from the perspective of adolescents.

Marie, who is also an adolescent experiencing the horrors of war as formative events during her childhood, is also beautifully fleshed out and is such a sweet and sympathetic character. She has all the frustrations of a recently disabled young girl and all the imagination of a child, something that she does not lose as she loses her innocence.

The themes of technology in war (which is discussed in the form of radio), adolescence, morality, nature, health, power, and myth are mixed together so that it feels like a contemporary story, even though it takes place in the past. If you are a fan of historical fiction, as I am, as well as a fan of a bit of fantasy mixed with your history, this is the book for you!

book review, short story sunday

Short Story Sunday: Me Talk Pretty One Day

For those of you who find it hard to set time aside to read, but still love the pull of a good novel, I introduce to you Short Story Sundays! Basically, I will review a short story or even an essay that I loved each Sunday (most of them will be recommendations) instead of a full length novel or play that you can easily pick up, read, and digest in the span of an hour.

The Short Story this Sunday is not really a short story and more of an essay and it comes to you from the one, the only, David Sedaris. I have actually read Sedaris’ Naked and highly enjoyed it so I will definitely get around to writing a review for it later on. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sedaris, he is a humorist who writes essays based on events of his own lives. If you have never read The Santaland Diaries, drop what you’re doing and go read it now!

SUMMARY: This essay is about Sedaris taking a French class in France itself, and its awful, unsympathetic, strict teacher. It is a humorous glance into what it is like to take a class with a horrid teacher, and anyone who has been in a similar situation can sympathize with the terror of not knowing the right answer and knowing you will be punished for it, or the tendency of students in a terrible class to bond together and make strong friendships over a shared, scarring experience. Per usual, Sedaris takes a miserable situation and manages to turn it on its head so that it is heartwarming and hilarious.

REVIEW: Sedaris’ trademark style is on display here and I wouldn’t recommend another, better way to be immersed in Sedaris’ world and works. While this essay is rather simple and does not present a situation that is too out of the ordinary, the satire that is involved, the comic archetypes of characters present in the story, and the exaggerated atmosphere of the whole situation portrays Sedaris’ talent at making a real experience more fictionalized, but this fictionalization only makes the story more accessible to his audience. There is not much to be said about it, because it is so short and simple in a lovely way, except to say that sometimes Sedaris’ worldview is baffling to me, and that is what makes his stories and essays that much more interesting.

RATING: 5/5 stars, would definitely recommend.