mini reviews #9: YA, translated autofiction, magical realism, and nonfiction

You can see all my previous mini reviews here, and feel free to add me on Goodreads to see all of my reviews as soon as I post them.

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WE ARE OKAY by Nina LaCour
★★★★☆
date read: February 23, 2020
Dutton, 2017

I know this seems like a sort of hollow platitude, but We Are Okay is the kind of book that breaks your heart and then mends it again; a rather impressive feat given that I read it in under 2 hours. I imagine it won’t leave a huge long-term impression on my heart, but I found it very moving and engrossing and I’m glad I finally got around to picking it up. I’ll happily read more from Nina LaCour in the future.

You can pick up a copy of We Are Okay here on Book Depository.

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OPTIC NERVE by María Gainza
translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead
★★★☆☆
date read: February 29, 2020
Catapult, 2019

This book should have done so much more for me than it actually did. I’m a bit of an art history geek, so autofiction about an art geek musing on various paintings sounded like it was going to be a dream, but I think the execution left a lot to be desired. I found the art history lessons engrossing, as expected, but María Gainza’s life (or the life of her fictional stand-in, I guess) never really dovetailed into her art lessons to form a cohesive narrative. This ultimately felt a bit disjointed and unsatisfying, though I did enjoy the strength of Gainza’s passion for art.

You can pick up a copy of Optic Nerve here on Book Depository.

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SHARKS IN THE TIME OF SAVIORS by Kawai Strong Washburn
DNF @ page 66
date read: April 5, 2020
MCD, March 2020

I think the fact that this is the first book I’ve DNF’d in 8 years says it all. Between the painfully labored prose – it’s one of those books where it feels like the author is trying to imbue every single sentence with Meaning – and the fact that all four protagonists that I’ve encountered so far have the exact same narrative voice, I just can’t. This reads like an unfinished MFA project.

You can pick up a copy of Sharks in the Time of Saviors here on Book Depository.

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MAD, BAD, DANGEROUS TO KNOW by Colm Tóibín
★★★★☆
date read: April 5, 2020
Scribner, 2018

If you’re interested at all in Irish lit, this is SUCH a brilliant hidden gem. In this sort of offbeat biography, Tóibín digs into the lives of the fathers of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, and James Joyce, with an emphasis on their relationships with their respective sons. The book is divided pretty evenly into three sections and each has its strengths and weaknesses – I was most compelled by Joyce’s, somewhat to my surprise – but for a book that changes trajectory three times it’s reassuringly steady in its aims: humanizing these men, contextualizing the way they manifested into their sons’ writing, and creating a textured portrait of the history of literary Dublin. (Also, I can HIGHLY recommend the audio – Tóibín has a fantastic voice and his rendition of Joyce’s Ecce Puer was chilling.)

You can pick up a copy of Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know here on Book Depository.


Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think? Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

mini reviews #8: all kinds of fiction

You can see all my previous mini reviews here, and feel free to add me on Goodreads to see all of my reviews as soon as I post them.

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THE RUIN by Dervla McTiernan
★★★★☆
date read: November 25, 2019
Penguin Books, 2018

Every time I read a police procedural I feel obligated to start my review by saying that I don’t particularly like police procedurals; I only ever pick them up if I feel strongly drawn toward other elements of the summary (in this case, Ireland did it for me – shocking, I know). And while this reaffirmed a lot of the reasons why police procedurals are never going to be my favorite subgenre (I frankly didn’t care about any of the inter-departmental drama; Cormac Reilly is an incredibly forgettable Brooding Everyman-Detective of a protagonist) there was a lot here that I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing was strong and evocative, the periphery characters were incredibly well-crafted, particularly Aisling, and I felt so compelled by the central mystery. This isn’t the kind of thriller with a big twist that will blow your socks off, but it’s so intricately crafted that it’s hard to put down once you’re drawn in.

You can pick up a copy of The Ruin here on Book Depository.


