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, 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 tag

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Resolutions / Goals

I am now going to be joining the delightful bookish meme: Top Ten Tuesday! It is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, so go check her and it out! This week’s theme is Bookish Resolutions for the new year.

  • Read 50 Books (or more)

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Last year, I shot low and easily surpassed reading my initial goal of 25 books by 10. This year, I am aiming towards 50, which I feel like I can achieve easily. That comes to about one book a week, and I already have a great start:

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  • Read War and Peace

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The longest book that I read last year was Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Kareninawhich I thoroughly enjoyed. The reason that I decided to read this book was to see if I could get through War and Peace, the logic being that if I can get through and enjoy Karenina, then I will like War and Peace. I’ll probably hold off on this book until the summer though.

  • Read more physical books

Because I am a political science major, it can be difficult for me to pick up a book in between classes or for leisure because I am already reading up to 300 pages of text each week for school. I have gotten around this fact by listening to more audiobooks, but I am going to try and incorporate more physical books into my school schedule since I have so many!! But if I can’t, or if my mental health can’t take it, then I’m not going to push it. Reading is enjoyable, and I strive to keep it that way!

  • Read more non-fiction!

This is a BIG resolution for me. I only read 9/35 nonfiction books last year, and I would really like to increase the percentage. Fiction is a fun escape, but non-fiction books have so much to offer as well. I recently got a copy of The Art of War and I am still trying to read What Happened, so I definitely have good options for this section.

  • Read more diverse authors

This goal is mostly aimed at reading more authors of color. I am guilty of reading in a very Eurocentric manner, and given that I am an Asian-American woman, I especially would like to read more books by people that look like and have had similar experiences to me.

  • Finish a series

Hopefully I can finally finish the rest of the Percy Jackson books that I’ve been putting off, or even the Jojo Moyes series, and take those books off my TBR.

  • Check off some of those DNF books

We’re all guilty of this, aren’t we? I just want to finish one or two of those DNF books.

  • Read over 20,000 pages

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I don’t just want to read a certain numerical amount of books, especially as I often read plays, which are significantly shorter than novels. I read around 12,500 pages last year, so I hope reading 20,000 pages across 50+ books is reasonable!

  • Get through 20% of my TBR list

Oh, my TBR list. It’s so long, and I have not been great about adhering to it strictly because of the availability of books or the release of new books. I have only read 11/127 of the books on that list, which comes to around 8%. I would really like to read through 20% of that list AT LEAST this year, so that means around 26 books. 26-11 comes to 15, which is pretty reasonable.

  • Read more classics

Especially, especailly Jane Austen. and Shakespeare. I especially want to finish all of Jane Austen’s novels.

What are your bookish resolutions?

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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.

 

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book review, fiction

Review: So Long, See You Tomorrow

I had inadvertently walked through a door that I shouldn’t have gone through and couldn’t get back to the place I hadn’t meant to leave.

So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell

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Click on the image above to purchase on Amazon.

AUTHOR: William Maxwell

GENRE: Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: Amazon

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: A middle-aged narrator looks back on the events surrounding the murder that had affected his best friend, Cletus, when both of them were adolescents. The narrator was not personally affected by the murder, but keeps returning to it in his memory, unable to let it go. He reconstructs the persons involved in the crime, and the part they might have played in leading up to the murder. As he digs back into the past and how it upset his friend, Cletus, he finds bits and pieces of his own past that also beg for closure, at last.

THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed Maxwell’s writing in this book. It had dreamy qualities to it, ones that appropriately fitted the farmtown he was describing and that enhanced the fact that this story was told throughout memories. I also like Maxwell’s choice of a narrator- by choosing someone who was not involved in the murder, there is no bias in the narrator’s retelling of the events.

The subject of loss, and coming to terms with loss, is heavily explored in this book. The figurative language used to demonstrate the narrator’s struggle with his own losses, as well as how lost he is in the present, is done so masterfully and in a unique style that I have not encountered before.

The multiple narrators, or at least, the multiple personas that the narrator takes on when trying to explain the events, gives the story multiple points of views; and this choice is appropriate, so that characters are neither villified nor idealized, but rather, as human as they possibly can be.

In a way, the way that this book approaches memories was reminiscent of The Glass MenagerieThe fact that memories and fiction go so well together, and the fact that the relationship between the two is so tangible and yet unreachable, since memories are only configurations of our imaginations, the things that only we think happened, makes for an interesting subject to read about. I also like how the subject of maturity and maturation is not necessarily linked to a certain age- the narrator is in his fifties (don’t quote me on that) but he is still learning a lot from reflecting on his youth and examining emotions that he has repressed for too long and has never really learned to leave behind in the past.

