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

28218948

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!

Advertisements
Standard
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

9780812980349_p0_v1_s1200x630

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!

 

Standard
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

persepolis

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.

Standard
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!

Standard
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

64ee7bf5ca6efe7cb2b3970f66516113

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.

Standard
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

1-coates-between-the-world-and-me

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.

Standard
book review, reading recommendations, short story sunday

Short Story Sunday: Killings


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.

This week’s short story is Killings by Andre Dubus, and it is from a genre I rarely read and probably rarely will talk about, and that’s thriller. If you enjoy this work, I would recommend that you read other works by Dubus who is simply put, a genius.

SUMMARY: Matt Fowler is a husband and father who is grieving the loss of his son. His son, Frank, was murdered by Richard, who was the ex-husband of the girl that Frank was involved with. Matt cannot stand to see that Richard is out and about in town while his wife and he are in tremendous pain. And so, Matt sets out on a mission and enlists a buddy of his to seek revenge on Richard. I won’t say what it is Matt does, but the title probably gives you a good enough idea of what happens.

REVIEW: Okay so even though the title is pretty explicit, I was still taken aback by the events of the story, especially those at the end. Why? Because Dubus does an excellent job of humanizing Matt, of making the reader feel for his grief, his anger, and his overall sense of dissatisfaction. Dubus makes one fall in love with Matt’s backstory, and even can provoke some readers to feel that Matt was justified in his actions. And that is the mastery of fiction writing at its best: when readers find themselves sympathizing with those who commit heinous acts and are horrified when they realize what a strange place that is to be in too late. So even though the events of the story seem almost inevitable, it comes as a surprise just because Matt is so much like you or me.

RATING: 5/5 stars; if you are a fan of thrillers, I would especially recommend this to you.

 

Standard