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, 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 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: 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, 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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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

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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!

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