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DISAPPEARING EARTH by Julia Phillips
★★★★★
date read: December 9, 2019
Knopf, 2019

Disappearing Earth is bound to disappoint anyone who picks it up looking for a thriller, especially a fast-paced one. So if that’s what grabs your interest from the summary – a mystery about two kidnapped sisters – I’d urge you to either adjust expectations or avoid altogether. That said, if you do know to expect something slower paced, this is a knock-out of a debut. Set in northeastern Russia, Disappearing Earth is a complex and intricate portrait of a close-knit and dysfunctional community, whose culture is marred by misogyny and racism against the indigenous population. It’s very similar in structure to There There by Tommy Orange – a central event causing a ripple effect that’s told in vignettes through the eyes of seemingly unrelated characters – but I have to say this one hit me harder and felt more technically accomplished. Julia Phillips is an author to watch.

You can pick up a copy of Disappearing Earth here on Book Depository.


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NIGHT BOAT TO TANGIER by Kevin Barry
★★★☆☆
date read: December 15, 2019
Canongate, 2019

I’m devastated that I didn’t love this, given how much this seemed to be right up my literary alley. I was confident that the criticisms I’d heard – slow, not emotionally engaging enough, too much drug talk – wouldn’t faze me. I mean, I know my tastes; two aging Irish gangsters sitting on a pier discussing their shared history of drug smuggling actually seems like a recipe for perfection. But to say that this left me cold would be an understatement. Barry’s writing is really very good, so that was never the problem. I think my main issue was the alternating past and present chapters; the present held my attention while the past chapters were nothing but tedium. As others have mentioned, it’s very reminiscent of Waiting for Godot, but while Barry occasionally nailed Beckett’s madcap humor, this had none of the pathos.

You can pick up a copy of Night Boat to Tangier here on Book Depository.


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VAMPIRE ACADEMY by Richelle Mead
★★★★☆
date read: December 15, 2019
Razorbill, 2007

I had to read this for a work assignment, and while it’s not something I ordinarily would have reached for, you know what? I really didn’t hate it. For what it is, I think it succeeds: it’s gripping, has one of the best and most complex female friendships I’ve ever read in YA, has a surprisingly progressive focus on mental health, and is framed in a really unique way (it uses The Chosen One trope but tells the story from the pov of The Chosen One’s friend, who happens to be an infinitely more interesting character). The unrepentant slut-shaming is its most egregious offense, and what dates it the most (I’d find its regressive attitudes toward female sexuality more disturbing had it been published in 2019, but for over a decade ago, it’s less surprising). But all in all, a fun, mostly harmless read; I may even reach for the sequel if I get bored.

You can pick up a copy of Vampire Academy here on Book Depository.


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THE MARQUISE OF O– by Heinrich von Kleist
★★☆☆☆
date read: December 20, 2019
Pushkin Press, January 7, 2020
originally published 1808

[sexual assault tw] It’s a challenge to discuss this book (originally published in 1808) in any kind of measured way in 2019 and not sound like a sociopath. Through a contemporary lens, its premise is unarguably disgusting: a widow finds herself pregnant, having been raped while she’s unconscious, and puts a notice in the paper saying that she’s willing to marry any man who comes forward as the father. If you can’t stomach this on principle (and you would certainly be forgiven), stay far away. I do try my best to engage with classics on their own terms and I must admit this one leaves me somewhat baffled. While I found this to actually be curiously engaging, I’m ultimately unsure of what Kleist was trying to say with it and I must concede that this probably was not the best place to start with this author with only the translator’s brief introduction for context.

Thank you to Netgalley and Pushkin for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

You can pick up a copy of The Marquise of O– here on Book Depository.


Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think? Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

mini reviews #7: audiobooks with long titles & an ARC

You can see all my previous mini reviews here, and feel free to add me on Goodreads to see all of my reviews as soon as I post them.

