Category Archives: fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 12.01.41 PMThis book is one of the rare books on my to-read list that a ton of the people I follow have already read and rated it extremely favorably, so when I was scrounging for a new book to read it was an obvious fit.

In All the Light We Cannot See, a historical fiction book about multiple characters in Europe during World War II, the sentences are absolutely beautiful. The characters are nuanced, and the plot mainly revolving around two adolescents: one is the French Marie-Laure who is blind and must move around and rely on others to help her live during the treacherous times, but is also shielded from how severe some things are because of her lack of sight, and one is the German Werner who is an orphan and is plucked up to join a school that funnels boys into the German military because of his keen interest and intelligence about circuitry and radios.

The stories of the two adolescents, and those who touch their lives is brilliant. I loved the details of nearly every character that was introduced as they all navigate their very different lives, yet move forward in parallel with the war being a steady, terrible event that unifies each of their lives. A theme of mysticism runs throughout one of the storylines and adds some interesting, dramatic turns to the story as well.

The chapters of All the Light We Cannot See are short, which makes it feel like you can control the pacing of this 500+ page book and not feel like you need to push through to finish an idea. In a huge book, this can (and did for me!) make the novel more enjoyable because it’s easy to pick up and put down, without feeling lost the next time you pick it up again. However, the length is what causes this to not be 5 stars for me. Did I enjoy this book thoroughly while I was reading it? Absolutely. Did I enjoy it enough to foist upon another person to read 500+ pages without mentioning the length as a caveat? Unfortunately, no. But if the book already sounds intriguing to you, you should definitely add it to your list for 500+ pages of captivating story.

Publication Date: 6 May 2014 by ScribnerFormat: E-book.

Author: Anthony Doerr web/facebook

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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

image1 (18)I’m not typically a fan of thrillers, mostly because I don’t need an excuse to be anxious about more things, but I scooped up Sharp Objects to prepare me for watching HBO’s television adaptation. I did the same before I watched Gone Girl (also by author Gillian Flynn) and it made watching the movie much less nerve wracking because I knew exactly what to expect.

I picked up Sharp Objects for the same experience and while it was definitely a page turner that I read incredibly quickly, the entire time I was reading, I just wanted the whole story to be over. I probably wouldn’t have pushed through the novel if I wasn’t planning on watching the TV series, but I am… so I did.

Sharp Objects is a thriller mystery that revolves around a Chicago journalist returning to her hometown after two similar murders are committed (the victims are young girls). The journalist has to return to her toxic home that she had distanced herself away from in adulthood and finds herself reverting to her previous mindset and habits along the way, whilst trying to gather details about the unsolved murder cases. While I loved the details put into the main character and her depth, I would’ve preferred reading about her within another story that didn’t completely creep me out the entire time I was reading it.

Publication Date: 26 September 2006 by Broadway BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Gillian Flynn web/@facebook/@twitter/@instagram

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

image1 (17)Okay, okay, I know I didn’t really like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but as I said in that review, I knew I would eventually end up picking up the sequel. Why? I need fluff sometimes, others I care about wanted to talk more about this series, and who didn’t fall a little in love with Peter Kavinsky in the film version of the movie and desperately want to read more moments about this fictional beau?

In this book, teen protagonist Lara Jean picks up where she left off with her high school, fake boyfriend Peter Kavinsky… on the path of becoming her real boyfriend because ~feelings emerged~. The plot mostly revolves around drama with his previous girlfriend and with a boy, John Ambrose McClaren, from Lara Jean’s past re-entering the picture. There’s some typical high school drama, crushes spinning every which way for all of the characters, until finally the main couple in the series must decide how and if to move forward together (though to be honestly while Peter Kavinsky is an adorable soft jock who seems fantastic for Lara Jean in the film version, John Ambrose McClaren’s compatibility with Lara Jean fair outshines Peter in the books).

Overall, I found P.S. I Still Love You to be more enjoyable than its predecessor. A lot of the bits that annoyed me with the first novel (Kitty being grating, Peter not being that desirable and actively being someone I would not want to have a crush on) were smoothed over with the sequel… or I have rose colored lenses from watching the movie-version of the characters and was more forgiving of their book counterparts. I honestly can’t tell you which of those it actually is.

I expect to pick up the third novel (Always and Forever, Lara Jean) when I need a break from the dense, academic reads I’m returning to as the school year picks up again.

Publication Date: 26 May 2015 by Simon & SchusterFormat: E-book.

Author: Jenny Han web/@twitter/@instagram

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

IMG_8894I read my first Junot Díaz book seven years ago and wasn’t feeling it in the same way that others seemed to, so I took a while for me to find my way to This is How You Lose Her. This book is broken into separate short stories that mostly follow the life of Yunior and sometimes follows those in his orbit. The stories mostly revolve around Yunior’s own and his older brother’s escapades with women, including hairy details. 

I think Díaz is a talented writer and I found “The Pura Principle” to be a 5 star short story all on its own. However, I didn’t jive with all of the short stories and often found myself annoyed at the tales, curious about when the narrator alone had misogynist views about women and when the narrator was really articulating how the author valued (or didn’t rather) women in their own life. That said, I read This is How You Lose Her after allegations against Díaz were revealed, and while I know some internal investigations have found insubstantial evidence and Díaz himself has discussed his own experiences of sexual assault and how that affected his subsequent sexual relations, I found it impossible to objectively read this, knowing what I knew, and wondering how much of these stories revealed real beliefs and how much were purely fiction. 

