March Wrap-Up!

This month I have completed 4 books, and am in-progress on two, though I don’t know if I’ll finish them before the month is out. As for my goal to read 50 books this year, I’m 4 books ahead which is great! I’m surprised I’ve kept up the pace, even though I’ve been quite busy. Spring break definitely helped–I finished three books during that week.

30753852I first completed The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson, which was a pick for my book club. I had been wanting to read this for awhile, and the ebook was on sale earlier in the month, so I was really excited to read this. The Blood of Emmett Till tells of the lynching of Emmet Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago, in Mississippi by multiple white men. These men claimed that Till had insulted and sexually assaulted their family member, a young women who was working at the family grocery. While this account was blatantly false, it, and racial prejudices in the South, helped the white men escape jail time, and instead be acquitted by the jury.

This is by no means a fast read. Tyson goes over Till’s killing many times, in gripping detail, as well as similar acts of violence, protest and activism in the South during the 1950s and 60s. Tyson does an expert job at tying the events of 1955 to the growth of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He brings in many different moments of activism, in specific detail, and weaves them together in a complex history of civil rights and racism in America. In the end, Tyson weaves in his own opinion, and writes in a fiery, passionate tone of our past and current racial prejudices, and what we must do to incite change in American society. I think this is a great read for anyone interested in topics of race, equality and civil rights in America. While Tyson brings up many topics and names, I didn’t feel too lost, or that I was lacking some previous knowledge to understand and learn from this book.

I then read Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression by Brooke Shields, which I read only for class. I didn’t end up liking it much at all, mainly due to Shields’ poor writing. This tells of her quest for a baby and the aftermath of the birth of her first child, when she struggled with postpartum depression. This is quite a serious issue, and I think there could have been a more in-depth analysis of depression and how it affected her, and others. However, Shields’s writing remains surface-level and many of her observations are rather privileged and, at times, insensitive. While I don’t want to trivialize what Shields struggled with, I don’t think this was a very well-written book. I think the only people who would truly enjoy this are fans of Shields. However, I would be interested in reading other, more engaging, memoirs on this topic.

Then it was Spring Break, and I finished two books on the train to and from Chicago! I first read Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, which I have been meaning to read forever. Annihilation tells of an unknown boundary which is slowly expanding and taking up more land. The land inside this border is called Area X, and mysterious, crazy things seem to be happening inside. A biologist, our nameless narrator, join a team of other women specialists to journey inside and study what is occurring. While the journey begins with only hints at the otherworldly, it soon turns quite crazy. I won’t spoil anything, but I must admit I had to read this in daylight on the train. It is a little too creepy for nighttime reading (for me, at least).  I really love VanderMeer’s writing style, and I am currently reading Borne, which I’m enjoying a lot. His stories are very unique and clever, and his writing is very insightful. It is a delightful combination for science-fiction, which can sometimes be less ‘literary.’

36098092I finished March with Lauren Groff’s new short story collection, Florida. Thank you to Riverhead and Edelweiss for providing me with a digital review copy. This collection comes out in June, and I am so excited for everyone to get their hands on it! This is a beautiful, varied collection of stories which all center around Florida and it’s unique and dangerous environment. Each story seems to have an undercurrent of dread or fear, and I enjoyed the different ways in which Groff understood and incorporated these emotions. Each story is a new experience, and even the two stories I didn’t take to as much were really engaging. I highly recommend this collection, and the cover is gorgeous! 

Happy reading to everyone in April, and let me know what you loved reading in March! 🙂

Advertisements

Review: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

35480518I was originally drawn to this book because it is about (at least partly) a college student, which I don’t often read about, and as I am a college student, I thought it would be interesting.

Greer is a college freshman at Ryland, a fictitious college in… Pennsylvania, if I remember correctly. She is very smart, and got into Yale, but her parent’s ineptitude at financial aid forms made the steep tuition insurmountable, so she wound up at Ryland. In the beginning of her freshman year, as she sullenly lives college life, she goes to a lecture by Faith Frank, a famous feminist from the 70s. After the lecture, she has a conversation with Faith in the bathroom, which changes her life and leads her to become a passionate feminist herself. The Female Persuasion follows Greer as she grows up and learns what life is really like outside of school. We also get sections from the perspective of Greer’s longtime high school boyfriend, Cory, her college best friend Zee, and Faith herself.

I found this story to grow more compelling as I read on, and learned more about Greer, who is such a realistic and layered character. I think Wolitzer really excels in creating a believable and thoughtful environment through her characters, situations and locations. As a college student myself, I found the first section of the book, when Greer is still in school, very relatable, and I enjoyed reading about her, and her friend Zee’s, path from college to job.