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A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
audiobook narrated by Colin Farrell
★★★☆☆
date read: July 2019
Audible, 2019
originally published in 1916

In spite of my whole ‘Irish lit thing’ I have never once felt compelled to pick up Joyce. But then Colin Farrell went and narrated this audiobook, so that was that. And though he does a terrific job, this is, unfortunately, probably a book that I should have read in print – I’m just not an auditory person at all and there is a lot going on in this book. So I’m not going to lie and pretend that I got as much out of this as I arguably should have, and I’m sure I’ll want to revisit it one day. But I ended up surprising myself with how much I did enjoy it – Joyce’s language isn’t as impenetrable as I had feared, and more mesmerizing than I had expected, and Stephen Dedalus’s journey was occasionally, unexpectedly, thrilling. There’s a lot to unpack here about religion and family and nationality, and if I ever reread this I will vow to attempt to unpack it all then.

You can pick up a copy of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man here on Book Depository.

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BUT YOU DID NOT COME BACK by Marceline Loridan-Ivens
translated from the French by Sandra Smith
audiobook narrated by Karen Cass
★★★★☆
date read: August 2019
Faber & Faber, 2016

This is a slim, hard-hitting book that doesn’t dwell on the horrors that Loridan-Ivens experienced in Birkenau so much as examine their aftermath. Returning to a family who was spared from the concentration camps while losing the only other family member who was sent to Auschwitz with her, she writes this memoir as an extended letter to her father, whose death overshadows her own survival. Sparse and poignant, But You Did Not Come Back is certainly worth a read even if you feel oversaturated with WWII lit.

You can pick up a copy of But You Did Not Come Back here on Book Depository.

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THE NEED by Helen Phillips
★★☆☆☆
date read: September 2019
Simon & Schuster, 2019

Right book, wrong reader. I don’t have much else to say. I think The Need is a smart, unexpected book that blends genres and arrives at something unique that I can see working for plenty of readers who are willing to embrace a bit of weirdness. I just don’t like books about motherhood, and at the end of the day, that’s what this book is. The science fiction/speculative element is only there to enhance the main character’s anxieties about juggling motherhood with her career, and if that’s a theme that usually makes you reach for a book, by all means, give this one a try; I unfortunately was just bored senseless.

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

You can pick up a copy of The Need here on Book Depository.

Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think? Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

mini reviews #6: nonfiction and theatre of the absurd

You can see all my previous mini reviews here, and feel free to add me on Goodreads to see all of my reviews as soon as I post them.

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BAD BLOOD by John Carreyrou
★★★★☆
date read: February 26, 2019
Knopf, 2018

Wow. This was every bit as wild as everyone has been saying. Bad Blood is probably the best embodiment of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ that I have ever read. Trust me, you do not need to be interested in Silicon Valley or business or medicine in the slightest to be riveted by this incredible piece of investigative journalism.  You can pick up a copy of Bad Blood here on Book Depository.

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WAITING FOR GODOT by Samuel Beckett
★★★★☆
date read: April 7, 2019
Faber & Faber, 2006
originally published 1952

This is famously ‘the play where nothing happens,’ so I certainly didn’t expect this to be the surreal, madcap romp that it is. I’m going to have to think about this one for a while.  You can pick up a copy of Waiting for Godot here on Book Depository.

 

1035312SPY PRINCESS by Shrabani Basu
★★★☆☆
date read: May 22, 2019
Sutton, 2006

This is a competent biography of a really remarkable woman. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Noor Khan, an SOE agent and the first woman to be sent into occupied France, who was executed at Dachau after being imprisoned for a year and not revealing anything under extensive interrogation. But while Spy Princess certainly has value in filling in the gaps left by other biographers, it does occasionally beatify Noor at the expense of other women (what does Shrabani Basu have against Mata Hari, my god) and fall victim to making very generic statements about Noor’s life when there isn’t documented information (i.e., a page-long description of the global advancement of WWII followed by a lazy statement like ‘Noor was worried about this’). Still, Basu does an impressive job at chronicling Noor’s life and contextualizing her legacy.  You can pick up a copy of Spy Princess here on Book Depository.

13944THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUDINI by William Kalush and Larry Sloman
★★★☆☆
date read: May 28, 2019
Atria Books, 2006

In this book’s introduction the authors state that although they did an extensive amount of research, they made a decision at times to spin fact into imagined dialogue. That should set your expectations for this biography: wildly entertaining, often sensationalized, but decently informative nonetheless.  You can pick up a copy of The Secret Life of Houdini here on Book Depository.


Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think? Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

mini reviews #5: recent literary releases & classic nonfiction

I’ve decided to start swapping these over from Goodreads in chunks of 4 rather than 5.  Big changes around here, clearly.  See all my previous mini reviews here, and feel free to add me on Goodreads to see all of my reviews as soon as I post them.

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WAITING FOR EDEN by Elliot Ackerman
★★★★☆
date read: December 25, 2018
Knopf, 2018

For being so sparse, Waiting for Eden manages to pack a powerful punch. Ackerman meditates with surprising insight (aided by potent religious symbolism) on the very nature of life and the impossible decisions we have to make when our loved ones are suffering. This was succinct and chilling.  Pick up a copy of Waiting for Eden here on Book Depository.

 

 

38819868MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER by Oyinkan Braithwaite
★★★★☆
date read: January 15, 2019
Doubleday Books, 2018

This was tremendous fun from start to finish. Sure, certain elements could have withstood a bit more depth and detail, and it’s destined to disappoint anyone expecting a proper thriller, but for a quick and pacy character study it was extremely satisfying. Braithwaite toes the line between satire and realism so deftly that you manage to get properly invested in these sisters even as their actions shock and horrify.  Pick up a copy of My Sister, The Serial Killer here on Book Depository.

35487749CENSUS by Jesse Ball
★★☆☆☆
date read: January 31, 2018
Ecco, 2018

I had trouble engaging with this book emotionally or intellectually, which isn’t to say that it isn’t intelligent or emotional, just that I personally did not find it particularly accessible. There is a very real possibility that a lot of this just went over my head, I will admit that, but so much of this book just felt wanting; the relationship between the father and son seemed generic, the experimental narrative came across as underdeveloped, the speculative element and the characters’ journeys felt dissonant. I have no doubt that this was an intensely personal project for Ball based on the novel’s introduction, and I’m sure it will be feel intensely personal to a lot of readers, but something about it just didn’t click for me.  Pick up a copy of Census here on Book Depository.

730745SISTER OUTSIDER by Audre Lorde
★★★★☆
date read: February 19, 2019
Crossing Press, 2007
originally published 1984

Sister Outsider was a really fantastic introduction to Audre Lorde for me, though its episodic nature isn’t my favorite way to digest nonfiction and I think I would have preferred to stay on track with any one of these essays for a hundred pages rather than to bounce around from topic to topic the way this collection is structured (though all pieces are obviously interconnected to an extent). But still, this is a sharp and insightful and seminal work that I’d recommend.  Pick up a copy of Sister Outsider here on Book Depository.

Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think? Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

short story reviews: Edna O’Brien and Julia O’Faolain

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PARADISE by Edna O’Brien
★★★★☆
Faber & Faber, 2019
originally published in 2013

 

Originally published in 2013, Paradise is a short, feverish story about an unnamed woman on holiday with her rich partner, who hires an instructor to teach her how to swim. What I took away from this story was an allegory about the self-congratulation of the rich when they take someone poor under their tutelage; performing in a proscribed manner is expected, developing your own ideas and aspirations is dangerous – and the metaphor is executed with searing prose and beautiful imagery. This was a great introduction to Edna O’Brien and I’m really looking forward to reading more of her work.


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DAUGHTERS OF PASSION by Julia O’Faolain
★★★☆☆
Faber & Faber, 2019
originally published in 1982

 

I really wanted to love this but I think I just ultimately wanted more from it. The premise is genius: an Irish woman in prison half-delusional from a hunger strike looks back on a friendship that led to her involvement with the IRA. It’s just very bare-bones and doesn’t dig as deep as it needs to into the relationship between Maggy and Dizzy, the relationship that propels the main conflict in this story but which reads like a quick sketch that hasn’t been colored in yet. That said, I did enjoy Julia O’Faolain’s writing and would happily read more from her… but I’d be lying if I said I weren’t a little disappointed, as this was the short story from Faber’s 90th anniversary collection that was I was the most looking forward to.

mini reviews #4: horror classics and other fiction

Time for the next installment!  See all my previous mini reviews here, and add me on Goodreads to see all my reviews as soon as I post them.

