Monthly Reads

November Reads | 2018

This month, I read a variety of books ranging from nonfiction to historical fiction to poetry collections. 

What If It's Us By Becky Albertalli
  •  This book is basically the most perfect combination of Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli’s minds. It has gratuitous amounts of fluffy awkwardness, plenty of angst and nerdy musical references. I listened to the entire audiobook in a span of a day and I couldn’t stop gushing the entire day. This book is far from perfect, but it’s still such a special story for me.  Arthur is the cutest and I too am a Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen enthusiast. Ben was painfully relatable from growing up in NYC and his struggles in school to his family being low income.  I loved their terribly awkward dates and their eagerness to make the next “first date” better. There were also some polarizing opinions on the ending, but I thought it combined both Becky’s fluffy endings and Adam’s angsty endings. (Also, I love that the title itself is a Dear Evan Hansen reference).
  • Rating: 4.25/5
The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah
  • The Nightingale is a highly acclaimed historical fiction novel, so I went in with mediocre expectations. At first, I wasn’t really enjoying it all that much, and it seemed very over hyped. Nothing substantial seemed to be occurring, however, the story really began to pick up towards the middle, and now I honestly think this may be one of my favorite books of the year. The amount of emotional capacity this book held was almost overwhelming. From the complicated relationship between Isabelle, Vianne and their father to the high stakes involved in being an ally. Reading about the people left at home in the war as they try to survive and help on the sidelines. We often put an emphasis on war veterans who were on the front lines (as we should). However, the people who were left at home who risked their lives for others and endured the harsh treatment and invasions of their homes are veterans as well and they also endured a tragedy as well. The Nightingale  was an emotional story and I was sobbing by the end, but it was worth reading an incredible story. (I can’t wait to see how it will be adapted into a movie).
  • Rating: 4.5/5
  • Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles was one of my favorites in middle school, and it’s been a while since I’ve read any of her books. Renegades takes an interesting twist on the classic superhero narrative. Nova presents a more antagonistic view as she goes on a deep undercover mission to take down the superhero league, The Renegades. Although there were some stereotypical elements to the story, I was surprised to see how it showed that as the world starts to depend on heroes, they become virtually defenseless. It provided an interesting perspective because a part of Nova’s reason for taking down the Renegades is justified and you get to see a different perspective on a typical hero/villain story. Overall, it was an entertaining audio book and I am interested to see what happens in the next book.
  • Rating: 3/5
An American Marriage By Tayari Jones
  • After reading this book I think it’s become clear I have a penchant for reading books about debilitating marriages and families. If you want your fair share of heartbreaking angst and frustrating characters, this book is your perfect match. I can definitely see why this is such a popular book because the story is so applicable. It truly represents an “American marriage,” but the irony of it is that it’s far from perfect, and has the additional dosage of centuries of racism.  Celestial and Roy are both innocent and guilty and it was interesting to explore their dynamic. Tayari Jones’ writing is beautiful, and she has this way of fooling the reader into thinking things will actually work out to completely flipping the story on its head. Additionally, there was discussion of yet another innocent black man being incarcerated, and how it affects relationships. My only complaint is that I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending because it seemed rushed and very unrealistic. But, overall, this was fascinating examination on relationships and Tayari Jones delivered with this story.
  • Rating: 4.25/5
40786511
  • Michelle Obama was always an inspiring human being to me and after reading Becoming, she’s even more incredible. Becoming  was meant to be her raw and vulnerable story and she delivered on all fronts. I learned that she is so much more than a (former) First Lady.  She’s a humanitarian, an activist, a devoted mother and wife, and most importantly, an incredibly brave and independent woman. Reading about her childhood, I was surprised to see how much I could relate to her middle class upbringing. From not being able to afford spring break trips to France to feeling out of place at a school meant for rich people, I found myself connecting to her. There is so much to learn from this story and the whole time it felt like I was growing and becoming right alongside Michelle Obama. And it was an incredible feeling.
  • Rating: 5/5
32334098
  •  The Princess Saves Herself in this One was told in more of a narrative style as we went through Amanda Lovelace’s life. There were elements that I found to be very unique and raw while others felt a bit recycled. I do think it was much more creative than Milk & Honey and I liked the overarching theme of a princess/damsel in distress. It felt like the collection had a central purpose and wasn’t just a cacophony of words. I do feel like it’s hard to judge poetry because it can be so personal (and this one definitely is), but I did end up enjoying this one.
  •  Rating : 3.25/5
Advertisements
Book Reviews

