2 1/2 stars. Warning: long, often personal review.
This book does a lot of good. I mean, firstly, it is so readable and compelling that it is easy to s2 1/2 stars. Warning: long, often personal review.
This book does a lot of good. I mean, firstly, it is so readable and compelling that it is easy to speed through the chapters and finish the book in a day. Secondly, it gets its strength and arguments from a series of interviews and anecdotes that Orenstein has gathered from young women across the United States, which offers a personal, funny and often shocking look at the issues.
Thirdly, the stories from these girls and women kind of prove what I think is our ultimate failure on sex - regardless of issues relating to sexual and hook-up culture - and that is our need for better sex education.
I was pretty shocked when I came over to California (I know this differs a lot between states and schools) and discovered that a lot of kids didn't receive any kind of sex education until high school (at least age 14). I've always been dissatisfied with what we got in the UK, but I can at least say that we got the standard mechanics of sexual intercourse and safe sex methods by the time we left junior school (age 11). The truth no one wants to talk about is that a significant number of kids have had some kind of sexual experience before the age of 14.
That being said, throughout all school, our sex education was limited to the fundamentals of heterosexual sex. There was no discussion about homosexuality, masturbation, foreplay, anal or oral sex. I consider my high school a liberal one (the sex education teacher stood at the front of the class and literally said "Sex is great. I have sex. I love sex. But you have to know how to protect yourself from STDs and unwanted pregnancy. This is a condom." - best message ever??), and we still got no mention of these important things - some of which the majority will experience at some point.
The stories Orenstein shares show how we are doing teens a disservice by not educating them on sex and, by doing so, forcing them to find out for themselves on that completely reliable source of information - the Internet.
That's the good thing about this book. The problem, however, is that Orenstein's research claims are a little sketchy and she doesn't provide references and footnotes to make it clear where she's pulled her "facts" from. She makes a lot of statements like "X is more likely than Y" without either showing her sources, or giving any kind of number or percentage (what counts as "more likely"?). Take this:
"College men who play violent, sexualized video games are more likely than their peers to see women as sex objects as well as to be more accepting of rape myths, more tolerant of sexual harassment, and to consider women less competent.”
Interesting. Um, says who? What study is this from? How was it conducted? Because, honestly, it seems like a difficult thing to measure (Participant 1, do you see women as sex objects?). And how much more likely? Without numbers, she could be referring to a study with a 1% difference between those who played violent video games and those who didn't.
A lot of this book is the author’s own opinion, roughly backed up here and there by a quote from an educated, upper middle class young woman. And sometimes she seems to use a single girl’s testimony to draw a huge conclusion about the nature of sexuality and sexual relations. All experiences are, of course, valid and important, but just because I can find you a witness testimony of a Muslim committing a crime, or a self-proclaimed feminist hating men, it doesn't necessarily say something about the entire population of Muslims or feminists.
Generalization is one of the oldest mistakes in the book.
Some of her ideas about oversexualization are really interesting and I do think it's time to take a look at it again. Feminists today, myself included, have reclaimed sexuality and started the sex-positive movement. Why should we cover up?! If we want to wear short skirts and skimpy bikinis, then good for us! I think we're discouraged from considering why women feel the need to appear "hot" in a way that men don't; we're encouraged to not ask questions because "yes means yes" and I think there is room to question that ideology and wonder how much of it really is empowerment (not saying I agree, just that I think there's an opening for it).
But, like most influential people and convincing politicians, Orenstein makes a lot of shocking, interesting and emotive points, and never backs it up with any real evidence. Kind of like Donald Trump.
As I said, she makes many great leaps between one girl's story and her conclusions about society in general. And, for every horror story, I can come back with a very different tale from my own experiences. Because virtually all her points are based on anecdotal evidence, I’d like to reply with some of my own. There are many experiences out there, and you know what? I personally had very different ones.
- Orenstein claims that men have expectations of girls when it comes to sex because they watch porn - in other words, they expect a blow job, expect a woman to objectify herself, and don't care if she has an orgasm. The thing is, I know guys like this exist. Yes, they really do. Me and my friends fondly refer to them as "assholes". But I, for one, have not had this experience with men. Growing up, during my first sexual experiences, I swear the guys were at least as nervous as I was. Maye because they'd watched porn and seen penises twice the size of their own and women screaming like banshees. I've never actually known a guy expect a blow job. And, generally, I've found from my own experiences and those of my friends, a lot of guys are more embarrassed by the possibility that they wouldn’t satisfy, than annoyed if the girl doesn’t get them off.