36605525CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN by Sayaka Murata
originally published in Japanese, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
★★★★☆
date read: October 28, 2018
Grove Press, 2018

Sayaka Murata has a lot to say about the role of the individual in society and contrived societal expectations, and she says it all in under 200 pages with poignancy and humor. Our protagonist Keiko is considered an irregularity by her family and friends, as she doesn’t aspire to anything in life other than to continue working for the convenience store that has employed her for 18 years. Keiko takes solace in the routine and regularity of her job, and embraces the ways in which her identity is shaped by the corporate world. This is a charming and offbeat and quietly sad meditation on the cost of acceptance, the illusion of normalcy, and the pressures we all feel to conform. (I understand the comparison to Eleanor Oliphant, though I found Convenience Store Woman sharper and more convincing.)

 

897171THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
★★★★☆
date read: November 4, 2018
Penguin Classics, 2006
originally published in 1959

I’d been told time and again that this was going to be one of the most terrifying haunted house stories I was ever going to read, so I think my mixed reaction comes more from mismanaged expectations than anything. This story was not remotely scary. (But also, I’m just never really scared by horror in the way I’d like to be.) But I did find this to be a positively harrowing and unexpected psychological thriller which deftly explores isolation, sanity, and repression, through the eyes of a fascinating unreliable narrator. And the conclusion was positively haunting and breathtaking. I just wish I’d had a better idea of what I was signing up for – I doubt I would have been so impatient with the lengthy exposition had I known what a character study this was going to be. I’m almost definitely going to want to revisit this one at some point.

 

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FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley
★★★★★
date read: November 15, 2018
Harper Perennial, 2018
originally published 1818

Not so surprisingly, I got a lot more out of this at 26 than I did at 15.

 

 

 

32075854MAGPIE MURDERS by Anthony Horowitz
★★★★☆
date read: November 25, 2018
Harper, 2016

Magpie Murders was a fun, unexpected, and delightfully meta love letter to classic whodunnits and of course to the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie. You get two novels for the price of one with this one, and each is twisty, clever, and engaging – not equally so, I actually thought the novel within the novel offered more intrigue and less predictability. Though watching literary-agent-turned-amateur-detective Susan investigate the mysterious death of her top selling author was fantastically entertaining. A must-read for all mystery fans!

 

35297339ASYMMETRY by Lisa Halliday
★★☆☆☆
date read: December 13, 2018
Simon & Schuster, 2018

Nope, not for me I’m afraid. Asymmetry is more of an experiment than a novel, and an experiment that didn’t warrant half as much tedium as what I found myself subjected to. I ‘got it’ but I didn’t find the payoff rewarding at all. There’s a good argument to be made that the first two sections were badly written on purpose (once you figure out from the third section the thread that connects the two disparate stories) but if poorly executed structural innovation is all it takes for a book to be lauded as a masterpiece these days I think we need to raise that bar just a little bit higher.

Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think?  Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

mini reviews #3: short stories, memoirs, and novellas

I don’t always feel like writing out multi-paragraph reviews for every single book that I read, but I do post all my reviews – long and short – over on Goodreads.  I’ve started transferring these mini reviews over onto my blog in groups of 5 – you can check out the first two installments here.  Next up:

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YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT by Daniel Kehlmann
originally published in German, translated by Ross Benjamin
★★★★☆
date read: October 25, 2018
Pantheon, 2017

A delightfully sinister novella that essentially puts a bunch of tried and true horror tropes into a blender but still rewards the reader with its almost unbearably tense atmosphere. Though the creepy house in the woods setting does most of the legwork – I’m afraid this won’t be winning any awards for creativity any time soon – it was a fantastically entertaining way to spend an hour. The translation is excellent; really poised writing that convincingly unravels with the main character’s mental state.

 

535225THE WHOLE STORY AND OTHER STORIES by Ali Smith
★★★★☆
date read: October 15, 2018
Anchor, 2004

This is a rather unassuming short story collection that gave me such joy to read for reasons I don’t know how to articulate. Only my second Ali Smith and I reckon it’s not one of the more essential ones to read but I really enjoyed this.

