Such a revelatory book for anyone who has been neglected, ghosted, or given mixed signals by a man. The thesis of He's Just Not That Into You: if a guSuch a revelatory book for anyone who has been neglected, ghosted, or given mixed signals by a man. The thesis of He's Just Not That Into You: if a guy is into you, he will take it upon himself to let you know. Despite some of the book's repetition, I love how the authors emphasize their central message of recognizing your self-worth and refusing to settle for someone who makes you doubt yourself. Essentially: do not settle for a man (or any human) who makes you wonder if he (or they) likes you. Do not settle for a man whose intimacy issues or substance use problems or lack of communication skills forces you to do all the emotional work. He's Just Not That Into You advocates for never settling and for only engaging in relationships with people who care about you and can show it.
I wish the authors of this book had expanded the depth of their writing. I saw so much room for addressing how oppressive gender roles affect intimate relationships - the authors could have talked about how toxic masculinity robs men of the tools they could use to cultivate fulfilling, deep relationships. The book also felt super heteronormative and even just a tad anti-feminist in parts (e.g., supporting the silly notion that women should only date men who ask them out first). Because this book came out ten years ago, quite a few of its arguments rely on traditional structures (e.g., monogamy) and ideas (e.g., that all men just want sex).
Despite these flaws, I would still recommend this book to anyone who needs a good slap of self-respect in the face. In the past, I have made the mistake of over-analyzing men's internal states and trying to figure out if a guy's wish-washy behavior could indicate that he likes me. Now, I know not to settle for anyone beneath my standards and to thrive as an empowered, independent human who has several healthy, reciprocal relationships....more
A solid young-adult science fiction debut with clear writing and a bisexual main character. The Star Host follows Ren, a teen who lives in a simple viA solid young-adult science fiction debut with clear writing and a bisexual main character. The Star Host follows Ren, a teen who lives in a simple village and has always dreamed of flying among the stars. Ren's wish comes a little too true when the Baron invades his hometown and he must sacrifice his freedom so his younger brother Liam can escape. Aboard the Baron's ship, Ren learns of his power-hungry plan to dominate the galaxy. Ren also discovers his own psychic ability to control and manipulate technology, a power he does not yet have control over. Soon he meets Asher, a fellow prisoner and a charming member of the Phoenix Corps. The two plot their escape from the Baron's clutches and grow closer even when their conceptions of Ren's ability become more and more fraught.
I liked so many things about The Star Host. F.T. Lukens's writing flows well and portrays a fascinating science fiction world, in addition to smooth dialogue and great imagery. Ren and Asher's relationship develops in an organic way and avoids all the romantic tropes that plague YA nowadays (e.g., insta-love, forbidden love, sexuality-as-main-conflict, etc.) This book just felt so neat - the plot progressed with momentum and clarity, and Ren and Asher maintained my interest as individual characters and as a couple.
As I do with most things in life, I wanted a bit more from The Star Host. The world had room for expansion, Asher and Ren's relationship could have gone deeper, and themes of war/imprisonment/fear-of-self could have been fleshed out more. I hope Lukens continues to elaborate on all of these issues and relationships with future installments to this book, because I see so much potential.
Recommended to those who enjoy YA, science fiction, and organic-feeling romance. Perhaps this book does not feel as enthralling as Alex London's Proxy, but it does contain more meat than Rainbow Rowell's Carry On. Also, F.T. Lukens graduated from the college I study at now, so extra points for that....more
An American teacher in Bulgaria meets a charismatic young hustler, Mitko, in a public bathroom beneath Sofia's National Palace of Culture. He soon devAn American teacher in Bulgaria meets a charismatic young hustler, Mitko, in a public bathroom beneath Sofia's National Palace of Culture. He soon develops a heated, intimate relationship with Mitko, one built on desire and danger and fear. As our narrator struggles to navigate the fraught intensity he shares with Mitko, he re-encounters dark secrets from his southern childhood, memories that occupy him even when he lives a country away.
I wish I could agree with they hype on this one. I enjoyed some aspects of What Belongs to You: our narrator's difficult dance with culture and language, the ache of unfulfilled desire spanning familial and romantic relationships, and the underlying emphasis on the importance of how we choose to treat ourselves. Garth Greenwell writes with depth and eloquence. His sentences, while long, carried much meaning and style that only a few times turned prosaic.
But I fail to see what elevates this book above its peers. Nothing surprised me or really held my attention - not the typical story line about a gay man feeling unaccepted in his childhood, not the melodramatic, vacuous relationship between Mitko and our narrator, and not the plot's disjointed flow. I appreciated Greenwell's genuine attempt to capture angst and despair However, nothing about our narrator or his story told me anything new, nor did it re-envision any past plots in an innovative way.
