Book Reviews: December 2016

what belongs to you review, here comes the sun review, everything everything, white teeth, in a dark dark wood, december reads

White Teeth

I’m so happy to have read my first Zadie Smith. Reading her work has only deepened my crush on her as an author. She always comes across so intelligently and elegantly in interviews and articles (similar to my other love, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). It was a pleasure to read her first novel and confirm that I enjoyed her writing just as much as I thought I would.

This book follows two families living in London from about 1950-2000. Samad and Archie fought in World War II together and remained friends when Samad moved to London after the war. The book explores race, immigrant experiences, displacement, family dynamics and much more. I loved seeing snippets of what life in London might have been like during this time period.

Smith’s writing is so sharp and witty, and even funny at times, which I wasn’t expecting. Her intelligence seeps through in every paragraph, though not at all in a way that makes you feel like you’re reading a textbook. Zadie Smith discusses Eastern vs. Western ideals and how the two cultures often clash. Samad desperately wants his children to be proper Muslim children, but feels that their lives in London make this impossible.

There’s so much to unpack in this novel that I can’t do it justice here, but I can sufficiently say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

What Belongs to You

I had to add this novel to my list of favorite books of 2016 because I loved it that much. The narrator is an English teacher living in Bulgaria who strikes up a relationship with a young prostitute named Mitko, and the book is mainly about the relationship between these two men.

Greenwell’s writing is simply excellent. It’s so lyrical and flows beautifully, and he does such a wonderful job of capturing human emotions. This story asks how well you can truly know someone. The narrator doesn’t know much about Mitko. He only really knows the face that Mitko has presented to him. He begins to realize, however, that Mitko has many different faces. Perhaps everyone does.

Language is also an important theme. The narrator speaks passing Bulgarian, but isn’t always able to translate everything that Mitko says to him. So there are misunderstandings and meanings that are lost to the narrator because he’s not fluent in the language.

The difficulty with language is only one of the barriers between the narrator and Mitko. The narrator pays Mitko to spend time with him, so he can never really know if Mitko has genuine feelings for him, or if he’s simply there to complete their transaction. Mitko invites the narrator to get to know him and makes him feel important, while at the same time, keeps parts of his life and background hidden.

This book is worth reading for the writing alone, but in addition, there are so many interesting topics discussed in this novel. If you haven’t already read this one, I’d highly recommend that you do.

Everything, Everything

Madeline is the girl who lives in a bubble. She has a severe autoimmune disease and contact with anything in the outside world could cause a reaction and kill her. So she lives in carefully controlled environment and is content with her life, until a new family moves in next door. She starts talking to the boy next door, Ollie, and begins to dream about what life is like outside her four walls.

I thought this was a sweet and charming story. I enjoyed Maddie as a character; she’s mixed race (and it was great to read a novel with a mixed race protagonist) and bookish. The book also features different mediums (there are emails, notes, handwritten illustrations, and more) and I thought the incorporation of those formats was well done. I was really enjoying it and thought it was light-hearted and fun until a thing happened. And after the thing, I liked the book less. Not to the point where I wanted to stop reading, but still, the thing threw me for a loop. Even now, I’m trying to untangle my feelings about the thing and I think my problem is that it felt very inauthentic. Overall, I still liked the novel and I plan to read Nicola Yoon’s other book.

Here Comes the Sun

This was another excellent read that nearly made my favorites of the year. It’s set in Jamaica and tells the story of three women: Delores and her daughters, Margot and Thandi. Each woman has struggles to overcome and goals that they want to achieve.

Delores and Margot have placed all of their hopes and dreams on Thandi because she’s book smart. Both of them work really hard to provide for her because they believe that if she does well in school, she can become a doctor or a lawyer and really make something of herself. Meanwhile, Thandi feels this immense pressure and is apprehensive about sharing her own dreams.