- Orenstein claims that women feel the need to be sexual and embrace hook-up culture, though many don't really want to participate. Again, I'm sure this is true of some women, but I honestly don't think this is part of a bigger trend in society. To be honest, I think it strips a lot of women of their strength and agency, given that many young college women I know chose not to participate in hook-ups and no one gave a damn. Orenstein seems to underestimate girls' ability to say no, AND their ability to say yes and mean it. Because at the other end of the scale, you have one of my close friends from college who did participate in hook-ups and - she tells me and I truly believe - she did it not because she felt she should, or for some self-validation, but because she likes sex and wanted to.
- Orenstein claims that women are more concerned about being sexy and getting sex "right" for men than actually enjoying the sexual experience. I think there's some level of truth to this, especially with early sexual experiences, but the author leaves it unexplored. I think both boys and girls are concerned about doing the right thing and getting sex "right" when they first start out. I don't believe it's gender-specific and it seems kind of natural. Plus, sex for me really is about two people (if it wasn't, masturbation is a much quicker and easier option). It's natural to want the other person to enjoy it, to find you attractive, to have your desire fuelled by theirs. Wanting to know how to do it "right" for them is not a bad thing. It's not something I've felt the need to do because "I'm a woman and I need to please a man". There is something extremely exciting about turning your partner on, and to turn that into a gender politics issue is a gross oversimplification of sexual desire.
- Orenstein claims that these angry teenage boys and young men expect certain things from girls they hook up with. She cites one example of a guy storming out on a girl because she wouldn't give him a blow job. Again with those assholes - but can we really call this a societal trend based on a single (or few) bad experiences? I'll throw you back another anecdote of my own - this time, an extremely embarrassing one. It happened one drunken night in my second year of college (uh oh). I had been dancing with and kissing this guy all night, and afterwards he walked back with me (the assumption of sex was in the air). We got to my place... did I give him a blow job? Did I use my knowledge of porn to go through the motions of what is "right" to do? Ha! No, I threw up in my sink and passed out on my bed. And what did this angry young man with sex expectations do? He held my hair while I puked, pulled the bed sheet over me after, and left me sleeping. Then he texted me the next day to see if I was alright.
Unlike the author, I'm not trying to draw sweeping generalizations from this. I'm not claiming this says anything about society and sex, or that it somehow undermines the negative experiences of other women. But I am showing how easy it is to throw out single examples on both sides - the good and the bad - and how there are many different experiences. Using one to make a statement about the whole of society is ridiculous.
I also wish, for example, that she'd considered how porn is a way for some women to get sexual gratification, not just a way in which they learn to devalue themselves and get terrible sex tips.
I really enjoyed reading the experiences of all these different women. It would be great to see a book that collected these experiences and didn't use them to (badly) make a point. I think a lot of them speak for themselves about our need for better sex education and more discussions about sex. But the book lost a little something when the author stepped in with her own dire monologues, constantly shaking her head at the Kim Kardashians and Miley Cyruses of this world.
Her examples are interesting and they are shocking, but they don't add up to what she claims they do. And occasionally I stumbled across one that was obviously just stupid. For example, this is how she gives evidence for vagina-shaming in society:
If that weren’t enough to plunge the average young woman into a shame spiral, heartthrob actor Robert Pattinson, whose fame and fortune were forged from the erotic fantasies of teenage girls, breezily confessed to Details magazine, “I really hate vaginas. I’m allergic to vagina.”
Oh, hell. This was a joke that RP made when he posed with a bunch of nude models. The statement was so hyperbolic that it's really embarrassing the author tried to use it as "evidence".
Orenstein is great at working her audience and keeping you hooked, but if you're the kind of reader who likes to look a little deeper and question things, it's likely you'll see right through this.
Also: I really hate books, you know. I'm allergic to books.
2 1/2 stars. Compared to Rebel Belle, this lacked a spark. It felt like the story was meandering and I'm not sure even the author knew where she was g2 1/2 stars. Compared to Rebel Belle, this lacked a spark. It felt like the story was meandering and I'm not sure even the author knew where she was going with it at certain points. Also, not quite as funny and entertaining as the first book. I've heard a lot of reviewers use the term "middle book syndrome" so I will continue on to Lady Renegades and hope for better....more
Anyway, now I've finished bitching, I'm going to talk about how great this story is. It's a short, powerful, emotive read about the twelve hours before a Danish boy is due to be executed. He sits in his jail cell with a fly as his only companion, reminiscing about his life with his father (poor and often homeless), but The Last Execution is not just a book about the boy in question.
As we soon find out, there are many people involved in Niel's execution - from the carpenter who will make his coffin, to the baker who will serve bread to those coming to watch, to the poet who will record the events. It's a chilling tale about the whole town, and the vast array of emotions experienced - everything from sadness and pity to excitement and enthusiasm.