A decent book that does not hold a candle to Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life. Several of my friends on Goodreads have lauded What Belongs to You, so perhaps consider their reviews for a second opinion....more
A sad and powerful story of sexual abuse and human resilience. Twelve-year-old Aphias Zee (nicknamed "Fee"), a talented singer, joins a renowned boys'A sad and powerful story of sexual abuse and human resilience. Twelve-year-old Aphias Zee (nicknamed "Fee"), a talented singer, joins a renowned boys' choir in Maine. While his Korean and Scottish ancestry sets him apart from his peers, his most horrid suffering ties them all together: Fee, like others in his cohort, receives sexual abuse from Big Eric, their choir director. Upon Big Eric's eventual imprisonment, Fee must find a way to survive the demons of his past - even when all his former friends perish in the process.
This book has so much necessary sadness. Fee undergoes awful trauma, and Chee writes about it in a poetic way without romanticizing Fee's hardship. Chee's prose showcases his cultural sensitivity and his penchant for the finer nuances of language. He releases Fee's waves of sadness onto us in a way we can comprehend, even if Fee cannot. We need more books like this: books that depict ugly, despairing truths, so we can see them for what they are and work to prevent them.
Chee's descriptions of Fee's relationships reveal the extent to which abuse perpetuates itself. He shows how Fee copes with his homosexuality and his distrust with himself, all to highlight the devastating effects of trauma. While Hanya Yanagihara approaches childhood abuse with a broadsword in her masterful book A Little Life, Chee does so with a rapier, portraying the subtle, insidious repercussions of Fee's past.
Chee ends his book with a message of hope, a reprieve from the well-written anguish so consistent in Edinburgh. I would recommend this story to anyone interested in abuse and its consequences. I encourage self-care while reading this one: though important and rendered with a delicate hand, it leaves a lasting emotional impact....more
Loved the introductory exploration of trans issues in this book, even if it faltered in other areas. The Art of Being Normal follows two prot3.5 stars
Loved the introductory exploration of trans issues in this book, even if it faltered in other areas. The Art of Being Normal follows two protagonists who both go to Eden Park School: David Piper, a biological male who has always wanted to be a girl, and Leo Denten, an outsider with dark secrets of his own. Though the two seem quite different - David, more reserved and wistful, Leo, more moody and confrontational - a twist of fate brings them together in ways neither of them expect.
I appreciated Lisa Williamson's willingness to tackle a trans character and the challenges they face. She makes David's struggle to accept himself a central part of the plot while writing his dual perspective with Leo in a way that maintains a solid pace for the story as a whole. David and Leo both have strengths and weaknesses, which humanizes them way more than if they had been perfect Christ figures. The Art of Being Normal flowed well, which I attribute to Williamson's easy-to-navigate writing.
I wanted more from several domains of this book though. Williamson's writing, while smooth, did not convey the more nuanced underpinnings of the characters' struggles. Leo's family and David's two best friends both felt like accessories to David's desire to transition, and it would have been nice to see those characters' relationships fleshed out. Though I read The Art of Being Normal on my Kindle, it felt a bit too thin for me to build strong attachments to our protagonists.
I liked this book and think others will too, though I feel even more excited to read other, more developed young-adult books with trans characters. Looking forward to reading Williamson's future work and I admire the effort she put into crafting this story....more
What the heck did I just read? As I write this review I still do not know how to answer that question. The plot of The Book of Strange New Things centWhat the heck did I just read? As I write this review I still do not know how to answer that question. The plot of The Book of Strange New Things centers on Peter Leigh, a man of faith who embarks on a mission to evangelize a group of aliens he calls the Oasans. Meanwhile, his wife on earth, Beatrice, suffers as their home planet collapses due to natural disasters. Peter drifts farther away from Bea the closer he gets to the Oasans. He soon must decide who or what matters most to him: his wife or his mission.
The lack of conflict throughout this novel acts as its first and foremost weakness. For the first 60% of the book, Peter travels to space, meets his fellow adventurers, thinks about religion, and embraces an amiable group of aliens. Michael Faber institutes no impetus for further reading, unless someone by chance enjoys Peter's lukewarm introspection and too-tame journey. Even at the 60% mark the clash between Peter and Bea about their relationship feels forced, in that the epistolary format of Bea's communication detracts from the immediacy of her situation. I struggle to write about what else happens in The Book of Strange New Things, because even though the plot does develop and novel events do occur, every detail felt so non-urgent and inessential that I ended up finishing the book just for the sake of finishing it.