The characterization is excellent in this novel. I felt like I really knew each of these women and understood what motivates them. I also loved the setting and getting a taste of life in Jamaica. The author discusses race and beauty and the idea that darker skin is ugly, while light skin is beautiful. Delores even says something along the lines of, “There is nothing worse than being dark, poor, and ugly” and this idea is ingrained throughout the community.

The author also explores the lives of the residents of this town in Jamaica. The jobs at the resorts are considered cushy jobs because they pay relatively well, but at the same time, the development of new resorts is driving people out of their own homes.

I thought this was a fascinating, well-written novel, filled with true, yet heartbreaking observations. It’s definitely one to add to your TBR if you haven’t read it.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Nora is invited to the hen (bachelorette) weekend for her friend Clare, but it’s strange because she hasn’t spoken to Clare in nearly ten years. She decides to go anyway, at the very least to find out why Clare has decided to reach out after all these years. The invitees travel to a house in the woods in the English countryside, where things take a dark turn…

Meh. I felt pretty ambivalent towards this book. About two-thirds of the way through, I noticed that I kept putting the book down and tuning into something else. It just wasn’t holding my attention anymore. But I still finished it because it was an easy read and I wasn’t that far away from the end.

This was so predictable, to the point where things happened exactly as I thought they would. I didn’t care about any of the characters or their relationships because they were all one-dimensional. Also, Nora is supposed to be a crime writer in this book, but I just didn’t buy it. I think that if she were a good writer, she’d also have been able to predict where the story was headed. I enjoyed the setting and thought the premise had promise, but this book didn’t thrill me.

Book Reviews: October and November 2016

we love you charlie freeman review, eligible review, reading wrap-up, october reads, halloween reads

Eligible

I’ll start right off by saying that this was a disappointing read for me. I expected to like this novel much more than I actually did. I will also state that my reading experience may have been colored by my troubles with the ebook. I borrowed this ebook from the library and constantly had trouble loading the chapters. Since this book is split up into more than one hundred short chapters, you can imagine how stilted my reading experience was.

Plot-wise, you’ll already know what happens in this retelling of Pride and Prejudice if you’ve read the original. The story pretty much sticks to the original script, except that it’s set in the present day in Pittsburgh. In a recent review, I mentioned that my main criteria for a retelling is that it remain respectful of the original story, while adding a new twist. In this aspect, Eligible really fell short for me. Yes, the location was changed and the setting updated, but it wasn’t enough to make the story feel new and fresh. Structurally, as I mentioned before, the novel is divided into many short chapters. Because of this, I felt that the reading experience wasn’t smooth because the story was constantly stopping and starting. In addition, some of the chapters didn’t seem to add anything to the story and I was left wondering why they were included in the first place.

Let’s talk about the characters too. Most of the characters were terrible people. You know I don’t mind an “unlikeable” character (in fact, give me a twisted, diabolical main character any day), but my cardinal rule is that a character must be compelling. I didn’t find these characters very compelling. In fact, they were rather tiresome. I believe that they were purposefully written this way, but I still grew weary of these characters. The character that concerned me the most was Mrs. Bennet. She’s described by her own daughter as racist and makes offensive comments. The other characters react to her statements with embarrassment, but I felt that they should denounce her, or at least call out her bad behavior. I guess what bothered me the most was that Mrs. Bennet has this huge character flaw, but it’s written off as a kooky character quirk.

I guess I’ll stop carrying on about what I didn’t like in this book, but I was just really disappointed. To give the author credit, P&P is a difficult story to tackle. My disappointment in this book won’t prevent me from trying one of her other novels to see if the author and I might get along better with a different story.

In the Woods

I am now one of the many people who sing Tana French’s praises. October was the perfect time to tackle my first Tana French novel, which was sitting on my TBR shelf for months.

When Adam is a young boy, he goes into the woods with his two best friends, but he is the only one to make it back out of the woods. The disappearance of his friends is investigated, but the case is never solved. Several years later, Adam has become a detective, and picks up a case that brings him in contact with his past.