The boy's guilt of the crime is never really in question, but it is given context, which makes it hard not to side with Niels regardless. The book acts as a criticism of society and its failures to the lower, poorer classes, and also shows the way people are quick to rally around and enjoy another's misfortune. As Kirkus said: "the carefully paced reveals of the specific circumstances leading up to the fatal incident ultimately suggest Niels’ greatest crime might simply have been poverty."
By opening each chapter in the dark simplicity of Niel's cell and reminding the reader how long is remaining until the execution, the atmosphere is one of impending doom and the suspense is perfect. I really enjoyed the format of the storytelling, the gradual reveals, and the wide scope of such a small novel, incorporating the perspectives of many characters.
My rating has moved between 4 and 2 stars, then halfway back again. There are definitely good things about The Great American Whatever, but I honestlyMy rating has moved between 4 and 2 stars, then halfway back again. There are definitely good things about The Great American Whatever, but I honestly just want to tell you to read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda instead. It has all the warm, funny bits but without the self-masturbatory writing style, overdone loss of a loved one, and tedious film trivia.
As I said, though, this is not really a negative review. I really enjoyed some of the humour, especially in the beginning, mostly because the narrator - Quinn - is cynical and sarcastic. His morning negativity is relatable and really funny:
It actually sounds amazing to dive into the pool right now. A freezing one. Headfirst. In the shallow end.
If I took out my broken AC and cracked the window, I’d have to confront the reality that I might hear, like, birds, or worse: the merry squeals of neighborhood children. And who has the stomach for that kind of unannounced joy at this hour?
Made me giggle.
And if I'm being honest, I can totally see why this book has gotten so many starred reviews. It's a book with diverse characters, a nice LGBT romance, a nice road to recovery from grief aided by said romance, and a quirky "outsider" protagonist who knows everything about movies. It goes down smooth and easy, while doing absolutely nothing new.
It's almost like the author was working off a checklist: diversity... check. Romance... check. Loss of a family member and subsequent getting on with one's life... check. What does this book actually do that a number of others don't? Where does it stand out? I can't tell you.
At least Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is just a funny book that doesn't take itself too seriously. This book reminds me of novels like The Fault in Our Stars and Mosquitoland where everything is so contrived, so deep and meaningful that you can feel the author giving themselves a self-congratulatory pat on the back while writing. I'm amazed that people see these philosophers as the "perfect voices of YA" when I cringe every time I remind myself they're supposed to be teens!
This review sounds really negative, so I'll say once again that this book is fun in parts and I liked the portrayal of a platonic relationship between a gay teen and his straight male friend (view spoiler)[a little too easy and unexplored, though? I'm not sure. Maybe that's worth having a discussion about sometime. (hide spoiler)] But books have been doing what this book does a lot over the past few years and, of them all, this isn't even close to being the most memorable.
It was dark, she was alone, but her blood was beating; she was alive. She would study it, this place, this asylum. She would hide inside herself. She
It was dark, she was alone, but her blood was beating; she was alive. She would study it, this place, this asylum. She would hide inside herself. She would seem to be good. And then she would escape.
This was awesome. I have no idea how I found this book or ended up reading it - I haven't read the author's work before and I have literally heard nothing about this book or read any reviews, professional or otherwise. I guess it was something about the setting that did it. An asylum on the edge of the Yorkshire moors in 1911 was just too good to pass up.
I suppose I should warn you non-romantics that there is a love story going on, but I never for one second felt like it took over the novel. For me, this was a dark, scary tale of events horrifyingly close to historical truth. Torn between horror and fascination as I learned how easy it was to be sent to an asylum (and the chilling laws proposed regarding "lunatics"), I could not turn the pages fast enough.
John lifted his shovel to the hard winter earth. And he thought of where he was. And how long he had been there. And what was simple broke apart and became a shattered, sharded thing.
The story follows three third-person perspectives, each as interesting as the last. John is an Irishman with a past cloaked in mystery; only time will tell why he was locked up in the asylum. Ella was dragged away from the workhouse after displaying "hysteria" and stands as an example of how easy it was to be labelled insane in 1911, especially as a working class woman. And then there's Charles - a doctor and eugenics enthusiast, and the most surprising character in this book.
The author writes some gorgeous descriptions of the setting - from the isolated, eerie Yorkshire moors to the streets of London, to the asylum itself. And at the centre of this dark, miserable asylum, there is an old ballroom where the inmates are awarded for good behaviour once every week, and allowed to come together and dance.
A strange sound started up, a low drumming. At first, she couldn’t light on what it was, until it grew faster, and louder, and she understood: it was the men, beating with their boots on the floor. Something stirred in the pit of her stomach. It was wild in here. Dangerous. Anything might occur.