Review | The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy By Mackenzi Lee

37880094

Published: October 2nd 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Audiobook via Libby—>Narrator: Moira Quirk

Series: Montague Siblings #2

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: 

In this highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Felicity Montague must use all her womanly wits and wiles to achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor—even if she has to scheme her way across Europe to do it. A must-have for fans of Mackenzi Lee’s extraordinary and Stonewall Honor-winning novel.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

Add to Goodreads.

Read review for Book 1, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

Spoiler Free Review:

“In the company of women like this— sharp-edged as raw diamonds but with soft hands and hearts, not strong in spite of anything but powerful because of everything— I feel invincible. Every chink and rut and battering wind has made us tough and brave and impossible to strike down. We are mountains— or perhaps temples, with foundations that could outlast time itself.” 

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy fulfilled all of my expectations of  a hilarious and charming adventure led by bad-ass women. I loved the inexplicable charm of Gentleman’s Guide, but Felicity’s story was one that I could connect to on a personal level and I ended up loving it more than I expected to.

Lady’s Guide begins with Felicity working at a bakery to support herself in hopes of enrolling in a medical school and starting her own practice. Obviously, things never seem to go the right way for the Montague siblings and she finds herself attending her former best friend, Johanna’s wedding to her hero and medical prodigy, Alexander Platt. Chaos ensues and Felicity learns that the never meet your heroes saying is always accurate. Something that I found remained consistent throughout was Felicity’s relentless ambition. Despite her constantly being shut down, Felicity was still determined to pursue a medical degree.

The asexual representation was what I was most looking forward to in this book. It was briefly implied in Gentleman’s Guide and was further explored in this story. Though no explicit labels are stated (It’s the eighteenth century), it was confirmed that Felicity is on the asexual spectrum. I’m on the ace spectrum as well and it was so refreshing to read about a girl who has no interest in being in a relationship. I honestly can’t remember the last book I read following a teenager who doesn’t have a love interest. In particular, I loved the scene where Felicity was explaining her feelings towards romance to Sim. There are very few stories where I’m reading and thinking, “YES! This is exactly how I feel.” Let me tell you, it’s an incredible to finally feel acknowledged and Felicity’s story was able to do that for me.  😀

There is also an addition of new characters including Johanna and Sim. Sim was definitely my favorite new addition. She’s a black hijabi and a bad-ass pirate. Also, I enjoyed her putting the very privileged white girls in their place. I would love to read a novella on her story because she was such a fascinating character.

Mackenzi Lee also does exceptionally well in writing character flaws. In Gentleman’s Guide, Monty’s ignorance on the racism and misogyny Percy and Felicity face as well as Percy’s struggles with his mental illness were addressed in the best way possible. The same goes for Felicity’s internal misogyny and stereotypes toward Sim. She learned that women can love dresses and traditionally feminine things while still remaining strong. I can say from experience that there’s always a sense of pride in being a “tomboy feminist.” Some girls feel like they’re better than others because they don’t partake in trivial, girly attire. But women come in different forms and Felicity learns that throughout the story.

Overall, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy was a satisfying sequel to the ever charming Montague Siblings series. I’m really hoping there will be more books about these snarky siblings and sweet Percy. Speaking of, Percy and Monty are in this book and they are just as cute and fluffy as you would expect. This series definitely feels like Mackenzi Lee’s strongest work and I would love to read more from her world.

