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

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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!

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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, 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

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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