Oooo, this was so good. The pacing is slow and steady, but so engrossing throughout. More than two-thirds of the way through the novel, I still had no idea who did it and only slowly began to understand what happened at the very end. The book is set in Ireland and the descriptions of the setting are vivid. With the woods in particular, I could feel some of the terror that Adam felt on that fateful day when his friends disappeared. French’s characters are rich and I felt like I was investigating this case alongside them. I was wholly invested in the story and felt each defining moment keenly.

In this book, French explores relationships between family members and between friends. There is definitely an air of nostalgia here, as the novel switches back and forth between the present day, the recent past, when Adam is investigating the case, and the more distant past when Adam was a kid. There is much more I could say about this, but I don’t want to discuss anything that might give away the plot. If you’ve read this novel, let me know, so I can talk about the thing that I’m dying to talk about! This was the perfect blend of literary fiction, mystery, crime, and suspense, and I cannot wait to read the rest of the novels in this series.

Through the Woods

I picked up this graphic novel based on a recommendation from Book and Quills in her video on Halloween Reads and I’m so glad I did. This is a collection of short stories with spooky, supernatural elements. I think I’d psyched myself out and expected the stories to be scarier, but actually, I think they had the perfect amount of creepiness. I loved the style of the illustrations as well, and the bold, vibrant colors utilized in some of the stories. One page in particular did give me a real fright- I turned the page and flinched! Anyways, I really enjoyed this book and it made me decide that I need to add more graphic novels to my TBR.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales

I hadn’t read Poe since high school, but I remembered being introduced to his work for class and loving it. October seemed to be the month of switching up my reading habits, as I don’t read many graphic novels and I don’t read many short story collections. I was craving some old school horror though and decided that Halloween was the best time to read the master of the creepy short story.

I’d read a few of these stories before, but many were new to me. Even for the stories I’d already read, I found myself delighted by the twist, as if it were all new to me. The stories that I enjoyed the most are some of the most well-known ones, including “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Cast of Amontillado.” I also loved the stories that reminded me of the classic detective stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie (although I suppose Poe came first!). Since the language is a bit dense, I decided to read one or two of these stories a night, and I really enjoyed dipping in and out of the collection.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The only thing I knew when I started this book is that is much beloved. I was excited to read my first Shirley Jackson novel and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Since I didn’t know anything about the plot, I didn’t know what to expect. I was soon captivated by the voice of our narrator, Mary Katherine Blackwood. After finishing the novel, I was surprised to discover the she is 18 years old when she recounts this story, even though it’s one of the very first things she tells us. However, her voice in the novel feels much younger, which I believe works well with the background story we are given.

Since this is such a brief novel, it’s hard to talk about it without giving things away. I will say that Jackson has a way of making the ordinary seem very interesting. I also had a hard time narrowing down the exact time period and the setting, although the introduction in my edition led me to believe that the setting is somewhat obvious if you are more familiar with the area or Jackson’s work than I am. It’s a story about people who are odd ducklings, who don’t fit in, which is a feeling that I think we’ve all felt at one time or another. At first, I couldn’t believe the behavior of some of the characters in this novel, but then I thought about it a little more, and I could. Jackson’s novel clearly contains a timelessness that makes this story as pointed today as it was when it was first published.

A Monster Calls

This book made my heart ache. At the beginning of the novel, Conor’s mother is very sick, and recently he’s been having the same nightmare each night, in which a terrible monster appears. This is a beautifully written story about grief and pain. I found this so moving (yes, I did cry) and so adept at capturing the feelings that you experience if you’ve ever been in a similar situation as Conor. The book is written in a storytelling style which I found very engaging, with conversations between Conor and the monster and stories told within the novel itself. I believe this book is technically middle grade, but I think it would be compelling to readers of all ages. I definitely want to see the movie, but I’ll be sure to have my tissues handy. If you’re in the mood for a lovely and heartbreaking story, then I highly recommend that you pick this one up.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman

I’ve been meaning to read this book since the beginning of this year and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. The Freeman family has been selected by the Tonybee Institute for a unique opportunity. They will adopt a chimpanzee into their family, treat him like a family member and teach him sign language. As you can imagine, each member of the family feels differently about this experience and we follow them as they begin their new life at the Institute.