There is so much to praise about this book. The truth about the eugenics movement is unsettling, even more so because it really wasn't that long ago in human history.
In fact, it was only really the Nazi crimes that served as a wake-up call and halted the eugenics movements in the United States and Europe. Prior to this, many prominent politicians (including such as Winston Churchill) called for compulsory labour camps for the "mentally defective" and/or forced sterilization. It was a widely-accepted notion that a better race of humans could be bred by following Darwinian theory. God, people are stupid.
All of this makes Charles an incredibly important and interesting character who grows in complexity, offering a very different kind of experience to that had by John and Ella in this book.
There are also some fantastic secondary characters, particularly Clem. She offers some much-needed female friendship to Ella and the two cling to each other inside the asylum, being a way to keep the other sane.
Just a really great and interesting book, featuring love, friendship, history, sanity, insanity and the many insane notions of the supposedly sane majority. I enjoyed it a lot.
She stared at the book in her hands. ‘When I go to university,’ she said, ‘if I write an essay about it, then I’ll talk about the ending. How I want it to be different. But how it’s still the right ending after all.’
There are many thoughts running around in my head about this book and it's hard to decide how to write a reviI seem to be in the minority on this one.
There are many thoughts running around in my head about this book and it's hard to decide how to write a review without sounding completely insensitive. If this were a real life account of a rape survivor, then things would be different. Every survivor has their own story to tell, each equally valid, and they don't owe anyone an interesting, convincing account of it. Fiction, though, is a little bit different.
I've read many books about teenage girls who were raped, from the classic Speak, to last year's harrowing tale of how a girl is let down by everyone around her - All the Rage, to the recent book about a girl with a strong support network - Exit, Pursued by a Bear. These books are incredibly important for fostering discussion about rape, its aftermath, and the way we treat rape victims. The Way I Used to Be, however, adds nothing but more paper to the pile.
It's about another white girl living in a white world, who is raped and proceeds on a downward spiral towards sex, drugs and self-hatred. The novel's major selling point is that it looks at the aftereffects of rape over four years - freshman year, sophomore year, etc. - and yet this opportunity is wasted on a story lacking any real depth.
Though it promises a look at a rape survivor over time, it instead skips important plot points that shows the gradual downslide (like when Eden started calling her parents by their names and not "Mom" and "Dad"), preferring to skip to the angst.
Rose wrote a great positive review for this book and I just wanted to borrow her comparison to Ellen Hopkins. Hopkins is a much-loved author, but after liking one of her books, I soon started seeing them as torture porn. And I still think Hopkins's stories and characters do not have any depth, do not explore new areas or challenge you to think - they are one long misery ride through increasingly atrocious events (rape followed by drug abuse followed by their mom dying...). This book is a bit like that.
The Way I Used to Be is four years, 380 pages, of one unfortunate event after another. Eden is raped, her parents give her shit, her brother turns against her, she constantly freezes and break downs, her friends just don't get it, she starts sleeping around to distract herself, she gets called a slut and whore...
And here is where I risk sounding insensitive. Because how dare I suggest that Eden goes through too much negative shit? Shouldn't this book show the horrible reality? Yes! Absolutely, yes! It should. But a series of terrible events does not make a good book.
It honestly felt quite emotionless. Eden exists in a vacuum of her own thoughts (understandable, but it might have made a better third person story) and no other character is developed. Her relationships with her family and friends are one-dimensional and those characters all blend into the background.
I just don't think this book does anything new, or offers a different and interesting perspective. And, given that there are many rape survivor experiences out there still waiting to be told, it's a little disappointing to read this. Many books do what this book does... but better.
I won't deny that this is a very interesting, compelling and thought-provoking book. Even for someone like me whose general response to economics is *I won't deny that this is a very interesting, compelling and thought-provoking book. Even for someone like me whose general response to economics is *snore*. And it's mainly because Freakonomics is not really about economics, but involves applying statistical analysis to many social issues and questions.
Very easy to read. Lots of shocking discoveries that seem weighted in fact - Roe v. Wade is responsible for a huge drop in crime? No wonder some people are pissed off with this book. It's really quite fascinating to look at the power of incentives - economic, social and moral - and examine cause and effect.
One of my favourite personal experiences with silly notions of cause and effect is diet soft drinks. I confess to being a bit of a coke zero addict. It's not great for you (the sodium makes you more thirsty, a lot of potassium can lead to palpitations, and a lot of phosphoric acid has been linked to kidney problems) but I've lost count of how many times people have cited statistics showing that diet soda drinkers are more likely to be overweight and diabetic. Of course they are! If you're overweight and diabetic you're more likely to drink the low-calorie, sugar-free alternatives, aren't you? So strange how people assume it is A that causes B and ignore the possibility of it being the opposite.
