Tag Archives: review

Mini Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

duffI acquired this from my library’s $1 book sale and snatched this up after enjoying the movie based on the novel. The DUFF follows Bianca, a high school student, who feels like the least glowing member of her group of girlfriends, especially after this is pointed out by the resident “hot guy” of her high school. Whilst this is going on, Bianca is also going through some tribulations at home: her sober father begins drinking again after some issues with his marriage emerge and Bianca must confront a previous, unhealthy relationship of her own and uses sex to distract herself. It took too long for me to get into The DUFF and it took over 100 pages for Bianca to challenge certain things (like her being labeled as the D.U.F.F. or “designated, ugly, fat friend”) and embrace empowerment. Once Bianca started challenging language that was being used and questioning how both girls and boys unfairly judge girls, the novel became a lot more digestible. The dialogue was full of suicide jokes (ugh) and while The DUFF was an okay story, it never really redeemed itself. The best thing about this novel is that its and another book I just finished (The Sky is Everywhere) frequent mentioning of Wuthering Heights has inspired me to add that classic to my To Read list.

Publication Date: 7 September 2010 by PoppyFormat: Paperback.

Author: Kody Keplinger web/@twitter

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Mini Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

theskyiseverywhereAfter being obsessed with Jandy Nelson’s most recent novel, I’ll Give You the Sun, one of my favorite reads of 2016, I was so excited to receive Nelson’s debut, The Sky is Everywhere. Unfortunately, I think my expectations were set a little too high for this. Nelson continues her magical way of slipping in different media formats into her books (this time around it’s poems and conversations written on slips of paper, crushed up paper cups, sides of buildings, etc.), but the actual story didn’t grip my heart in the same way as I’ll Give You the Sun. All that considered, this was a nice, innovative read about a young teenager who is struggling with understanding her own identity after experiencing the sudden death of her sister. I enjoyed reading The Sky is Everywhere, but I didn’t find myself fully consumed by the story like I was with Nelson’s other work.

Publication Date: 9 March 2010 by Dial BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jandy Nelson web/facebook

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

letthegreatworldspinThis book is a difficult one to review because it took me more than a year to read in spurts, so my memory is faded about the first half of it. A friend gave me this book to read right before I started my graduate program in 2016.

The book follows a string of characters that interact and interweave with each other in different ways (think: Love Actually, but not Christmas and not so love-y) and involves a fictionalized account of Philippe Petit’s walk between the World Trade Center buildings. I remember thinking the first 100 pages, focused on the first character we’re introduced to (Corrigan) were an absolute slog, but I pushed through nevertheless and the book picked up when the story’s perspective shifted to different characters.

Then because graduate school is sometimes the worst and I was swimming in a pool of life uncertainty, I quit reading for fun and Let the Great World Spin languished on my night stand for more than a year. I picked it back up during the holiday season of 2017, determined to move this off of “Currently Reading” list on GoodReads. This book is well-written and overall enjoyable, but because it shifts narrators so frequently, I became annoyed when the book shifted away from someone’s perspective/story that I found to be a better read than the other characters.

The book is incredibly well constructed and it is very interesting to learn how the characters are related to each other and how their small actions can lead to very big impacts on the lives of the others. I found the character Gloria to be the most enrapturing and I looked forward to underlining pieces of her sections of the book more than the other characters.

If I had been able to read this book in a reasonable chunk of time or been in a different place mentally, I likely would’ve enjoyed this book much more than I did. But unfortunately, I didn’t and I wasn’t so I’m not really sure if I recommend this book or not. If the premise and writing style sounds exciting to you, go for it! If not, pass. 

Publication Date: 23 June 2009 by Random House. Format: Paperback.

Author: Colum McCann web/facebook

Educated by Tara Westover

educatedThis memoir had an effect on me and I want to recommend it to everyone. Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir about family obligations, systems of control, and the power of education. It was a hard, but good read. 

Westover grew up in a strict, Mormon household in rural middle America with parents who had their own interpretation of Mormonism that they proselytized to their children and used to condemn others’ interpretations of divine faith, including other Mormons. The parents did not trust the government, which extended to not birthing most of their children in hospitals because they were part of the evil “medical establishment”,  not legally recording most of their children’s births until many years later, not immunizing their children or permitting them to visit doctors for care in favor of homeopathy, and not enrolling their children in schools for fear the schools would brainwash their children with nonsense. The denial of all of these things to their children, particularly access to an education as the children weren’t really schooled at home either, was a way to indoctrinate the children into the parents’ belief system, bound the children to their parents’ sphere of control so that the children may never leave, and limit the children from access to other ways of thinking that would allow the children to be able to question their family’s way of life. 