The premise is certainly wacky and different, which is what drew me in initially. The author uses this premise to explore race. The Freeman family is black and hearing that they’ve been selected to participate in an ‘experiment’ automatically raises some flags, as we know that horrible things have been done to black people in the name of science. There’s a fascinating overlap between race and language in this novel as well. Greenidge writes about the way that race can affect the way that your words are interpreted, and how language can be racially coded. There is language both spoken and unspoken, since the family communicates orally and with sign language. In one anecdote, we learn that the mother of the family stopped speaking for a period of time when she was younger. When she spoke, her words could be twisted or misinterpreted, so instead, she communicated with handwritten notes.

The novel is also about growing up, and how lonely and confusing it can be. Compound that with the fact that they’re black and newcomers, and you can understand why Charlotte, the teenager in this family, feels so isolated. It’s human nature to want to be seen, known, and loved, and Charlotte tries to navigate those feelings throughout the book.

I thought this was a well-written, insightful debut novel. The book is written from various perspectives, including members of the Freeman family, and a character in the past. Race is one of the main themes, but the author also discusses class, family relationships, sexuality, and more. I was reading this book right before and after the election and it felt really timely. I identified with the “otherness” that the characters were experiencing because I was feeling it too. I found this to be a very compelling read and I think that if the premise interests you, you should definitely give it a try.

Book Reviews: August and September 2016

perfect days review, purple hibiscus review, under the harrow, jane steele review, book reviews, august book reviews, september book reviews

Under the Harrow*

Throughout the week, Nora has been looking forward to spending the weekend at her sister’s house in the country. However, when she arrives at Rachel’s house, she’s greeted with a shocking scene- Rachel has been brutally murdered. As Nora drowns in grief, she becomes obsessed with finding her sister’s killer.

I really liked that this is more of a psychological thriller. It’s written in first-person perspective throughout, so we are really in Nora’s head as she struggles to accept what’s happened to her sister. Berry does a great job of creating an eerie and unsettling atmosphere, giving me that same feeling of unease that you get when you sense someone is behind you.

That being said, the chapters are comprised of shorter, choppier sentences with a stream-of-consciousness feel, which isn’t my favorite writing style. For me, that created some distance and prevented me from connecting with the characters fully.

As the story unfolds, the reader learns that Nora and Rachel had a close, but fraught relationship, as many sisters do. I found the exploration of this sister relationship quite fascinating, particularly since both sisters are flawed.

Nora’s world is completely shaken after her sister’s death and the description of her thoughts and feelings felt true to me. Although I struggled to connect in certain sections, there are parts of this novel that I felt were well done. I’ll be keeping an eye out for future work from Flynn Berry.

Jane Steele

YAAAAASSSSSSSS!

Ok, now for actual coherent thoughts. I’ve wanted to read this book since the beginning of the year and I’m so glad that I finally got around to it. A novel inspired by Jane Eyre with Jane as a feminist murderess? Yes, please, sign me up!

I love the original Jane Eyre and was really curious to see how Faye would handle this story. The answer is very, very well. This line from very early in the book says it all: “Reader, I murdered him.” So simple and so good!

There are lots of tidbits like that sprinkled throughout the book- references to the original text that will have you nodding along in agreement if you’ve read Jane Eyre. But Jane Steele is also her own, fully-formed character. She shares some personality traits with Jane Eyre, but differs in other areas, which I’ll let you discover when you read this book. Also, to be clear, Jane Steele is a straight-up serial killer. And yet, I love her.

This might be blasphemous for those who ship hard for Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, but I feel that Jane Steele and Mr. Thornfield, Jane Steele’s love interest in this book, are a better match (agree or disagree? Let’s discuss this).