 

 

34848808THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD by Maude Julien
originally published in French, translated by Adriana Hunter
★★★★☆
date read: September 18, 2018
Little, Brown, 2017

The Only Girl in the World is every bit as disturbing as you’d imagine, but it’s also the single most inspiring story of resilience that I’ve ever read. This is what I was hoping Educated was going to be; the difference for me is that Maude Julien seems to have an appropriate amount of distance and perspective from her horrifying past, whereas Tara Westover’s story still felt too close to allow for much analysis. The Only Girl in the World certainly is description-heavy, and it’s not until you head into the home stretch that you see the ways in which her childhood impacted the person she was to become, but it’s well worth the wait, especially in seeing how her feelings toward her mother shift over time. Only recommended if you can handle reading about very extreme cases of mental and physical abuse; it’s almost viscerally painful to read at times.

 

16032127REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa
originally published in Japanese, translated by Stephen Snyder
★★★★★
date read: August 26, 2018
Picador, 2013

Revenge is a gentle and unsettling collection of interconnected short stories focused mainly on death and grief and an inner darkness that plagues its eleven different narrators. Both melancholy and macabre in tone, these stories range from heart-wrenching to disturbing, each narrated in an eerily calm and poised tone. This was absolutely engrossing and I’m keen to check out more of Yoko Ogawa’s work.

 

25733983LAB GIRL by Hope Jahren
★★☆☆☆
date read: August 24, 2018
Knopf, 2016

This is a textbook case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’ I understand the appeal, and in a lot of ways I’m thrilled about this book’s mainstream success (women in STEM fields and healthy, platonic relationships between men and women are two things we need more of in media), but there were only so many loving descriptions of trees I could take after a while. There was just too much science and not enough human interest to keep me engaged, and while I wouldn’t say you need to be knowledgeable about biology to approach this book, a certain amount of interest would be helpful, and I just don’t have that, at all. And the audiobook was a mistake; the author narrates it with a positively bizarre amount of melodrama (like, actually in tears at multiple points, and I’m sorry if that makes me sound callous but I really don’t react well to overly sentimental narration), so I can’t say it was a pleasant listening experience… But anyway, really not a bad book, just not my kind of book.

Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think?  Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

mini reviews #2: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s nonfiction & various classics

Still making my way through my backlog of Goodreads mini reviews to transfer over to WordPress – if you missed my first installment of mini reviews you can check that out here!  Here’s the next round:

22738563WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
★★★☆☆
date read: April 5, 2018
Vintage, 2014

A really great introduction to feminism which would have been very valuable to me a decade ago. As it stands, I didn’t take a whole lot away from this, or even see familiar points articulated in novel ways… but I’m not the target audience. This is an important book to gift to your friends and relatives who still think ‘feminist’ is a dirty word.

33585392DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
★★★☆☆
date read: April 28, 2018
Knopf, 2017

Between this and We Should All Be Feminists I don’t think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s nonfiction is for me, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have merit. I just didn’t get anything out of either of these essays that I haven’t already seen articulated by others in more thorough and nuanced ways. And once again, as with We Should All Be Feminists, I was disappointed with the lack of inclusion toward the LGBT community. But I did enjoy the particular insights into Nigerian and Igbo culture, and there’s a lot to be said about the brevity with which she is able to articulate her points, which makes this an accessible starting point for anyone unfamiliar with feminist theory.

6473195THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE by Agatha Christie
★★★★☆
date read: March 30, 2018
William Morrow, 2009, originally published in 1930

Yet again Christie manages to craft a mystery so intricate it’s all you can do to keep up, never mind get ahead of her. 4 stars instead of 5 as it took me ages to get invested in these characters for whatever reason, and because I got tired of Clement remarking upon how clever Miss Marple is (we get it). But the resolution was fantastic and I thought the humor in this one in particular was great.

92517THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Tennessee Williams
★★★★★
date read: January 21, 2018
originally published in 1945

Thoughtful, entrancing, achingly sad. Worth reading the script even if you’ve already seen the play live (I have not) because the detail in Williams’ stage directions is so vivid.