Westover’s tale highlights how important access to an education is as she details the life circumstances of her siblings — those who managed to be admitted to college, after secretly studying for standardized testing, went on to receive doctorates, whereas the others never received high school diplomas or GEDs and subsequently had limited job options and continued to be employees of their parents’ businesses as they had been since they were children. The memoir is broken into three parts, beginning with Westover’s childhood, transitioning into Westover’s teen years when she enrolls in an undergraduate program, and the last pieces include her venturing to another part of the world for education purposes and having her worldview expanded even more than her undergraduate experiences initially opened. While education definitely plays a central role in this memoir, a large part of Westover’s story involves controlling family dynamics, the emotional abuse that often rains down from the controlling heads of household, unfettered physical abuse that family members conveniently ignore or outright deny because acknowledgement of its actuality could challenge their pleasant forms of reality, and outright misogyny about a women’s place in the family and in the world that is shielded from question by religious morales. 

While Westover’s education granted her access to many things, it also created many conflicts with her family and led to estrangements from certain members. Becoming “educated” isn’t always cost-free and Westover’s story illuminates some of the challenges that can be associated with advancing oneself, whilst one’s family tries to hold them back. This was a book that I needed to read and I hope that it is enlightening for others. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book for free from Random House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by Random House or NetGalley.

 

Publication Date: 20 Feburary 2018 by Random HouseFormat: ARC e-book.

Author: Tara Westover web/facebook/@twitter

Mini Review: I Hate Everyone, but You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin

ihateeveryonebutyouThis book was ANNOYING!! Is it normal in teen friendships for one friend to be mostly terrible and one to be mostly great and for an outside observer (or reader in this case) to root for the two to stay friends? I think not. Instead of encouraging these two misfit friends to grow with other friends who align more with their interests, we see the two main characters (Aza and Gen) repeatedly force themselves to continue being friends with their closest friend from high school. While hints about this not being the best friendship came up a few times, I would have liked the toxicity of the friendship to have directly been addressed instead of slightly implied and magically resolved so that people reading this novel don’t think that represents a normal, healthy friendship that they should continue to contribute to.

I laughed a lot with Gen’s dialogue and found her to be a pretty enjoyable character that I would’ve liked to have seen in a different story. I really liked the novel format of the book, which is entirely consists of relayed emails and text messages. I really loved the concept of two high school best friends who are navigating the friendship growing pains of each friend individually going in a different direction, but I did not like the execution of this book at all. The two authors are pretty famous on the internet, particularly YouTube, but I was unfamiliar with them before I had read the book so my impressions of them didn’t make me read this with rose-colored lenses. The main characters also both have names that begin with the same letters as the authors’ names… make of that what you will.

 

Publication Date: 5 September 2017 by Wednesday BooksFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Gaby Dunn YouTube/@twitter/@instagram and Allison Raskin YouTube/@twitter/@instagram

Mini Review: Do What You Want by Ruby Tandoh and Leah Pritchard

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 5.15.45 PMI had to stop all of my plans the day I was reading this because this was SO GOOD, but it also made me want to collapse into a puddle of tears. Reading about other people’s mental health always makes me feel some type of way — comforted by feeling seen through shared experiences but shattered that so many people have these same experiences and feelings. That said, it was great to see a range of different types of mental health covered (in addition to the heavily talked about depression and anxiety), along with the factors that can contribute to issues developing and the aftermath that can be caused after issues emerge. This is primarily a zine (though can it technically be a zine if it has a ISBN number?) about mental health with a few recipes sprinkled throughout, contrary to my friend’s and my belief that it would be an equally balanced food and mind zine since one of the editors is Great British Bake Off‘s Ruby Tandoh.

Coffee in the photo is courtesy of Chicago’s Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits and will be included in a future coffee review post of all of the coffee beans I’ve tried for my cold brew creations.

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

silverliningsplaybookMy boyfriend asked me to read this and so I did. I introduce my review this way because this is a novel that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own – I didn’t find the movie to be Academy worthy *cough* and I didn’t find the premise particularly compelling. However, the book is actually quite different from the film and presents a much more engaging story.

Pat, the book’s lead character, begins the story in a mental institution (also known as “the bad place”) and most of the book follows him trying to come to terms with his reality: he now lives at home with his parents, years having passed since he entered the “bad place” and he isn’t fully aware of exactly a) how much time has passed, b) what has changed, or c) what caused him to leave his old reality. The best parts of the book consisted of descriptions of Pat navigating his present reality and understanding that he has, and will likely always have, mental wellness dilemmas.

The love story component wasn’t that interesting and walks a thin line adjacent to the manic pixie dream girl trope. I forgave this since the narrator was so intensely focused and had a hard time practicing empathy with anyone, making me believe that storyline was intentionally written that way. Overall, Silver Linings Playbook was a very quick + breezy read, but I’m not sure I’ll remember much about the story a year from now.