The lack of character development also weakened this book's appeal. Peter tells us that he has a difficult life before he discovered faith and that Bea grew up in an abusive household. However, none of this past struggle contributes to these characters' developmental arcs throughout the story and they thus read as rather simple folk. The static nature of the Oasans also felt like a missed opportunity. Faber does not at all give depth to the science-fiction facets of this story, nor does he make anything about the Oasans remarkable other than their ugly appearances. The dearth of interesting events and intriguing characters contributes to my overall lack of connection with this story and any of its inherent meaning.
The Goodreads blurb for this book states that Peter and Bea's struggle "lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us." I would argue that while Michael Faber includes all of these topics in his story, the book's glaring flaws obscure any "profound meditation." The only aspect of the book I found compelling centered on Peter's use of religion as a coping mechanism ad the way he deludes himself and loses his grasp of humankind because of the Oasans. Perhaps I just missed the point of the book because of its suffocating focus on religion that still did not provide any thought-provoking questions or insights. I would only recommend this book to those who feel extremely, intensely drawn in by its synopsis....more
"Sure, some news is bigger news than other news. War is bigger news than a girl having mixed feelings about the way some guy fucked her and didn't cal"Sure, some news is bigger news than other news. War is bigger news than a girl having mixed feelings about the way some guy fucked her and didn't call. But I don't believe in a finite economy of empathy; I happen to think that paying attention yields as much as it taxes. You learn to start seeing."
I did not love every essay in this collection, but the ones I did love, I would give six, seven, or ten stars. I came in as a skeptic: how could this one person, Leslie Jamison, capture the essence of empathy? How could she manage to write about such a mysterious, powerful, and often misconstrued emotion, even with her Harvard degree and her MFA from Iowa? As an aspiring psychologist who values empathy more than anything else, I wanted so much from The Empathy Exams, so much that I curbed my expectations even before starting the book. But I ended the book with only good news: that Jamison delivers, and she does it well.
"Empathy isn't just something that happens to us - a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain - it's also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It's made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it's asked for, but this doesn't make our caring hollow. This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always rise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones."
Jamison delves into empathy across several unique situations: her time as a medical actor, when she got punched in the middle of Nicaragua, a sadistic trial known as the Barkley Marathon, the pain of womanhood as a whole. She analyzes these experiences with a powerful blend of fierce insight and vulnerability. Jamison approaches tough topics - Morgellons disease, imprisonment within the justice system - in a way that shows her intellect while honoring her humanity. The theme of empathy soaks into each of these short essays, the emotion sometimes small, sometimes large, but always there.
"Empathy isn't just remembering to say that must be really hard - it's figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn't just listening, it's asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing."
Even though I did not agree with all of Jamison's ideas (in particular her essay "In Defense of Saccharine"), I clung to her every word, riveted by her logic and her ruthless self-examination. Her last essay about her grand unified theory of female pain blew me away, as it integrated feminism, history, empathy, literature, and so much more into a painful and poignant message of hope. And when she quoted Caroline Knapp, whose memoir about anorexia tops my favorite list, I knew Jamison had her bases covered.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be a better human, to anyone who wants to read about a woman's attempt to be a better human. I will end this review with the closing lines of the collection, just because I hope the strength of Jamison's conclusion will motivate someone to read the book in its entirety.
"The wounded woman gets called a stereotype and sometimes she is. But sometimes she's just true. I think the possibility of fetishizing pain is no reason to stop representing it. Pain that gets performed is still pain. Pain turned trite is still pain. I think the charges of cliche and performance offer our closed hearts too many alibis, and I want our hearts to be open. I just wrote that. I want our hearts to be open. I mean it."...more
Anthony Doerr's writing made me fall in love with words again. By the middle of All the Light We Cannot See I thought of every chapter as a small giftAnthony Doerr's writing made me fall in love with words again. By the middle of All the Light We Cannot See I thought of every chapter as a small gift, a present consisting of tight and graceful prose. Doerr follows two main characters in this novel: Marie-Laure, a blind six-year-old whose father creates a model of their city for her, and Werner, an orphan boy whose technical talent earns him a spot in an elite, brutal military academy. Doerr follows the history of World War II but focuses on the lives of his characters, how their paths intersect, and the moments that change their journeys forever.