The way feminism is discussed in this novel is quite interesting. It mainly focuses on second-wave feminism, which Faith Frank was a part of. Faith carries these perspectives with her, while slowly adapting to our current versions of feminism. And besides the actual discussion of and work surrounding feminism done by characters in this book, the relationships between women are quite interesting examinations of how feminism plays out in one’s actions. The way that Greer and Zee idolize Faith and eventually grow out of that, and the way Greer and Zee interact on their own offer thoughtful observations on the difference between thoughts and actions. I found it all quite interesting and thought-provoking.

This book is a realistic and compelling glimpse at what life can hold for some, and how different people develop and change their moral code throughout their life. I think there is a lot to learn from this book, for all readers, regardless of age.

The Female Persuasion comes out from Riverhead on April 3, 2018–be sure to check it out! Thank you to Riverhead and Edelweiss for providing me with a digital advanced copy of this book.

Review: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

10706388I have held off reviewing this book so I could gather my thoughts a bit…

Everyone has raved so highly about the love story in this novel, and while I loved the beautiful writing of Aciman, I read this book more as a coming of age story, rather than a love story. I felt that throughout the novel, we see Elio coming to terms with his own sexuality and place in the world, outside of the comforting and nurturing environment his parents have created for him. I found the introspection and narration by Elio is what made this book quite interesting and clever. Yes–Elio is probably too intelligent and reflective for a 17-year-old, but as a character he is richly developed, and human. I found his vulnerabilities particularly interesting, and somewhat relatable. He is on the precipice of adulthood, and this story captured that battle perfectly.

Because of this, I didn’t quite have as strong an emotional reaction as some others did. I recognized the sadness and bittersweetness of their romance from a distance, yet didn’t fully connect with it. I think this hindered my reading of the second-half of the novel. I also read this book in two chunks a week apart, which I felt alienated me from the emotion even more. However, I still enjoyed the second half, and it was really gratifying to see Elio come fully into himself and mature. He is quite a complex character, and I really enjoyed reading from his perspective.

I think my reading of the book also deeply enhanced the experience of the movie, which I just saw. I felt that without reading the book, one might have a more shallow understanding of the beginning of the movie, especially Elio, when Elio and Oliver are playing games with each other. As I watched, I caught myself adding lines and details from the book, merging the two together quite nicely. I also had a much stronger connection with their love story during the movie. I think seeing the action play out on screen and putting faces to characters helped. I also think that in the movie the focus is more on their actions, and their love, rather than Elio’s own development (which is not apparent as much, since it cuts off right after Oliver leaves, which I thought was very fitting), since heavy narration cannot play such a heavy part in a film.

I did deduct a star for some of the more.. creepy scenes from the book, such as Elio’s defaming of an apricot, and his weird time with Oliver’s red bathing suit.

I think this movie is a great addition to the reading of the book, and the two go hand in hand very well. The casting was absolutely perfect, and the tidbits where quotes from the book were thrown in were just perfect. I think reading the book and seeing the movie are the perfect combination and lead to a more in-depth understanding of the story, which one cannot often say.

4/5!

Review: A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

34328874When I requested this book on Netgalley, I envisioned a homey, historical tale of a family of witches. And that’s kind of what I got, though there were some flaws that kept this book from living up to the enjoyable and comforting read that I wanted.

A Secret History of Witches is exactly what it sounds like. It documents the generations of an ancient sorceress line, the Ochiéres (sp?), who escape prosecution in France by traveling to England. The book goes through many parts, each focusing on one woman in the subsequent generation. Each part varies in length and plot, and the sectioning of the book in this manner is where my main issue lies.

While reading, especially in the beginning, I kept trying to find a uniting theme or reason for moving from witch to witch, with relatively nothing happening in some of the earlier parts. The first few parts were rather boring, with a quick retelling of the woman’s life with maybe two interesting things that happened to her. I couldn’t figure out why I was reading this, and what these stories were trying to tell me–it just seemed like a simple family diary. It got slightly better as I read on, since the later parts got longer and told a more detailed and exciting story. I wish that the entire book was condensed, so that we focused on the last two generations of witches (Morwen and Veronica), who I connected with the most and who had actual plots and interesting conflicts they had to understand and learn from. I understand, after reading, that the earlier parts serve to provide background to the reader, but I feel this could have been accomplished in shorter flashbacks or re-tellings inserted into the story of Morwen and Veronica.

minor spoiler below–

I also take issue with parts of the plot– Why does everyone’s mother have to die before they can pass down the craft? Why hide it so much? I feel like it is a cop out for trying to make their lives exciting or more unique. I also felt the casting of Queen Elizabeth as a fellow witch, and them forming a coven to help win WWII, SO bizarre! Like… where did this come from? Why did this need to happen? It just seemed so odd and out of place…

minor spoiler over!

Anyways.. this book was more enjoyable as I read along, but I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy, even though I read it very late…

Best Books of 2017

I know this is rather late, but better late than never. I am trying to get back into blogging, instead of just updating my Goodreads account (though if you’d like more frequent updates, be sure to follow me there!). There is no set order or number of books I’ve chosen–this is very freeform, haha. Now, let’s get to the books!