 

 

50398NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen
★★☆☆☆
date read: December 29, 2017
originally published in 1818

This was the single most inoffensive reading experience of my life. I didn’t like this book. I didn’t dislike this book. I have no opinion on this book and I have absolutely nothing else to say.

Side note: this was my first Jane Austen (not counting the first couple of chapters of Pride and Prejudice that I tried reading when I was 13 before getting bored), and I’m aware that it’s widely regarded as one of her weaker novels, so I’m not letting it put me off Austen for good.  The one that appeals to me the most is Mansfield Park so I’ll probably read that next, though I have no idea when that will be.

Feel free to comment if you’d like to talk about any of these in more detail!

mini reviews #1: Wave, Mary Rose, Bluets, Another Brooklyn, Eurydice

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, so, no time like the present.  I don’t always feel like writing multi-paragraph long reviews for every single book I read, but when my reviews are this short I don’t usually bother cross-posting them from Goodreads to WordPress.  So, I shall begin transferring them over here in a series of mini review posts.  Also, reminder that you’re welcome to add me on Goodreads!

15797917WAVE by Sonali Deraniyagala
★★★★☆
Knopf, 2013
date read: July 11, 2018

In Sonali Deraniyagala’s frank and candid memoir, she recounts the loss of her parents, husband, and two sons who were all killed in the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. Wave is every bit as harrowing as you’d imagine, but it’s also refreshingly sincere and devoid of sensationalism – instead it rather beautifully captures one woman’s honest and occasionally ugly experience with grief. Although it’s at times a bit meandering and repetitive in execution it is utterly gripping from start to finish. There isn’t much hope or resolution here, but there is hardly a scarcity of gratitude or resilience.

36072356MARY ROSE by Geoffrey Girard
★★☆☆☆
Adaptive Books, April 2018
date read: June 29, 2018

This was… fine? I guess? I would not recommend listening to the audiobook. The narrator infuses it with a lot of melodrama and bad accents, and hearing the name ‘Mary Rose’ spoken aloud approximately eighty-five million times is grating. I don’t know. I just felt impatient listening to this. For the fact that about 95% of it was character development, none of the characters were particularly well developed. The 5% of actual story was fine, just not enough to really hold my interest. I’d like to read the JM Barrie play at some point though.

6798263BLUETS by Maggie Nelson
★★★☆☆
Wave Books, 2009
date read: June 22, 2018

Bluets had a lot of the same sharp wit and similar pithy observations that I enjoyed in The Argonauts but I think this one was just a bit too abstract for my tastes. I also didn’t do myself any favors by reading this in short bursts over the span of two weeks when I think Nelson’s writing best lends itself to a more immersive reading experience. Still enjoyed it, still looking forward to checking out her other works.

30064150ANOTHER BROOKLYN by Jacqueline Woodson
★★☆☆☆
Amistad, 2016
date read: June 8, 2018

I listened to this on audio and… got pretty much nothing out of it. The narrator did a good job, but I just never felt grounded enough in this story, which to me felt more like it wanted to be a slice of life/coming of age poetry collection than a novel. But at the same time I do understand why others have loved this – I think it comes down to whether or not you click with Woodson’s flowery style of prose.

 

5661021EURYDICE by Sarah Ruhl
★★★☆☆
Samuel French, originally published in 2003
date read: April 16, 2018

There’s an undeniable pathos at the heart of this play that I think is informed so strongly by Ruhl’s personal experiences it almost made me question the need for this to be disguised as Eurydice’s story. This felt more like I was reading a poetry collection than a play, which was fine, albeit not what I thought I’d signed up for. The climactic scene between Orpheus and Eurydice was the highlight for me, though clearly there was so much tenderness put into the relationship between Eurydice and her father. Ruhl’s dialogue is incisive and dreamlike all at once and this was a pleasure to read in many ways, but ultimately where it didn’t totally connect for me was that it didn’t feel grounded enough in its source material.

Have you guys read any of these?  Feel free to comment down below if you’d like to talk about any of them in more detail!