Gorgeous, magical writing. Doerr uses imagery and metaphor in ways that exceed expectation; he captures beauty and sensation with his words but never goes overboard. He develops Marie-Laure and Werner with his incisive choices in diction, and he portrays the former's resilience and the latter's curiosity in a way that made my heart clench. Doerr includes just the right amount of detail to give the side characters specific flavors as well, ranging from bird-obsessed Frederick to traumatized Uncle Etienne. This passage stood out to me, not because of its relevance to the plot, but because it showcases how Doerr pauses time to portray a single, powerful emotion:
"There is pride, too, though - pride that he has done it alone. That his daughter is so curious, so resilient. There is the humility of being a father to someone so powerful, as if he were only a narrow conduit for another, greater thing. That's how it feels right now, he thinks, kneeling beside her, rinsing her hair: as though his love for his daughter will outstrip the limits of his body. The walls could fall away, even the whole city, and the brightness of that feeling would not wane."
Overall, a splendid story, one I deem worthy of five stars despite some minor plot pacing issues. Doerr's ability to write about such an ugly event with elegance and emotion amazes me, and All the Light We Cannot See reminded me of The Book Thief in some parts, though the novels stand on their own. Recommended to fans of historical fiction and to those who appreciate remarkable writing....more
This past year has made me a cynic to romance, but boy, did Skylar and Rafael light up my heart. Their honest yet nuanced relationship, forged from shThis past year has made me a cynic to romance, but boy, did Skylar and Rafael light up my heart. Their honest yet nuanced relationship, forged from shared tragedy and mutual understanding, brought all my fanboy feels to the fore. And when they kissed, well... I will "show" a passage instead of "telling" about it:
"It was soft when he kissed me, like homecoming, like summer linens on a taut clothesline, tossing in a summer wind. Our lips slid together, his lips warm, his breath warm, heat crackling its way across my skin. His glasses bumped against my cheek and we paused, for a moment, his expression sheepish, a laugh dancing at the corners of my mouth; but then he angled his head - just so - and it didn't happen again. I held the nape of his neck in the palm of my hand and felt his earring tickle my bare arm."
Rose Christo includes several compelling story lines beyond Skylar and Rafael's relationship. She weaves in Shoshone history and tradition and uses her book as a platform for uplifting Native American culture and voices. She portrays complex family dynamics spanning how skin color affects belonging to the ethics of adultery, physical abuse, and moving on from one's past. Looks Over highlights the terrible interpersonal consequences when those in power abuse laws such as the Indian Child Welfare Act, and the novel also shows the strength and resilience of marginalized groups. I appreciated how Christo renders challenging topics like racial justice and healthy masculinity understandable through her clear and unfettered prose.
I had a few minor issues with Looks Over. The plot often moves from one event to the next without a clear or consistent purpose. The side characters could have used more development: I wanted to see more intricacy from the evil Ms. Whitler, more development of rebellious Mary, and more interactions between Skylar's dad and Rafael. Sometimes the story dissolves into a history lesson, and while Christo provides a history lesson we all need to learn, I wonder if she could have shown more instead of tell.
Overall, still one of my favorite series and I adore the relationship between Skylar and Rafael. While not as slay-my-feelings (yes, I made that an adjective) as its predecessor Gives Light, I enjoyed Looks Over and look forward to reading its future installments....more
I wanted Cress to take me away, and it did, without a doubt. In this third installment of The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder continues her quest to dethroneI wanted Cress to take me away, and it did, without a doubt. In this third installment of The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder continues her quest to dethrone Queen Levana and claim her position as rightful heir of Luna. Captain Thorne, Scarlet, and Wolf accompany her, until a difficult brawl sends their team spiraling. While they struggle to recuperate, Cress, our new protagonist, cannot wait to break free from the satellite she has spent all her life in. With her computer skills and her fascination with Thorne, Cress makes an interesting addition to the team, as their remaining members band together to stop Levana's marriage to Kai and end her time as queen.
Marissa Meyer knows how to craft a compelling story. Cress combined so many of Cinder and Scarlet's strongest elements: tight plot structure, entertaining and riveting character interactions, and a building tension between Cinder and her allies against Queen Levana. Meyer balances several protagonists at once and maintains a fluid writing style that whisks you from event to event. All of the new developments in Cress entranced me, as Meyer adds layer after layer onto an already burgeoning world.
I also appreciated Cress and Thorne's relationship in Cress. While I felt that Scarlet and Wolf's relationship reeked of insta-love in Scarlet, Cress's fantasies of Thorne and their subsequent fallout proved more complex and honest than I expected. While it comes across as a little forced that every character has a love interest, Meyer moves the story well enough that the romance does not cause much trouble; it is, for the most part, enjoyable.
Overall, a solid addition to The Lunar Chronicles, and I would recommend it to fans of Meyer, even those who did not love Scarlet. While this series has some minor issues in regard to world-building and relationship depth, Meyer's overall ability to construct an absorbing story wins me over every time....more