Rating: 4.25/5

Monthly Reads

October Reads | 2018

So this October, I had a really great reading month. I was able to read some incredible stories ranging from introspective non-fiction to unique fantasies. Sadly, I didn’t end up reading any spooky reads for the season, but I feel like this month’s list made up for it.

1. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Leah on the Offbeat was definitely the more cynical version of Simon Vs. Leah is a sarcastic bisexual mess and a closed off asshole. I know many reviewers found her to be a terrible character, but honestly she represented the terrible angst of high school so well. Leah also reminded me a lot of my older sister and it’s crazy how similar they are. In general, Becky Albertalli delivered with yet another fluffy contemporary. I do feel like the ending was unfulfilling which I go more in depth into in my review. Read full review here. 

Rating: 3.75/5

2. Discontent and its Civilizations by Mohsin Hamid

I listened to Exit West By Mohsin Hamid and I really loved his narration. It’s always special when an author narrated their own audiobook and Mohsin Hamid’s narration is always done so well. Discontent and its Civilizations is mostly a collection of anecdotes that span across Mohsin Hamid’s life. Hamid’s life story itself is quite fascinating and it was interesting to read about his cross-cultural experiences growing up both in the U.S. and Pakistan. Some essays were more uninteresting than others, but overall I enjoyed Mohsin Hamid’s collection.

Rating: 3.5/5

3. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

So I’m clearly behind. I meant to read Children of Blood and Bone the month it came out, but never got around to it. Despite the major hype surrounding this book, it is definitely worth it, in my opinion. From the expansive world and addicting narrative to the complex characters and the connections to real world events. This story is truly one of the best of 2018 and I cannot wait to see what else Tomi Adeyemi has to offer.

Rating: 4.25/5

4. 28451694

If Laini Taylor’s talent with words wasn’t apparent before, it’s clear that her Strange the Dreamer series is her best work. Even though I listened to the audiobook, I was immediately drawn into her beautiful writing style. I’m not a major fan of over-flowery writing, but I found that it completely aligned with the story. Her writing had the same dreamy like quality I typically find in Maggie Stiefvater’s works (which is a compliment). Additionally, the story itself is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. While the concept of Godsborn and a rift between Gods and mortals isn’t original, the City of Weep was unique. Although some events were predictable, the ending was completely unexpected and I am curious to see what Muse of Nightmares holds.

Rating: 4/5

5. 36589857

If you’re looking for a bad-ass adventure with kick-ass women taking down the patriarchy, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy delivers on all fronts. Felicity is an absolute social justice warrior and I loved her for it. As much as I loved Gentleman’s Guide, I was really able to connect with Felicity’s story. There’s something so empowering reading about dynamic women from different backgrounds working together. Additionally, Felicity’s asexuality was incredibly relateable for me. It’s always hard to find books with ace characters I can relate to (or ace characters in general) and I personally connected to the representation. Mackenzi Lee is also exceptionally good at addressing a main character’s flaws. Felicity’s internal misogyny and ignorance was addressed in the best way possible. She learned that it’s okay to like dresses and traditionally feminine things and still enjoy science and learning. Also, the Monty and Percy cameos were the cutest and I need more from them (18th century Simon & Bram). In general, I would like to read more from this world, please and thank you.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Book Reviews

Leah on the Offbeat By Becky Albertalli | Review

31180248

Published: April 24th 2018 by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance

Synopsis: Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Add to Goodreads.

Spoiler Free Review:

Leah on the Offbeat basically fulfilled all of the fluffy, addictive cynicism that I was looking for. I finished this book in three hours which goes to show that Becky Albertalli’s writing never disappoints for me. Leah on the Offbeat was different than her previous works considering Leah Burke was an asshole. Becky’s known for writing pretty fluffy cinnamon roll characters, so this was different. I know people did have difficulties reading from Leah’s perspective because she’s pessimistic and self-destructive. Personally, she reminded me so much of my sister that it didn’t bother me as much. In a way, reading about Leah was kind of like reliving my sister’s own experiences with high school and college.