Publication Date: 11 September 2012 by Riverhead BooksFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Junot Díaz web

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.35.07 PMI watched the trailer for the adorable Netflix film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and decided I needed to read the novel that it was based upon before actually viewing the movie. I lucked out and scooped up a used copy at a cute bookstore in Los Angeles (The Last Bookstore) the same weekend the movie was released.

The book was a super fast read and full of fluff. While there’s a time and a place and a reader for that, I enjoyed the story much more in movie-form than its original state. In the movie, certain details about the characters and plot points were changed in a way that made me like the overall story better. 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before revolves around teenager Lara Jean who writes letters to her crushes in an attempt to squash her crushes and then stows the letters away in a box in her closet. Suddenly, the letters are released into the world and into the hands of the boys that she’s ~loved before~. Whilst this is going on, Lara Jean is also experiencing some big changes at home: her older sister who served as the family’s matriarch departed for college in another country, leaving Lara Jean to try to fill in the hole she’s vacated and help take care of her (very annoying in the book version) little sister Kitty. Family bits and bobs dominate b-plots of the story, but the main arcs revolve around Lara Jean trying to convince one boy (who received a letter) she no longer likes him by fake dating another boy (who also received a letter).

All in all, the story is pretty entertaining and fluffy for a YA tale, but I enjoyed the execution of it (and changed details) of the film version more than the novel. The biggest deviation that I enjoyed most was Lara Jean’s fake boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky. He is much more likable in the movie and seems to be someone actually crushworthy, whereas the novel version of Kavinsky had me physically cringing at the idea that this boy was supposed to be someone “desirable.” Additionally Lara Jean and her younger sister Kitty also had some cute, bonding moments in the movie, whereas they seemed perpetually at odds with no good balancing bits in the book to ice over the negative pieces.

So what’s my recommendation? Watch the movie if you haven’t already! And skip the book… unless you want to find out what happens next for Lara Jean in the trilogy or if your friends really want you to read it so they can talk about the details (i.e. what is probably going to happen to me).

Publication Date: 15 September 2014 by Simon & SchusterFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jenny Han  web/@twitter/@instagram

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 1.00.11 PMI’ve been on the hunt for a used copy of Everything I’ve Never Told You by Celeste Ng ALL SUMMER, after reading and devouring her second release Little Fires Everywhere. After finally finding it (thanks to a dear friend!) and reading her two books, I can confidently say I’ll be reading and devouring anything Ng writes for the rest of our days. 

Everything I loved about the writing style of Little Fires Everywhere also lives within Everything I’ve Never Told You. Ng weaves seamlessly between multiple characters and it appears effortless (though I’ve never read anything quite like this, so I suspect it takes immense effort to give off that vibe). All of the characters in this novel are in one family unit, each with their own problems, personalities, and perceptions of each other’s problems and personalities. Ng makes each of them feel incredibly real, giving nuance to every situation that you find yourself identifying with whoever is the current narrator. (Can you tell that I could harp about Ng’s talents for days?)

This story revolves around the Lee family: Marilyn is the stay at home mother, longing for the time when she was one of the only women pursuing a science career in higher education. Marilyn was born to a single home economics teacher who longed for her a life of being a stay at home mother. Marilyn grows up in Virginia, where racism against anyone who is not white, as she and her mother are, seep into interactions directly or slightly. At university, Marilyn falls for a doctoral student named Jason, who is Chinese. The two eventually form a family and have three children who go to a mostly white school. While they each have different struggles in their daily lives, the book is centered around the sudden death of one of the children. What follows is a fantastic narrative of a family navigating their grief and relationships with each other, with all of their sticky every day difficulties piled atop.

Ng poignantly and craftily captures family dynamics, grief, and identity in magnificent ways. I can’t wait to read what she writes next. 

Publication Date: 12 May 2015 by PenguinFormat: Paperback.

Author: Celeste Ng web/@twitter/@instagram

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

kissquotientLast summer I was obsessed with the funny and steamy Vow of Celibacy (which if you haven’t read yet, do so!!) and I was thrilled to find a book that had a similar vibe this summer, but was completely different.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is one of the sexiest books I have ever read, probably because I usually avoid steamy reads. However, this book came strongly recommended from all of my bookish IRL friends, so I scooped it up and it quickly made the rounds in one of my friend groups for very good reason. The novel twists between two main narrators, Stella, an extremely successful analyst who finds her work generally more interesting than any human connection or hobby, and Michael, a man who chooses to become an escort to repay financial debts that don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. 

Stella comes to believe that she isn’t well versed “enough” in romantic and physical relationships, so she hires Michael with the hopes that he will catch her up to speed. What follows is a fantastic story of Michael trying to help Stella comfortably engage in a relationship, at her speed, doing what she wants. In the process, they fall in love of course, but the nature of their meeting complicates their understanding of each other’s feelings. It was downright romantic and very sexy and I read this entire book way too quickly. 

While the physical parts of the relationship take up a chunk of the book, so do the plot points surrounding Stella’s general discomfort with becoming close to most people, how her Asperger’s impacts her interactions with the world, and how Michael’s secret profession is at odds with his strained relationship with his tight-knit family. Every piece of this novel felt well crafted and divine. The entire time I was reading this book, it felt like diving into one of the best romcoms I’ve encountered in a while. I thoroughly recommend!

Publication Date: 5 June 2018 by BerkleyFormat: Paperback.

Author: Helen Hoang web/@instagram/facebook/@twitter