Anyway, my issue with this entertaining book is that I think it may be - to be frank - bullshit. Not all of it, sure. But definitely some of it. The writers state their points very confidently (some might say with a touch too much smarm) but it requires you to take a lot of what they say on faith. And some of the jumps they make between statistics and conclusion don't quite add up for me. I know many others have felt the same.
But here was the thing that really got me, the thing that made me smell bullshit: I'm fairly confident something they said is not rooted in any truth. And let's be clear: I am a total noob when it comes to most statistics and economics, so if even I can spot something a bit off, it really makes me question the rest of it. Here it is:
Women's rights advocates, for instance, have hyped the incidence of sexual assault, claiming that one in three American women will in her lifetime be a victim of rape or attempted rape. (The actual figure is more like one in eight - but the advocates know it would take a callous person to publicly dispute their claims.)
This, if true, implies two things. 1) Those advocating women's rights are using false data, therefore undermining their credibility, and 2) They have invented a statistic to intentionally support their cause, knowing no one will dispute it (absolutely bizarre that the author thinks no one is disputing women's rights claims, but okay...)
Well, being a feminist and someone who has spent an awful lot of time reading and writing about women's rights organizations and statistics, my eyes narrowed a little. See, in all my research, I've never seen or heard any claim that "1 in 3 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape". I have heard the "1 in 3" statistic, but a somewhat different one.
So, obviously, I went to look it up. I spent a couple of hours going through Google and every women's rights organization page I could find, trying to uncover a single case where that statistic was used. I found exactly: none. The only other thing I found that mentioned it was a Time article attempting to debunk so-called "feminist myths": http://time.com/3222543/5-feminist-my...
The statistic the authors appear to have misquoted is that "1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence, or physical violence by an intimate partner", which is used often. Sexual violence here is an ambiguous term, leaving room for wider interpretations and probably explaining why, with the addition of domestic violence into the statistic, the number is at "1 in 3" instead of "1 in 8".
Furthermore, not only have the authors misrepresented the statistical claim itself, but they have also suggested that women's rights advocates have pulled the numbers from thin air to make a point - on the contrary, this is a study conducted by the World Health Organization on the "Global and regional estimates of violence against women".
I like the idea of the book, but this really put me off. Perhaps it was a one-off error that I managed to spot. Perhaps. Either way, I started to be less impressed by the facts and statistics they presented. Still, very enjoyable book for the most part....more
Though it is a memoir and a true story, both the writing style and the way Walls reminisces about her chNow I get why people like this memoir so much.
Though it is a memoir and a true story, both the writing style and the way Walls reminisces about her childhood make it seem like more of a fairy tale. My favourite non-fiction books are those that don't lose the compelling flow of a good fiction book - that still pull you into another world and life, dragging you along for the ride. This is one of those.
I especially liked reading about Walls' complex and conflicting thoughts about her parents and childhood. When she's writing about her youth, she writes with the rose-tinted glasses of a young girl who loves her family; as she grows, she begins to see the shadows of reality creeping in - her father's alcoholism, her mother's selfish behaviour, the lack of food in the cupboards as a parental failure and not a normality.
And, through it all, she still loves her parents. She remembers her father as an intelligent man full of fantastical stories, and her mother as a spirited artist. It's interesting, though, how differently I felt toward them.
Normally, a convincing story has me feeling the same way as the narrator, but even though I could understand Walls's love for her parents, I despised them for being selfish and neglectful. I hated them for allowing a 3 year old to use the stove (and cause herself serious burns). I felt extreme anger, not love and understanding, towards them.
But that's not a criticism. The Glass Castle is a beautifully-written, emotional read. A true bildungsroman, full of dark and happy times.
“She's the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can't we get health ins
“She's the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can't we get health insurance?”
I've moved this book on and off my TBR for years. The truth is that, with few exceptions, I'm generally turned off by the thought of non-fiction. I'm a fan of fictional stories, and I think I've always felt that non-fiction will be dry, boring and difficult to get through. Especially a book about science, cells and medicine when I'm more of a humanities/social sciences kinda girl.
But this book... it's just so interesting. It's written in a very easy, journalistic style and places the author into the story (some people didn't like this, but I thought it felt like you were going along for the journey). It's all the interesting bits of science, full of eye-opening and shocking discoveries, but it's also about history, sociology and race.
I started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks while sat next to my boyfriend. Every so often I would unknowingly gasp or mutter "oh my god" and he was like "what? what?" and I hadn't even realized I'd done it out loud. It's just full of surprises - and every one is true! It uncovers things you almost certainly didn't know about. And it just shows that sometimes real life can be nastier, more shocking, and more wondrous than anything you could imagine.
