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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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

Book Reviews

Review | The Immortalists By Chloe Benjamin

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Publication: January 9th 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Source: E-ARC via Netgalley

Format: Ebook

Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy

Synopsis: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

The Immortalists is marketed as a contemporary and fantasy novel, but I see it more as a mixture of historical fiction, magical realism and literary fiction. At its core, it tells the tale of four siblings and their lives intertwined in magic and family.

The story has an introspective quality to it and you really get to delve deep into each of the sibling’s minds and get to know them as individuals. Additionally, I felt like the magic aspect was subtle which is what made it seem more like magical realism. Was it really magic or was it all just a series of coincidences? The story also follows a Jewish family through the 1980s, there’s discussions on being gay and Jewish, being disconnected with your religion as you grow older so it was interesting to read about. The sibling’s Jewish heritage didn’t overtake the novel, but it was always present which I think fit the story very well.

The Immortalists is told in four perspectives and you get a taste of each of the sibling’s stories. Though some of the characters were less interesting than others, each of them were complex in their own right. Additionally, it was interesting to see real life events being woven into each of the character’s lives. Events such as the AIDs crisis during the 1980s, 9/11, etc. There’s interracial relationships, LGBTQ+ relationships and characters with no romantic relationships at all.

In general, The Immortalists focuses on themes of mortality. Would you be able to defy death itself or just accept it when it comes towards you? Though I think what makes the story so memorable is the familial bond between the siblings. Even when they were apart, it was like there were invisible strings pulling them together. Overall, The Immortalists was compelling, to say the least. I don’t think I’ve read a book that explores science, mortality, magic and family all at once. If you’re a fan of The Raven Cycle By Maggie Stiefvater or They Both Die At The End By Adam Silvera, I would definitely recommend it for you.

Rating: 4/5

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Top 10 Books To Read in 2018

Since it’s a new year, there are still too many books I wanted to read in 2017 but sadly didn’t get to. Here’s some of the ones at the top of my list that I hope to get to throughout 2018. Let me know if you’ve read any of them and your thoughts on them. 🙂

*Click on pictures of books for Goodreads links.

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Monthly Wrap Ups

December Wrap Up | 2017

The year is finally over and I would say I ended pretty strongly. Could I have taken more time out of my day during winter break to read? Obviously, but the Internet is stupidly distracting. I read some amazing books this month, some of which ended up on my favorites list so it was overall a good reading month.

*Click on pictures of books for Godoreads links.

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Rankings (Least Favorite to Most Favorite):

Radio Silence By Alice Oseman

Adulthood Is A Myth By Sarah Andersen

Milk and Honey By Rupi Kaur

Black Like Me By John Howard Griffin

The Mothers By Brit Bennet

Last Night I Sang to the Monster By Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body By Roxane Gay

Reviews This Month:

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body By Roxane Gay

Milk and Honey By Rupi Kaur

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Radio Silence By Alice Oseman

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Favorite Books of 2017

So this reading year has been an eventful one. I think it’s definitely been the least amount of books I’ve read but in terms of genre, I think I’ve more widely than I’ve ever done in my life so I would count that as a success. Even with only 65 books completed in contrast to my usual 100+ books, I feel satisfied. The amount doesn’t seem to matter anymore and looking back on what I’ve read this year, I’ve learned so much, especially in regards to the ownvoices books I’ve read. None of this are in any particular order though the last few are probably my all time favorites.

23447923There’s something about Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s stories that stick with you. I think what makes this book memorable is family dynamic. I don’t think I’ve ever read an amazing father figure like Sal’s dad, Vicente. In general, there’s just this nostalgia I associate with this book. It’s just an utterly beautiful story. Read my review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

28587957 This is probably one of the select few novels about race written by a white author that I can accept as well done. In fact, Jodi Picoult did an immense amount of research fro this novel and although she can never depict the authentic experience being black in America, I can appreciate the effort. This book was targeted towards white people, to be able to recognize their privilege and realize that the corrupt justice system does not serve equally to people of color. In general, this novel is brave and though it will never be entirely accurate, it presented an incredibly powerful story. Read my review here.