I can also say with complete honesty that Becky Albertalli is a contemporary author who actually know how to write a teenager’s experience. She was able to capture the stress and angst surrounding college applications and  I appreciated that Leah had made so many dumb mistakes throughout the story because it was genuine. Also, I love Leah’s friends to death. Simon and Bram (Crackers) are the cutest and most fluffiest boyfriends ever. I know a lot of people found that the character were OOC. Although it’s been some time since I’ve read Simon, I really think Becky was still able to capture the sweet theater nerd crew. I loved all of the references as well. I know some people tend to not like pop culture references because they feel that it won’t be relevant in the future, but I love  them. I mean, I too use Hamilton references to get through APUSH.

I know the biggest issue for most people was the romance. Personally, I felt like the build up was done very well and in true Albertalli fashion. However, I felt like the ending needed an extra 50 pages to resolve the ending. It was very abrupt and there was just a complete lack of communication. There was also come controversy over a comment Leah made on being bisexual which I can definitely see as offensive. Though I do feel like what she said was more circumstantial. This is not to excuse her at all, but I don’t think it was meant to sound offensive, although it definitely should have been challenged.

Overall, Leah on the Offbeat was the fluffy story that I really needed at the time. As always, I will read anything Becky writes and she’ll always be a queen of wholesome fluff in my eyes.

Rating: 4/5

Monthly Wrap Ups

August & September Reads | 2018

It’s officially (halfway through) October and I finally have access to a computer. These past few months, I haven’t had access to a computer because my old one died of old age. But I do have one now and I have been reading these past few months. I think I’ve come to accept that reading physical books is really difficult to do in the middle of school. Most of these are audio books, but regardless, I read some great books.

1. Image result for magnus chase and the gods of asgard

Rick Riordan is seriously a gem of an author. He is seriously one of the most progressive authors I’ve ever read from and Magnus Chase is no exception. Most people say that the Magnus Chase series is one of the best he has written and I have to agree. There is so much diversity in this series from having a hijabi to having a genderfluid character. It also makes me so happy to see how well researched the representation is. When it comes to reading about Muslim characters, I’m usually very critical, especially when it is written by a non-Muslim. Reading about Samira and how she’s a bad-ass hijabi who is still connected to her faith and prays five times a day and doesn’t touch men was so refreshing. If there is any Rick Riordan series you want to read, it should be Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Also, the Percy Jackson cameos were GOLDEN.

2. 38731505

Terese Marie Mailhot recounts her story of growing up at a Native American reservation in her very dysfunctional family. Mailhot is also has bipolar disorder and PTSD and is  eventually hospitalized. This story is told in a second person narrative and the writing tended to be very stream-of-consciousness. Although the writing tended to be choppy and lacked flow at times, I ended up finishing the audio book in one sitting. I remember a reviewer described it as similar to Hunger By Roxane Gay which I can definitely see the similarities. Overall, Heart Berries was a raw and harrowing story.

3. 33585392

So Chimamanda Adichie is a renowned feminist and author known for We Should All Be Feminists, Americanah among others. Although I don’t agree with some of her opinions such as her stance on the trans community and felt that her comments were quite ignorant, I can’t deny that this book encompassed some great morals about feminism and teaching your child about self-worth.

4. 4671

I read The Great Gatsby for school, but I still found it to be enjoyable. I feel like I was able to appreciate the story after I was able to analyze it in class. Despite it being a story about reckless, rich white people, I can see why it’s such an iconic classic.

5.26026087

So I didn’t know much about the The Great Recession because I was very young at the time of its occurrence. Behold the Dreamers explores immigration and the “American dream” during The Great Recession through a young Cameroonian couple. It was interesting to see Jende starting off as a optimistic dreamer and his almost naive outlook on America. It was especially interesting to see how their views were warped by not just immigration policies, but also witnessing the lives of the Clarks and how it affected their own.

6. 37009911

The Astonishing Color of After is another incredible mental health novel with exceptional writing and beautiful storytelling. I’m always trying to find books with a second hand perspective on mental illness and not because a first hand experience isn’t important. As someone who’s had both a first and second hand experience with mental health, it’s always refreshing for me to read about. The core of this story is one about grief and Emily X.R. Pan manages to craft a beautiful story.