Maybe you've heard of HeLa in passing, maybe you don't know anything about these cells that helped in cancer research, in finding a polio vaccine, in cloning, in gene mapping and discovering the effects of an atom bomb; either way, this tells an incredible and awful story of a poor, black woman in the American South who was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She is given back her humanity, becoming more than a cluster of cells and being shown for the tough, spirited woman she was. From her own family life to the frankly nauseating treatment of black patients in the 1950s, her story emerges.
Not only that, but this book is about the injustices committed by the pharmaceutical industry - both in this individual case (how is it that Henrietta's family are dirt poor when she has revolutionized medicine?) and on a larger scale (during the 1950s, many prisoners were injected with cancer as part of medical experiments!). It's hard to believe what so-called "professionals" have gotten away with throughout history - things that we generally associate with Nazi death camps.
I honestly could not put it down. Maybe because it's not just about science and cells, but is mainly about all of the humanity and social history behind scientific discoveries. Maybe because Skloot is so damn passionate about her subject and that passion is transferred to the reader. Whatever the reason, I highly recommend it.
“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice. Not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he
“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice. Not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God.”
I've opted for the 3-star approach, but you shouldn't give it much weight where this book is concerned. Some people are really hung up on ratings - does it really only deserve 1 star? you seemed to like it, why not 5 stars? - when in truth, this book is so complex, smart, multilayered and slow as fuck that it's impossible to rate.
A Prayer for Owen Meany is a strange and interesting book about faith and doubt, with Owen himself representing an embodiment of the relationship between the natural and supernatural - everything from his physical description to the events of his life seem halfway between this world and the next.
This is my first Irving book. I don't know if that's a mistake or not - I probably will check out his other work but I'll definitely save it for a time when I'm ready for a slow plot. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, the narrator is John Wheelwright but he fades into the background, offering a perspective that at times feels like third-person.
John details the lives and habits of the characters surrounding him - most notably, of course, Owen Meany - making it a book about them and not himself. In fact, it seems like the author deliberately kept the novel's focus off of its narrator (who is perhaps a stand-in for himself?).
As I said, the story moves slowly and sometimes has a rambling quality, going on and on in exhaustive detail, exploring every aspect of a scene so that we get a lot of character and thematic depth (and also, it must be said, a bit of a headache). But it's hard to deny that Irving has a way with words and storytelling, working up to an important moment gradually and effectively, even if with a painful slowness.
The story spans many years and sometimes jumps a lot of time within a single page, before coming back again. As with many non-linear narratives, it offers a different and fascinating approach, while not being without confusion. It runs alongside many important events in American history (Kennedy's assassination, for example), which allows John to express his disdain for the Reagan administration, as well as his general anger toward America.
I'm not exaggerating when I say it's strange - John's account of his and Owen's childhood is odd to begin with, but the novel becomes increasingly nuts towards the end. I can't say I fully enjoyed it, but I thought the themes were interesting and incorporated well. John's running criticisms of America and American life manifest in ways big and small - the "big" being assassinations and the Vietnam War, the "small" being such as his mother's death by a baseball, an important American symbol.
It's not the kind of book you read for enjoyment (or I personally don't think so, but then I never fully got that guy in college who refused to go to any social events because he wanted to read Marcel Proust), but it is the kind you save for when you want a clever, thoughtful read with many layers and themes to uncover. I am glad I finally read it.
Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos. And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not ha
Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos. And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not have made it so angry. But I was unapologetic. Of course it was angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry.
A short, sharp, and effective essay about gender, the wrong ideas many people have about feminism, and why it is so damn important. Even today.
I suppose an "essay" doesn't sound like something most people want to rush out and read. It sounds like a chore, like hard work, like something that you should maybe read... someday... if you ever get around to it. But this doesn't feel like an essay at all. The author delivers a compelling and deeply personal account of her experiences and the experiences of her friends - male and female, young and old, Nigerian and American.
She makes many fantastic points and makes them in a conversational tone, without seeming preachy or patronizing. Looking at the way we treat women and men, and how the expectations we have of both genders is contributing to a gender divide, the author makes an argument for a better future where we are not put into gendered boxes.
We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.
I've actually written a little about this in the past, but I especially like the way she draws attention to the importance of the word itself. Many people are quick to say: "I absolutely believe men and women should be equal, but why call it feminism? Isn't that word exclusive? Why not say humanism (as many people do)?" Even I've been guilty of wondering the same in the past.
I think there are many great arguments for why it should be "feminism" and not just "humanism", "black lives matter" and not just "all lives matter", "gay pride" and not just "sexual pride", but I'll let Adichie do the talking on that issue. She summarizes it marvelously.