The plot is engaging, even though there is no suspense or mystery to the crime. There isn’t supposed to be, and if it were, it would take away from the actual story. I read this novel in the span of a couple of hours, and if you are looking for a quick, thought-provoking, and enjoyable read, then I would definitely recommend this book to you.

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challenges, reading goals

Our Shared Shelf


Did you guys know that THE Emma Watson has a book club? AND it’s all about reading books about feminism?

I’m technically part of the book group on Goodreads but I have a confession…I haven’t been keeping up with the book of the month that they have been reading. Actually, I’ve barely read any of the books that they’ve read. But for the sake of expanding the genres that I read and the subjects I read about…I am going to start a masterlist and keep track of my progress on it. They’re only about 15ish books in…so it shouldn’t be too hard to catch up!

striked out titles means I’ve read them; I’ll link reviews if I have reviewed them on this blog.

I got their read list here.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale
  2. Women who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories about the Wild Women Archetype
  3. The Vagina Monologues
  4. Mom & Me & Mom
  5. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
  6. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
  7. The Complete Persepolis
  8. The Agronauts
  9. All About Love: New Visions
  10. The Color Purple
  11. My Life on the Road
  12. The Beauty Myth
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countdown

#DNF list- Books I Did Not Finish


It is nearing the end of the calendar year, and I figured I’d wrap up the year with some books I have never finished. Hopefully, in 2018, I will be able to finish these novels (at least some of them!)

  • The Aeneid by Virgil:

This was a book that I was assigned to read for an Ancient Roman culture class. We only were assigned to read excerpts of it throughout class and I honestly never picked it up again after that class ended, mostly because that particular class required so much reading every week that I had to take a break from that story. However, it is interesting and educational so I’d like to think that I’d pick it up again.

  • Anna Karenina  by Leo Tolstoy

I have been “reading” this book for over a year now and I always make excuses not to read it- I’ll go and read a shorter book or I’ll listen to my audiobook or I’ll read my ebook. It’s a really bad habit and I’m nearly halfway through, so hopefully I will get the urge to just power through it. I am really enjoying it, it’s just dense and sometimes I have to switch to something lighter or more contemporary. The issue is I often get stuck in those other novels while forgetting about this classic.

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

I had to read excerpts of this for a science class and actually really enjoy the spin that Bryson puts on science- it’s accessible to laymen who have never taken a psychics class in their life like me and it’s entertaining. There are narratives behind every discovery described and I would like to finish the parts that were not assigned to me because it was that good.

  • Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

I tried reading this book as an adolescent and it was a more adult version of Little Women that young me just didn’t identify with as much as the characters in the original book. However, as a younger adult now, I think I would like to give this book the second chance it deserves.

  • The History of Rome by Livy

Again, I was assigned this book for my ancient Rome class, and because a lot of Rome’s “history” is mythologically based, I would like to continue reading this book but in a less academic, more relaxed setting.

  • Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

I regret never finishing the Inkheart trilogy, especially because I loved the first two. I was deterred by the enormous size of the third book, as well as a couple of friends who told me that the book was not worth my time. Thinking back on it (in my defense I was ten years old so the opinions of my peers had great weight on me) I should have formed my own opinion on the book and just committed to finishing the series in the first place.

  • The Complete Sonnets of Shakespeare

It’s not like me to read poetry as I would a novel, but instead pick it up from time to time. However, I believe I don’t pick up this poetry book quite as often as I should, and I do hope to, one day, have read every poem and play written by Shakespeare.

  • The Story of Earth by Robert M. Hazen

I was also assigned parts of this for a science class. However, I am not sure I am as determined to finish this one as the others- it describes the origins of Earth and is kind of dry unless you are a geologist enthusiast? It is interesting though, but maybe this one will be a book I’ll never finish.

  • The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp

I love, love, love The Sound of Music. I am pretty sure I have the entire soundtrack memorized at heart. I tried to read this memoir at a young age, but it differed so much from the idealized, romanticized version of this story portrayed in the movie that I quickly lost interest. However, as an adult (do you see a theme here?) I’d like to think I’d appreciate the real story more.

  • Tender is the Night by Scott Fitzgerald

This was simply a vacation read that I never quite finished, but I would really like to. I don’t have a good excuse for this one, besides the simple fact that I forgot I was reading it.

How many books on your #didnotfinish list? Will you continue reading those, or will they remain unfinished for you?

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