 

22822858

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was the first book I read in 2017, and its weighty and heartbreaking story has stuck with me throughout the year. We follow four college classmates as they grow up in New York City after graduation. This book follows this foursome through decades, but Jude, who is now a powerful lawyer, keeps them all together, only so they can keep an eye on him. A Little Life, in my opinion, is truly about Jude, and his struggle to become less broken and life up to the expectations of his three friends, and family. This book is absolutely beautiful, and gives you a lot to chew on.

My next pick is another January read–A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I have recommended this book to countless people after finishing it, it is just that good. It is the perfect combination of gorgeously written, atmospheric historical fiction and a slow-burning plot that really allows the reader to connect with the characters. After Count Rostov is placed under house arrest in the attic of the grand Metropol hotel due to his aristocrat status, he makes the best of his stay by observing as much of the tumultuous outside world as he can from the confines of the hotel. He befriends a young girl, who he cares for as she grows older, and the bond they form is absolutely charming. I really fell in love with this book.

I read Human Acts by Han Kang in February, and it really struck me. Kang’s writing is absolutely gorgeous, and I think Human Acts is a better display than the more famous The Vegetarian. In Human Acts, we follow Dong-ho, a young boy who gets involved in the Gwangju Uprising, also known as 5/18, in South Korea, where the military crushed a student rebellion, killing many civilians. Dong-ho dies in the beginning of the book, and in subsequent chapters we read the perspectives of various acquaintances of Dong-ho. Kang’s writing and storytelling ability full inhabit each character and their harrowing experiences. I highly recommend anything Kang writes, and I am eager for more translations of her work to arrive in the United States.

9781455563937Another novel that focuses on South Korea is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, which I read in March. Pachinko tells the story of a young girl who is impregnated by a married Japanese man, who refuses to leave his wife for her. However, a young priest comes to her town and agrees to marry her if she will travel to Japan to live with him there. Lee then embarks on a vast family saga which follows a Korean family’s struggle to survive in Japan, where Koreans were discriminated against. Japan colonized Korea from 1910-1945, and accepted Koreans into Japan, but treated them as second-class citizens and forced them to give up their own culture and language to survive in Japanese society. Pachinko gives us a personal view of such struggle, and has opened many eyes to an often overlooked issue.

Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore is another eye-opening read, and tells the story of women who painted with poisonous radium paint at watch-dial factories before, during and after World War I. I had never read of these women and their plight for compensation from their employers before, and this tale was shocking, but not completely surprising. Moore’s writing is really lovely, and while the story was a little choppy at times, the subject matter has really stuck with me after reading this.

Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson is another historical fiction title which addresses themes of racism and family in the American South during the 1930s. I found Henderson’s writing really lovely and the premise of the story is quite interesting and unique. A young woman births twins, but one is black and one is white. The night of their birth her father and the townspeople lynch the young black man who worked on their property, who supposedly raped her, but as the story progresses, secrets unravel and the truth eventually comes out. This can be a hard book to read at times, but I felt Henderson addressed such important historical issues in an impactful way, leaving us with a lot to think about.

34273236I found a copy of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng at a yard sale, and I’m so glad I did! I had not yet read her first book when I picked this up, and wow–I was blown away by her writing! Little Fires Everywhere tells the story of two families in a small suburb of Cincinnati and the consequences of each of their actions. Little Fires Everywhere addresses social class, family and privilege in a very thought-provoking manner. I’m so glad I read this, and I am excited to read Ng’s first book.

I read Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado for a book club, though I wasn’t able to attend the meeting. Either way, this was an amazing collection of short stories! Each story is so unique, and Machado’s style of writing is engaging and lovely to read. The stories in this collection each blend fantasy, sex, horror and everyday life in a seamless fashion. While I didn’t enjoy two stories, I think overall this is a masterful collection and I am excited to read more from Machado in the future.

Lastly, I wanted to mention The Power by Naomi Alderman, which I received as a Christmas present and devoured soon after. The Power tells of a near future where women suddenly develop an electric power in their hands, which switches the gender ‘balance’ around the world. Women begin to rise up and claim what men have denied them–freedom, power and confidence. The way the story is crafted and framed is clever and thoughtful, and I enjoyed how each character we follow told a different aspect of the upheaval of society created by this power. A really good feminist piece of fiction!

And that’s it! An honorable mention goes to The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle, which I breezed through and was completely enamored with. I hope you all had great reading years in 2017, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store.

Cover Redesign: The Beach

I have finally found time to redesign some covers! I started with The Beach by Alex Garland, and while I didn’t particularly enjoy this book, it inspired me enough to play around with some cover ideas. Let me know which you prefer, and what book I should do next!

Beach5Beach3