 

 

 

32620332Going into this book, you might expect a glamorous story about a celebrity full of gossip, scandals and affairs. You’re not entirely wrong, but what this story offers is nuance. Not only is Evelyn Hugo’s story incredibly compelling, but it’s also unique. Evelyn Hugo carved out a career for herself, being Cuban and bisexual along with many other experiences. There is no good or bad depiction of Evelyn Hugo, she’s just morally grey Evelyn Hugo who’s story is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Read full review here. 

 

 

 

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Considering this book was my very first read of the year, I think it goes to show how memorable it was to me. Celeste Ng’s writing is addicting and this story was incredible. It’s introspective, emotional and manages to explore many different themes from family dynamics to racism. The hype is absolutely worth it for me. Read full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

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I usually don’t include memoirs on lists of favorite books, but I found this one to be exceptional. I love The Daily Show and Trevor Noah’s humor and his memoir was on par with it. Learning bout the Apartheid and his mother and childhood, it was so much more interesting than most memoirs I’ve read. Also, by listening to the audiobook, it really did feel like Trevor Noah was telling his story to you. If you would like read any memoir, Born A Crime is probably one of the most authentic ones I’ve read.

 

 

 

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Listening to the audiobook is probably the best way to read this book. Ta-Nehesi Coates’ voice is entrancing. Many reviewers described reading this book like being woken up from a dream. I don’t think there can be enough educating on marginalized experiences so this is an absolute must read.

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m pretty sure this is on nearly everyone’s list and I don’t think anything I say will do this story justice. I genuinely don’t have really anything bad to say about this book because the truth in this fictional story is what makes it so incredibly powerful. I know that this is going to be a classic in the future and going to be remembered for years.

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Celeste Ng book, what’s new? It’s strange because I initially thought that I liked this book less than Everything I Never Told You. It didn’t have the same addictive quality and there were parts that had dragged. But in the end, I kept thinking about this story and it’s characters and themes of family and motherhood. It goes to show that as more time passed from when I finished this book, the more I loved it. Celeste Ng is an amazing storyteller and one of my favorite authors so I think I’ll love everything she writes at this point. Read full review here.

 

 

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If you asked me why I decided to include this book last, I really wouldn’t be able to give an answer. This book is haunting and just plain melancholy. But what I really loved  is the plain honesty in it. Roxane Gay is forthright in her writing, she never sugarcoats her experiences. Her writing is compelling and her story is powerful. I don’t think you’ll find a story like Roxane Gay’s one and at this point I’m rambling. I really don’t think I can say anything that will do her story justice so do yourself a favor and read it. Hunger is an absolute must read. Read full review. 

Book Reviews

Review | Milk and Honey By Rupi Kaur

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Published: November 4th 2014 by Createspace

Source: Overdrive Ebook & Audiobook Library

Format: Ebook

Genre: Nonfiction, Poetry

Synopsis: milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

Add to Goodreads. 

Spoiler Free Review:

So I did not plan on writing a review for this considering the number of reviews already out there and obviously the massive hype. It does make me happy to see people who generally aren’t readers find solace or relatablitity in this book. However, there are several who find this book to be a depiction of “modern poetry” which is normally used in negative context. However, I believe that the essence of poetry lies in the fact that we’re able to express our thoughts and feelings without the typical boundaries present in prose. I really don’t understand why poetry always has to be a complicated ensemble of metaphors and similes. It does not. Rupi Kaur was telling her own story through these poems which is what makes it difficult to review in the first place. Poetry is precious and personal and tied to a person so I didn’t see any fault in her particular style.

In general, I don’t find this collection to be exceptionally profound but I do understand why people connect to it. It contains messages of love, women, relationships and the like. However, I didn’t really connect to much of it. Some felt like the quintessential poems of (straight) romantic love. There were of course lines about her being in a toxic relationship which I can’t speak for but it’s always hard to find the courage to write about such a personal and traumatic experience.. By far, my favorite poem was the one about women of color. “our backs tell stories no books have the spine to carry.” This so perfectly describes the women in my family and their adversities and that particular line just hit my soul (as cheesy as it sounds).

Overall, Rupi Kaur is definitely a talented poet and I appreciate her free verse style since I write free verse poetry as well. The collection was enjoyable and not as bad as I was expecting. In general, each poet has the liberty to write whatever they choose to no matter what style. After all, isn’t poetry really just a bunch of fragmented sentences?

Here’s to poetry:

“To each their own.”

Rating: 3.5/5