7. 25571099

Citizen is another must read book that should be required reading. Citizen explores race through the many aggression as a black woman in America. It was an outstanding read.

8. 32054553

Phoebe Robinson’s memoir recounts her experiences as a black woman in America through her humorous narrative. I especially enjoyed the audio book because it sounded more podcast than an audio book to me. There were musical transitions and it felt like Phoebe was telling her story rather than reading from her book. I did feel like there was an overzealous amount of references, but overall I really enjoyed this memoir.

9. 37901807

I heard that this was an East Asian villain origin story and I was sold. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this story, but I definitely did not expect the turn of events this book took. The main character is an incredibly twisted and manipulative character from the very start. It’s interesting to read from her perspective because it’s like Xifeng herself is tricking you into believing that she is just an innocent girl. I know you’re not really meant to like Xifeng, but I actually really enjoyed her character (I don’t know what this says about myself). She’s a pretty terrible person, but she’s complicated and has the qualities of an interesting villain. I’m intrigued to see how the story will continue through Jade’s point of view.

10. Tyler Johnson Was Here

Tyler Johnson Was Here is another must read story. Although it has similar themes to books like The Hate U Give and Dear Martin, each and every voice deserves to be heard. Tyler Johnson Was Here is especially difficult to read about. From the title, you know exactly what’s going to happen but it doesn’t make it less harder to read. The grief of Martin and his mother felt palpable all throughout the novel. Overall, another timely and important novel about police brutality, family and justice.

Monthly Wrap Ups

July Wrap Up | 2018

This July shaped out to be one of my better reading months in 2018. All five books I read were varied in genre and background and I genuinely enjoyed all of the books I read.

32961107

Sing, Unburied, Sing won the National Book Award and it is rightfully deserving of it. The story follows a dysfunctional black family in Mississippi. To me, this book was both melancholy and entrancing and the ever present sadness in this story literally leaped off the pages. Or in this case, the narrator’s voices. The audio book includes a full cast which only enhanced the reading experience. My one critique was the magical realism aspect which didn’t quite make sense to me. To me, it seemed less like magical realism and more like a figment  of the character’s imagination. The ending of the book was also confusing and fuzzy and I personally think the book would be better off without the magical realism. Rating: 4.25/5

Related image

We Were Eight Years in Power offered an analytical perspective on the eight years Barack Obama was in power as the POTUS. Coates also covers stories from other black figures across history and their struggle through injustice even through Obama’s presidency. Ta-Nehisi Coates is exceptionally talented at writing and this book wasn’t anything short of captivating. Although I still love Between the World and Me, Coates offered a nuanced perspective on race across history. Rating: 4/5

29430055

It took me a while to finish this book due to my ever present reading slump, but I ended up really loving this story. Shanthi Sekaran combines the pains of infertility with the struggles with immigration laws in America and crafted a bittersweet story on parenthood and family. While reading this book, it was like I was holding my breath the entire time because the intensity of the story. This book is also very similar to Little Fires Everywhere By Celeste Ng and both have relevant themes so if you LFE which is obviously more well known, I would highly recommend Lucky Boy. Rating: 4.5/5

13133811

The Surrender Tree is a collection of poems that spans across Cuba’s long and treacherous journey to freedom through their three wars starting from 1896. From concentration camps to healing caves, it’s a story that’s rarely ever discussed in history classes. While it is historical fiction, Rosa was an actual historical figure who was a powerful healer that took in wounded soldiers and plague. Reading her story was absolutely incredible and even more so knowing it was real. The audio book is also about 2 hours long, so if you’re looking for a short but impactful story, I would recommend The Surrender Tree. Rating: 4/5

34944546

The Belles reminded me of the addicting fantasies I used to binge read when I was younger. I don’t typically reach for fantasy anymore, but this story made me want to get back into the genre. The world building does need some work and the writing tended to be excessively flowery. Though the book did feel like that “first book in a series,” I’m still intrigued on what’s going to happen in the sequel. Rating: 3.25/5

Monthly Wrap Ups

Recent Reads [March- June]

This past year hasn’t been the best for my blog and I’ve more or less abandoned it. Reading hasn’t been my strong suit either and when you’re not reading very much and therefore not able to write reviews, it’s hard to keep up with a book blog. These past few months I did get some reading done and I’m reading a lot more in the summer, so here are some of the books I read throughout the year and my reviews on them.