I think the key with a retelling (of sorts) is to treat the original text with respect, while still creating a unique story, and Faye has done a brilliant job in both areas. This was a truly enjoyable read that I would recommend to those who liked Jane Eyre.

Perfect Days

Boy meets girl. Boy thinks girl is perfect and everything he’s every wanted. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy kidnaps girl so that he can force her to fall in love with him. Uhhhh, wait a minute…

The scariest part of this book is Teo’s psychopathic behavior. He knows how he is supposed to act, but has no problem twisting the narrative to support his desires. There are certain moments in this book that made my jaw drop or made me think, “How can he get away with this?”

Something about the writing threw me off though. I’m not sure if something was lost in translation, but the writing felt stilted to me. Despite that, this was a quick read (one particular scene stands out and still makes me a bit queasy when I think about it!) that I’d recommend to some people for it’s uniquely disturbing nature alone.

The Rosie Project

I’m glad this is being adapted into a movie because this is the kind of light, enjoyable romantic comedy that I’m a total sucker for. Don, a professor of genetics, has developed the perfect solution to his quest for a partner. He’s created a tailored questionnaire that will weed out all of the highly unsuitable matches and hopefully lead him to his ideal mate. Then he meets Rosie, who’s not at all suitable in most areas. I bet you can guess where this is heading!

Although this is very predictable, it was also a lot of fun. This is a good summer read- breezy, decently written, and fun. I couldn’t help but chuckle at some of Don and Rosie’s personality traits and certain scenes that I feel will translate well on the big screen.

Rosie’s character felt like a bit of a manic pixie dream girl, but from time to time she did call out Don on his sexist behavior, which I liked. Also, there were opinions expressed by certain characters that rubbed me the wrong way, but I reminded myself that the characters’s views do not necessarily equal the author’s views.

In the end though, I liked this novel, and plan to watch the movie whenever it comes out!

The Raven King

The fourth book in the Raven Cycle series continued the formula that I love the most: the gang working together on a singular quest. I really enjoyed reading this final book in the series and it made me remember the wonder and delight I felt when I read the first book.

I know I’ve mentioned this before in a review of one of the earlier books in the series, but I truly admire the author’s ability to establish a certain mood and ambience with her words. Her writing really lends itself to the otherworldly nature of the events that take place throughout the series. Since she created such a vivid environment that I’ve become very familiar with while reading the series, finishing this final book really felt like coming home again.

I was satisfied with the conclusion of the series. For me, it was surprising, but not shocking, and if I’d considered it more thoroughly, I feel like I would have realized what they would find on the hunt for Glendower. There were also some moments that had been building up for several books and I was really glad that they were finally explored here. I could certainly read more pages about this world and these characters, and I do feel like the author has left enough ambiguity to create a spinoff series (I believe she’s confirmed that she’s working on a trilogy from Ronan’s perspective).

The Widow

For quite a while, Jean suspects that her husband has done some bad things. Despite this, she remains by his side and defends him against his accusers. However, when her husband dies, there’s no reason to be quiet anymore. Jean is a widow, finally free of her husband, and can say whatever she wants…

This book was so straightforward. Like, way too straightforward for a thriller. Let me clarify- I mean way too straightforward for a book that’s been compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I knew right away that Glen, Jean’s husband, was a bad man, and my opinion of him didn’t change throughout the novel. He’s controlling, sexist, and emotionally manipulative.

The book is told from a few different perspectives, including Jean, a reporter named Kate, and the detective working on the case. In Jean’s chapters, I think we’re meant to see a woman rediscovering herself after being freed from her husband, but what I really saw was a woman that remained a puppet, rather than the orchestrator of her own life.

Despite the fact that I continued to turn the pages, I was not emotionally invested in this story. The writing was fine, the characters were fine, and the setting was fine, but there was nothing in this thriller to thrill me. After reading this, I craved a book with some real intrigue!

Purple Hibiscus

Before reading this, I was certain that I would love this book, and I was right. Let’s just take a moment to bask in the glory of Adichie’s writing. Reading her words makes me actually want to act out the *raised hands* emoji in real life.