"My name is Becca Hatcher. I don't know what's happened to me, where I am, or how I got here, but I know one thing. You're going to help me get back
"My name is Becca Hatcher. I don't know what's happened to me, where I am, or how I got here, but I know one thing. You're going to help me get back home."
There are some authors who just know how to hook you immediately and keep you on the edge of your seat. I don't know exactly what they do - it's something about the perfect tension, perfect amount of surprises, perfect balance between interesting characters and fast-paced plot - but Morgan Rhodes is one of those authors.
I started out quite liking Rhodes' Falling Kingdoms series, but I was put off by how derivative the books were (i.e. Games of Thrones, round 2). The need to read on was there, that inexplicable, addictive pull, but I just couldn't ignore that the plot and characters were "borrowed" from other works. So I tried to get my Rhodes fix from her spin-off series.
And I am so glad I did.
This book is just ultimate fantasy fun. I found myself dragged along from the very first chapter, into a world of parallel universes - namely, our universe in modern day Toronto, and the world of Ancient Mytica. These two places are linked by history, magic and a book - because isn't the thought of getting pulled into a book and discovering a new world the most exciting thing ever?
There are three different character perspectives, all in third person (which I thought worked well). One is Crystal, a girl in our world, whose sister's spirit gets sucked inside an ancient magic book, and Crystal is left behind to solve the mystery that will lead her toward family secrets and lies.
Then, again in our world, there is Farrell - a party boy from a rich, important family - who gets dragged deeper and deeper into a magical cult that seems to be changing him.
And finally, there's Maddox - a boy in Mytica who can communicate with spirits - who will soon find himself caught between the queen's plans and helping the new spirit girl who has landed in his world.
It's so exciting. So much is constantly happening. All the characters have engaging stories and I especially enjoyed how Farrell becomes increasingly a kind of antihero/villain who still manages to hold the reader's sympathy.
I highly recommend this to anyone who loves some fast-paced, drama-filled YA Fantasy.
“The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.”
Butler is an author that constantly pops up on "
“The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.”
Butler is an author that constantly pops up on "Best sci-fi" and "Must-Read African American authors" lists and I can finally see why. This book may be my first by her, but it won't be my last. Kindred is a fascinating, horrific journey through a dark time in American history, combining eye-opening historical research with time travel.
I suppose some modern readers will want to compare this story to Outlander and there are some similarities - a woman trying to survive in the past, lots of blood-soaked history and horror, the harsh realities of being who you are in that time - but not only did this book come first, but it is far more distressing, more tied in with historical truth, and way more about surviving than it is about lusty scenes with a kilted hot dude.
It's a really important "what if" book about race. What if a modern black woman suddenly found herself transported 150+ years into the past, right into the centre of the antebellum South? The book doesn't shy away from portraying the realities of that (nothing is sugar-coated, be prepared for some upsetting scenes).
But it's also more than a gruesome look at historical racism and violence. There are many complex and interesting characters - both slaves and slave owners. Butler has written a book that goes deeper than surface level, exploring how people come to accept slavery as the norm and to justify poor treatment of slaves. Dana is horrified how easy it is. And so was I.
Kindred is so good because, not only is it well-written and emotionally effective, but it also manages to be several different important things: complex historical-fiction, intriguing science-fiction, and a memoir of slavery. For a novel so obviously fictional, it feels very real and true. Maybe because, sadly, most of it is.
I know this is one book that will stay with me for a long time.
“She watches the tears drip onto her skirt and spread like flowers and she knows this is the end of every future she’s ever imagined for herself.”
“She watches the tears drip onto her skirt and spread like flowers and she knows this is the end of every future she’s ever imagined for herself.”
Do you like family dramas? Do you like those books that portray characters in such a way that they feel completely real and honest? Because this book won't be for everyone - certainly not those looking for something fast-paced and driven by melodrama - but I found it so beautiful. A sensitive family portrait wrapped up in secrets and misunderstandings.
Unbecoming shows three generations of women, each grappling with their own past and problems. The author goes into great detail about their lives, their flaws, and their mistakes, making them deserving of sympathy AND realistically imperfect human beings.
Mary is an elderly woman who suffers from Alzheimer's but still knows she is unwelcome in her daughter's home; through flashbacks, journals and letters, her youth is revealed, showing that all may not be as it seemed. Caroline is Mary's daughter, but she has never considered Mary her mother. She smothers her children with behaviour she believes is protective, whilst also keeping secrets about her own childhood. And then there's seventeen year-old Katie, a girl trying to come to terms with her sexuality.