 

38464776

After waiting nearly two years for Raven Cycle content, I think Opal is enough to hold readers over until the Dreamer trilogy. Reading from Opal’s perspective was as one would expect: endearing and peculiar. She’s such an interesting character to read from as she kind of blurs the lines between a human child and dream creature. Overall, Opal was a really sweet and heartwarming story and has me really intrigued on how it will continue into the Dreamer trilogy.

 

 

 

25978892

My main incentive in reading The Art of Starving was that it followed a boy with an eating disorder which is near impossible to find in literature. However, while the premise sounded interesting, the story fell flat to me. This book follows the quintessential narrative where there’s no real presence of mental health professionals or treatment until the very end when it’s brushed over. In general, this book didn’t really live up to my expectations.

 

 

 

 

25899336

A beautifully written memoir on Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with lung cancer following the last years of his life. For a book so centered on an impending death, he manages to make his story more about living and the memories created with friends and family. He wrote about his experiences as a surgeon ( which confirms why I don’t want to be a doctor) and the birth of his daughter. Memoirs tend to be repetitive, but this a uniquely woven story that is definitely worth reading.

 

 

 

Image result for heroes of olympus books

So I think it’s tradition for me to read Rick Riordan during finals week. The audiobooks are also always well done so I ended up binging the series while I stressed about exams. I had already listened to The Lost Hero last year and thought it was okay, but the series improved with each book. While nothing can compare to Percy Jackson, I was pleasantly surprised with how entertaining this series was.

 

 

36331360

Little & Lion follows a second hand perspective of bipolar disorder from the lens of Suzette, the younger sister of Lionel who struggles from bipolar disorder. As someone who’s experienced nearly the same thing, this book was very relatable in that aspect. The feeling of wanting to help someone with their mental illness and simultaneously feeling useless came across exceptionally well in this novel. This is a very underrated and diverse mental health novel, so I would highly recommend Little & Lion.

Book Reviews

Review | You Bring the Distant Near By Mitali Perkins

33155334

Published: September 12th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Source: School Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Contemporary

Synopsis: Nominated for the National Book Award | Walter Award 2018 Honor for Teen Literature | PW, NYPL, Horn Book, JLG, Boston Globe, Shelf Awareness, SLJ Best Book of the Year Lists | Six starred reviews: ★ Horn Book ★ School Library Journal ★ Publishers Weekly ★ Booklist ★ Shelf Awareness ★ VOYA

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

Add to Goodreads. 

Spoiler Free Review:

Being Bengali and Muslim, it’s impossible to find books that accurately represent my experience. I’ve read books with Muslim protagonists before and I haven’t been able to connect with them, but this book was one the first story that I could truly see myself in.

You Bring the Distant Near is a generational story first told through two sisters, Sonia and Tara who have just moved to Flushing, Queens during the 1970s. I’m actually from Queens and if you know anything about Bengalis, you would know majority of Bengali immigrants end up in Queens, New York. The atmosphere and descriptions of Queens felt so familiar even in the 1970s. It’s a small detail but one that I really appreciated because of how easy it is to see that the author knows New York well enough to do it the atmosphere justice.

Tara and Sonia are vastly different from each other, Sonia being self righteous and bookish whereas Tara attempts to uphold her family traditions while still trying to pursue her dream of acting. Despite their differences, there’s still mutual love and support between the sisters all throughout the story. There is also Shanti, Sonia’s daughter who is conflicted about her identity being black and Bengali. Tara’s daughter, Anna also brings an interesting perspective as she was raised in Bangladesh and holds on to her tradition and culture. As someone who grew up in a place where most Bengali Americans (including myself) shunned their culture rather than embrace them, it was an interesting perspective to read from.