Kambili and her brother Jaja grow up in a strict household, with a father who has strong beliefs about religion and about what is proper. When Kambili and Jaja visit their aunt in Nsukka, they are exposed to a world filled with laughter, love, and endless possibilities.

First of all, there’s so much that I identify with in this book. My parents are also Nigerian and I also felt like I grew up in a strict household (or at least, it was much more strict than most of the other kids I knew, but not nearly at the level that Kambili and Jaja experience in this novel). So I completely understand that feeling of wanting to break free and follow a different path (and who hasn’t experienced that feeling from time to time?).

Kambili is awkward and tongue-tied because she has been raised in a home where silence is much more common than expressing your thoughts or opinions. It’s such a powerful feeling to recognize parts of yourself in a character. There are so many times when Kambili is straining to say or do the right thing, the thing that other people view as “normal,” and I can understand that feeling. At times, Kambili feels inadequate because her view of the world has been limited, and I know that feeling as well.

This is a story about family, about religion, about growing up. Adichie explores the relationships between parents and children, and siblings, and considers how we can still love the people that hurt us the most. We also watch Kambili come of age in this novel, and throughout I was cheering her on and hoping that she would find the freedom she didn’t even know she needed.

There’s so much more I could say about this novel (if you’ve read this book, let’s talk in the comments below!). The writing is absolutely beautiful, the characters are deep and real, and the setting is wonderfully evocative. In short, if you haven’t read any of Adichie’s work yet, what are you waiting for?

Tipping the Velvet

This is the first Sarah Waters book that I’ve ever read, but I think I can safely call myself a fan of her work. This book was beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Nan is an ordinary girl living in the seaside town of Whitsable in the late 1800s. In her spare time, she loves venturing to the music hall. On one of these trips, she sees Kitty Butler, a saucy, male impersonator, for the first time. Nan is thoroughly captivated by Kitty’s demeanor and performance, and once the two actually meet, Nan’s life will never be the same.

Did I mention how much I loved this novel? The writing is so wonderfully descriptive and wistful. Nan’s family is in the oyster business, and when Waters writes about preparing the oysters, I can nearly taste them in my mouth. The descriptions of the hustle and bustle of London were fascinating and gave me further insight into that time period. I also loved the use of Victorian slang and sometimes paused to look up these words that were entirely new to me.

I’m a secret romantic (or maybe everyone already knows by now), so I loved the slow burn of these two young women falling in love. All of the sweetness and the pain and the uncertainty of first love is captured in this story. On top of that, it’s a love that must be kept secret because it’s considered “unnatural,” which of course makes things even more complicated. There are quite a few sensual scenes in this book, but they don’t feel like they were included for shock value, but instead to show the natural progression of the relationship between these two women.

What I found most astonishing was Nan’s transformation over the course of this novel. I could not have predicted that the Nan we meet at the beginning of the story would end up where she does. Nan is around eighteen when the novel begins and we witness her becoming her own person, which is rather exciting. Physical transformation is also explored, as Nancy falls in love with a woman who dresses like a man. In fact, the act of transformation through clothing is an important theme throughout the book.

So, in short, I loved the history, the romance, the discussion of gender roles, and pretty much this entire book. I found this to be an immersive reading experience. I’d look up from the book after a while and realize that I’d been reading for an hour or more (usually when I should have been in bed, asleep!). I already cannot wait for my next Sarah Waters novel.

*Disclaimer: Under the Harrow was sent to me by the publisher for review purposes, but these are my honest thoughts and opinions. 

Book Reviews: July 2016

book reviews, july book reviews, homegoing review, an innocent fashion review, beautiful country review, multiple choice review

July was a good reading month, probably the best one I’ve had since January in terms of actually finishing books! Thanks to being on vacation, I had a good amount of downtime for reading. Here are the five books I finished last month:

BEAUTIFUL I like a good coming-of-age novel, which is why the premise of this book intrigued me. As a young teenager, Chase’s father sends him to Beijing to join the national junior tennis team. In his temporary home, Chase tries to adapt to a new culture, all while missing his friends and his routine back home.

