April 2017 Wrap-Up: The Vegetarian, Exit West and More!

Hi all! In April I read waaay more books than I did in March, which I’m really excited about. I completed 7 books, and dnf’d 1 book. I’ll talk about all 8 down below, so just get scrolling to find out what I read this month.

30687928The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

I received an advanced copy of this book from a giveaway, and I was so excited to get to it. I’ve heard a lot about Margaret George, but I’d never picked one of her books up before. I also know very little of Roman history, so I thought this might be a fun, and somewhat educational, introduction. This novel tells the story of Nero, a Roman emperor (I do not remember the family details but feel free to hit up Google), from his boyhood to his mid-twenties. This novel is quite action packed, and full of intrigue, legend and sex (as to be expected of a book about ancient Rome). I thought George’s writing was gripping and dynamic. George did a great job of creating Nero, and a beautiful and vivid world for him to inhabit. This is a fun adventure story that you will quickly get lost in. I definitely recommend it, especially for summer, and I will eagerly await the next installment in the series. 4/5 stars

25489025The Vegetarian by Han Kang (한강)

I read this novel in maybe three hours, both for fun and for my Korean Literature class. I’m sure you have all heard of this novel, since it won the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction last year, and I think it definitely deserved it. The main character, Yeonghye, and all that she goes through, allows us to understand a variety of topics and themes that impact us as humans. We see the effects of mental illness, gender inequality (esp. regarding the male gaze), violence, desire and more. I think this book really forces the reader to think about some tough issues, and confronts one with really bizarre and shocking situations in order to purposely provoke us. It can be a hard read at times, but I think it is quite interesting and thoughtful, and definitely worth your time. I think everyone will get something slightly different out of this novel, and I am definitely interested in hearing your thoughts, if you have read this novel. I also 100% recommend Kang’s other novel that has been translated into English — Human Acts. 5/5 stars

29936927The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui

The Best We Could Do tells the story of Thi Bui and her family, before and after they moved to the United States from Vietnam. I learned a lot about Vietnamese history, and the stories of immigrants, which I haven’t read a lot about. I thought the artwork and dialogue in this graphic novel were really lovely. While I was reading an advanced copy, and didn’t have access to the full-color illustrations, the ink work was really beautiful and expressive. However, I felt that the beginning of this graphic novel was very confusing and unorganized. The story jumped from narrative to narrative, and I was very confused as to what was happening, and how time was flowing, until about a third of the way in. However, once the story settles itself, it is really beautifully told and Thi Bui offers an important glimpse into the life of an immigrant family and her parent’s history and troubles in America. 3.5/5 stars.

30688435Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

To be honest, the more time after reading this, the less I think is truly exceptional, and I’m not sure why it has been so so hyped. Exit West tells the story of Nadia and Saeed who escape their home country through one of many mysterious doors that have begun to pop up around the world, leading people to new countries. This has led to a mass migrant crisis, as people eagerly jump through doors to escape their present reality. I think the story is really interesting and relevant, but the story hasn’t stuck with me. However, even if the story has left me a bit, one of the main characters, Nadia, has really stayed with me. Her independence and strength stood out and contrasted sharply with Saeed, who was more restrained and thoughtful. Nadia is a firecracker who I think offers some of the more interesting revelations/thoughts of this novel. I also think the idea of ‘doors’ that randomly transport people from country to country is quite clever. The writing style is also just too lyrical for me. When a sentence lasts an entire page, and simply describes a landscape, it can get a little much for me. However, some lines were truly beautiful, so I would call Hamid’s lyricism a mixed bag…. at times it was great, but others not so much. 3.5/5 stars

31451047The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

I did not finish this book and I can’t deign to re-describe why, so I will just post exactly what I wrote on Goodreads.

The writing in this book is fine, but that’s about the only redeemable quality of this book. I started off enjoying it enough to keep reading, but as I read on, I kept getting the feeling that there was something wrong. And I’ve finally figured it out–this book sounds like an older man’s dream relationship.

The main character, Adam, is a software engineer working in Australia for a few months. He is kind of nerdy (in the sense that he is smart and likes 1960s music), and plays the piano at a local bar, where he meets Angelica, who just happens to be a famous actress in Australia! And he doesn’t know who she is so he is different, he acts *normal*. Angelica is written as a very naïve, innocent, and helpless girl who Adam saves (portrayed as the sex god who finally awakens her sexuality, etc). But she also went to law school, and is really smart… yet Adam is still written as so superior and like the guiding force in her life. She never gets annoyed with him, he never screws up. His awkward and stupid ploys turn out to be cute and fun. I just feel like both characters are so so flat and one-dimensional. Adam needs to be toned down and have some weaknesses, and Angelica needs to be fleshed-out and actually have some individuality and independence. She isn’t a doll!
AKA don’t read this unless you want a male-dominated romance where the woman is portrayed as a spineless young girl who is led around by the man.

Don’t know if I completely spelled out what I am thinking since I still am not sure how best to put it into words but.. hope that helps!

Also, I don’t think any almost-50-year-old writes ‘wassup’ in an email to their ex-lover.

DNF @ pg80. I won an advanced readers copy of this book from a giveaway by the publisher.

32284096Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman

This book is really sweet! It is a YA historical adventure, about a 15-year-old mixed boy, named Caleb, living in 1750’s England with his father, who is quickly jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. His father ends up dead, washed up on the beach by Caleb’s aunt’s house, and Caleb is the one to find him. However, everyone else denies that the body is his father, so Caleb sets out to figure out what exactly happened. I really liked that this story didn’t have an intense focus on romance, which a lot of YA books do, and instead the mystery of his father’s death guided the story. The small amount of romance that was included was bearable, if a little awkward at times. A really sweet and simple read. 3/5 stars.

34638913Queen of Spades by Michael Shou-Yung Shum

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley. This novel is based on the classic Pushkin fable, which I have not yet read, so I will just summarize this book on its own. This novel tells the story of a variety of characters, all centered around the Royal, a casino in rural Washington. The novel switches between each character throughout the novel, giving us glimpses into their lives and their connected fates. I really enjoyed this shifting view point. While I wish that we did learn a bit more about the history of each character, there is enough so that we can understand each character and relate to the story. This novel is really fun and held my attention, even though I’ve never really been interested in gambling or card games. 4/5 stars.

30753569‘Round Midnight by Laura McBride

This is the last book I read in April, and I will keep you all waiting, since a review will be coming soon! Let me know what you finished in April, and what you plan to read in May. If you have read any of these books, let me know what you thought!

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