The most intriguing and dynamic character to me was Ranee, Tara and Sonia’s mother. Ranee arrived in Flushing wearing her deep set ignorance and tradition on her sleeve. She grew up learning how fair skin is superior to deeper skin tones adapting to Western beauty standards. As someone who grew up watching Fair & Lovely commercials on Bengali television channels, the colorism isn’t new to me at all. The anti-blackness and harmful stereotypes about black people is still something I see within my family today. It was interesting to see Ranee struggle with her own beliefs after seeing her own daughter being married off to a black man. By the end of the book, their was still that struggle to trying to find a balance between assimilating into “American culture” or sticking to your archaic traditions.

You Bring the Distant Near tells a beautiful story about women of color, culture, traditions and everything in between. As someone who’s never had a fictional to truly connect to, this story is particularly special to me. It’s also very underrated so if you’re looking for an insightful generational story similar to Homegoing By Yaa Gyasi, this is the perfect hidden gem.

Rating: 4.75/5

Monthly Wrap Ups

January Wrap Up | 2018

As per usual, I’m late with the wrap ups. January was a pretty meh month both in terms of reading and life in general. Four books were completed which is average but regardless, some good books were read this month.

*Click on pictures of books for Goodreads links. 

1.

2.

3.

4.

Rankings (Least Favorite to Most Favorite):

A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens

The Immortalists By Chloe Benjamin

Stay With Me By Ayobami Adebayo

Autoboyagraphy By Christina Lauren

Reviews This Month:

The Immortalists By Chloe Benjamin

Autoboyagraphy By Christina Lauren

Book Reviews

Review | Autoboyagraphy By Christina Lauren

28919058

Published: September 12th 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance

Synopsis: Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Add to Goodreads. 

Spoiler Free Review:

What I was expecting was a fluffy, LGBTQ+ contemporary with relatable woes about the writing process. And while I did get all of those, this book has so much more depth than what I was expecting. Mormonism is almost always viewed as a savage cult in the media and it was interesting to get a sense of what it really means to be Mormon and growing up in a religious and conservative family. Although I’m not Mormon myself, I did grow up in a religious and strictly conservative Muslim family so some aspects of Sebastian Brother’s story were painfully relatable. For that and so much more, Autoboyagraphy is a special novel to me.

Tanner is your typical white boy in high-school. He’s fairly good in school, set for college and has a “hermione granger-like” best friend. But he’s bisexual and his parents actually play a role in his life which is incredibly rare in YA. Absent parents is one of the most infuriating tropes in YA and it was refreshing to see parents actually know everything going on in their child’s life. It was also interesting seeing the religious dynamics in Tanner’s and Sebatian’s family. Tanner’s family is liberal, his father grew up in a Jewish family and his mother in a conservative and homophobic Mormon family. Personally, I would love a spin-off or short story on Tanner’s parents’ love story. Religion does often come between marriage and relationships so it was interesting to see being brought up in young adult fiction.

What also sets this story apart is that we actually follow a character who’s a college commuter and doesn’t dorm. Shocker, indeed. YA rarely has college-aged characters so it was nice to have Sebastian be a college student who’s not some creeper 6 years older than Tanner. I did want more of Tanner’s writing process and it wasn’t as apart of the story as I would have liked. Nonetheless, the entire premise and idea of two people meeting in a writing class still lived up to my expectations.

Overall, Autoboyagraphy ended up being a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting to hate this book, but I did not expect to connect with it like I did. Religion is never brought up in young adult fiction and it’s always been something I’ve grown up around and to be able to see religion and sexual orientation challenged was a refreshing concept. This story is definitely underrated, so if you’re looking for a unique contemporary with equal amounts of fluff and an insight into Mormonism, I would recommend Autoboyagraphy. 

Rating: 4/5