This book is written very simply, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Due to the writing style and a younger protagonist, this felt more like a YA read, even though I think it’s being marketed as an adult novel. I did enjoy reading about Chase’s experience of moving to a new country, because relocating is such a formative experience, particularly at such a young age.

My biggest critique of this novel is that I wanted more depth. I wanted to get to know the characters better, including Chase and the young boys who become his new teammates, I wanted Chase’s family history to be further developed, and I wanted to know more about the relationship between Chase and his father, which was often tense. The author would start to discuss interesting themes, but then not follow through, which is a skill that he may develop over time (this is his debut novel). This was a pleasant and easy read, and I’ll be keeping an eye on this author to see what he writes next.

homegoing Believe the hype, guys, believe the hype. The novel begins in eighteenth-century Ghana with two girls, Effia and Esi. Although the two are sisters, their lives take very different paths. Effia is married to a prominent white slave trader, while Esi is sold as a slave. This book spans hundreds of years as we follow the descendants of these two young women.

First of all, let me say that I’m impressed. This is a debut novel with an ambitious scope. Not only is it beautifully written, but Gyasi weaves through the lives of various characters with ease. Everyone in this book is flawed, from the white traders, to the village chiefs who assist the slave traders, to the villagers themselves. We see Effia and Esi’s descendants struggling and striving and trying to survive.

Aside from the writing, my favorite part about this book was the characters. We are constantly being introduced to new characters, but each character is alive and fully-formed. I could have spent a lot more time with each character, or even read a full novel about each one.

This book is so necessary and important and demonstrates the way that black people have been struggling for hundreds and hundreds of years, without sugarcoating anything. I’ve added this to my list of books that everyone needs to read, which also includes Americanah and Between the World and Me. That’s all I’m going to say, folks, because I want you to stop reading and go pick up this book right now.

winter I finally read the last book in The Lunar Chronicles and it confirmed my general thoughts about this series. It’s not perfect, but there are definitely good elements and it’s simply fun to read. My thoughts on each of the main characters were pretty solidified by the first three books and that didn’t change while reading this one. It was good to have the whole gang back together though, and I think I was satisfied enough with the conclusion of the series. I enjoy Marissa Meyer’s books, so I’m looking forward to checking out her new book, Heartless, that will be published this fall.

innocent Ethan St. James’s dream job is to work at a fashion magazine. He graduates college, moves to New York City, and lands a coveted internship at Régine, the biggest fashion magazine in the world. As he quickly discovers though, Régine is not all he thought it would be, leading him to question everything he’s ever wanted.

For some reason, I was a bit skeptical when I started the book. It sounded like something I would enjoy, but then I thought that maybe I’d be disappointed. Well, original me was right- I really enjoyed this book. First of all, the fashion. I love reading descriptions of clothing and style, so the sartorial passages were right up my alley. Secondly, I know that I love books about twenty-somethings trying to make it New York City (hello real life, meet fictional life). Finally, the main character went to Yale University, which is my alma mater. As you can see, there were a lot of elements of this book that I could connect with and enjoy.

Our main character is a misfit. He grew up in a small, conservative town in Texas, and is teased for being different and having different interests than the other kids. It’s a coming-of-a-story in which Ethan explores his aspirations, his sexuality, and his identity. There’s also lots of fun and snarky commentary on the fashion industry. This felt like a fun and appropriate summer read.

multiple I may have missed the point of this book completely, and yet I still enjoyed it. It’s structured like a multiple choice test and based on the Chilean National Aptitude test. I give this all the points for originality with the structure. Towards the end of the book, there are longer essays, which felt like short stories, and were easier for me to grasp. Even though I wasn’t sure I was understanding everything, I felt like I was exercising my mind, which is a good thing. Reading this also made me want to pick up more of Zambra’s work, probably in a format that I’m a bit more used to!