I guess some people will find this kind of realistic storytelling slow, but I found it subtle, honest and all the more powerful because of it. It’s noticeably lacking in melodrama - the Alzheimer’s is portrayed accurately and sensitively, without being used as an excuse for emotional manipulation; Katie’s sexuality brings her uncertainty and worry, but it is not an angst machine.
And yet, the characters feel so incredibly real. I can't stress that enough. It's truly difficult to believe that they aren't out there, somewhere, living their lives. I think that's because I understood everyone’s reactions and felt like it was a true representation of exactly how someone would act in those circumstances.
The flashbacks to the past, unlike some novels, were exciting, enlightening and occasionally sad. I loved delving into Mary's youth and I thought the two different views of her - as a fiery, spirited young woman with ambitions and a "reputation", and also a no less fiery elderly woman with Alzheimer's - was its own subtle kind of sadness.
Often I think the saddest, most emotional kind of books are not those with dramatic scenes of death and heartbreak, but those with a quiet kind of honesty. The kind that show the everyday truths of life.
Two stars means "it was ok" and that's exactly what this was. It's just a very short prequel to The Wrath and the Dawn where Khalid first meets ShahrzTwo stars means "it was ok" and that's exactly what this was. It's just a very short prequel to The Wrath and the Dawn where Khalid first meets Shahrzad and can tell she hates him with a burning passion. I know it's just supposed to be a glimpse into his first impression of her, but I couldn't help thinking "is that it?"
Boy band fangirls are a species that are more focused, determined, and powerful in large numbers than just about any other group of people I can thin
Boy band fangirls are a species that are more focused, determined, and powerful in large numbers than just about any other group of people I can think of.
I thought this was awesome. It's the kind of book you have to be in the right mood for - a dark, sadistic sense of humour kind of mood - but it's a diverse, murderous and hilarious comedy about fangirls in the age of social media.
Kill the Boy Band has many laugh-out-loud moments that come with a side order of guilt because you know you really shouldn't be laughing. But, despite it's implausible plot and ludicrous characters, there are many underlying truths laid bare in this book. And the funniest things of all are the sad truths you have to begrudgingly admit to.
I must confess: I related to parts of this book, which may have affected my experience. I'm in my early twenties now, but I grew up when the digital age was just finding its feet. At age thirteen, most people I knew had some form of social media - usually myspace or bebo - and I witnessed the emerging culture of celeb stalking that redefined what it meant to be a fan.
My personal obsession (well, the main one) was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and James Marsters (Spike) in particular. I would watch his interviews on Youtube, read every post on his website and, later, follow his movements on Twitter. In other circumstances, this level of stalkery would be illegal. In my early to mid teens, I felt attached to him on a weird level. I'd followed his life so closely that I felt like I knew him, something those of my parents generation simply couldn't understand. Being his fan made me happy. Loving him made me feel good about myself. It sounds so silly now, but I think I truly believed that a) we were meant to be together, and b) this could eventually happen if I just attended enough signings and concerts.
Thankfully, I was too shy to do anything. I couldn't tackle him because I melted into a puddle of emotions every time he was in the same room. But I can understand how crazy it could get if someone with my mindset *did* have the will and ability to take it to the next level.
That's what this book is about. It's about four teenage girls who are devoted to a boy band called "The Ruperts" - hilariously based on One Direction - and how their devotion escalates into something more sinister. The book makes fun of teen girl crushes on celebrities (lots of great parodies of real life, pop culture references, and some surprisingly graphic sex jokes), but it also has an anti-slut-shaming, feminist spin and, in a way, defends the girls' right to their crushes and silly desires.
Did I love them because they were the only boys in my life who consistently told me I was beautiful? Probably. I loved The Ruperts for who they were, sure, but I mostly loved them for how they made me feel. Which was happy. The Ruperts made me happy. The simplest thing to be in the world. And the hardest.
It's silly, for sure. Reminds me of a darker version of Rudnick's It's All Your Fault. But it's surprisingly not as shallow as you might expect. It has lots of insights into the minds of teen girls and fangirls and, though comical, Moldavsky's observations ring true.
The joy you find as a teen, however frivolous and dumb, is pure, and meaningful. It doesn’t matter that it might ferment and taste different when you’re older. That’s the whole point of being a teenager - not worrying about the future.
The plot gets darker and darker. The narrator grows increasingly unreliable. But the comedy is a strong constant throughout, pulling the book back into the light when it threatens to get too dark.
It's funny, feminist, and diverse, with the Dominican Isabel and the fat, Chinese Apple. I will point out that some reviewers have taken issue with the way Apple's weight plays into some of the comedy. To me, it seemed like an unapologetic embracing of size, but then I don't have the same experiences and perspectives that bigger women do, so it would be stupid of me to dismiss these criticisms and not bring attention to them.