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Tag Archives: book
I stumbled upon Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent while browsing at a local library and I am so glad I did. The book was surprisingly charming and adorable while also handling real life issues in a believable way.
The plot follows 14-year-old Joseph Calderaro, Korean by birth but raised Italian by his adopted parents in New Jersey. He doesn’t fee like he belongs in either world. When his social studies teacher assigns an essay about heritage, Joseph struggles to merge his two worlds and discover who he truly is.
The book’s main focus is adoption, but also balances the struggles of middle school, girls, and the meaning of family. I like that the ending doesn’t get corny and wrap up with a perfectly written essay or something. I really thought it would. While it has a “happy” ending, Joseph’s struggles are never underplayed or overplayed. They were realistic. He is a middle school kid who just wants to figure out where he comes from.
I definitely recommend this one for older grade school/middle school readers and anyone interested in adoption, Korean/Italian culture, or just a good, “coming of age” story.
I am kind of surprised Geek Girl by Holly Smale ended up on my to-read list; generally, I don’t go out of my way to mark fluffy, Young Adult books as “gotta find this.” However, someone must have tipped me off, because this book ended up being a charming and hilarious read!
Plot: Harriet Manners is a geek. She knows this because she looked it up in the dictionary that she keeps by her bed. Her fashion sense is non-existent and she has all of one friend at school. When a modeling agency offers to make her their latest star, she jumps at the chance to have a “Cinderella moment” and become someone new. Does she have what it takes to go from geek to chic?
Thoughts: I giggled my way through this entire book. Harriet Manners is horrendously awkward, socially inept, and utterly fun. She is surrounded by a crew of quirky, fun characters. While this is a “typical” transformation story, it also isn’t at all. I expected angst as Harriet becomes ‘someone new,’ but Harriet basically remains herself throughout the story. The book has a great message about being yourself but isn’t heavy-handed with it. And did I mention Geek Girl was funny? (My disclaimer here is that every time I read something out loud to share my amusement, my sister just stared at me blankly…so it might not be quite as hilarious as I thought. But it probably is and she just didn’t have a sense of humor last night.)
The book is clean and perfectly appropriate for the targeted Middle School readers (or, y’know, non-Middle School readers. Like me.)
My only complaint is that there is this sort of half-developed romance that could have been a cute addition but falls flat. Otherwise, quite a pleasant, fluffy read.
I was really excited to read Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani. It had a cool cover and the plot synopsis mentioned yakuza, Japanese mobsters. My second-favorite-manga, Gokusen, invovles yakuza. Obviously I was going to love this one! Except…I didn’t. While there was nothing particularly wrong with Ink and Ashes, there was nothing particularly right, either. The book was just boring.
Plot: Claire Takata doesn’t know much about her father, who died ten years earlier. On the anniversary of his death, she finds a mysterious letter from her deceased father, addressed to her stepfather. Claire never knew they had met. In search of answers, she begins digging until she discovers her father had been a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. However, her investigations have not gone unnoticed, and the legacy of father’s actions are beginning to catch up to her.
Thoughts: This book promises yakuza. It delivers…Utah. Seriously, the characters live in Utah and never leave. Despite being (semi?) raised in Japanese culture, Claire appears to get most of her knowledge about the culture from movies. She makes wild, crazy assumptions that even the other characters make fun of, but which usually have some grounding in truth. Even these crazy assumptions, however, can’t spice up a plot that functions around dilemmas like…who will Claire go with to the dance? Do her brother and his friends really keep guys from asking her out? Why does Claire have to practice martial arts for an hour and a half when her brothers only have practice for a half an hour? etc.
While the book portrays a really cool friend group, I didn’t really believe it. The romance got annoying as well, wayyy too much kissing. The father-daughter relationship is also fairly heavy handed, though I suppose it is good to see a “healthy” relationship portrayed.
To be honest, I’m not sure if the author could have written this book in a way that was interesting. Her plot was just…meh. But I was excited for it, so I suppose it had that going for it.
I have made an amazing discovery. My favorite movie, Laura (1944), was first…A BOOK!
I know! I am so excited. From what I can tell on Goodreads, the book is even better than the movie! Which isn’t too surprising, but you can never be too careful with your favorite movie.
I currently have so many books checked out from the library that I’ve banned myself from getting more, otherwise I would have had this book on hold in seconds. As it is, this news has got me like..
Last year, I had a post designated for the the most “mind blowing reads” of 2015. I was planning on doing that again this year. However, what stands out most from this year isn’t the non-fiction that made me think, but the books (fiction and non-fiction) that made me feel. Each of these books left a lasting impression on my mind. All the 5 star reads I will share over the next few days arguably have a claim on this list (they did make 5 stars), but these were the ones that came immediately to mind. Without further ado, I present you:
Emotionally Moving and Character Shaping 5 Star Reads from 2016:
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
This American classic is a dark, coming of age story set during early WW2. It is the story of Gene, a brooding introvert, and his friend, Phineas, the outgoing and favorite boy at school. This book is full of emotions: hatred, love, friendship, and jealousy. It was poignant, melancholy, and left me slightly breathless by the end. I’m glad I didn’t read this one in school because I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did on my own. Also, while they are often compared, I immensely preferred this one to Catcher in the Rye.
Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society by Dorothy L. Sayers
A 75 page booklet consisting of two essays: “Are Women Human?” and “The Human-Not-Quite-Human.” Sayers did not write or speak much about feminism but in this work she lays out her opinion about the role of women in society. Sayers’s main point is that men and women have more in common than not and that each should do what they were designed to do. If a woman enjoys and is good at business, she should be a businesswoman because that is what she was made to do. However, if a woman desires to be a traditional housewife, she should do that because that is what she was meant to do. The same standards apply to men and women equally. While these are hardly groundbreaking concepts, Sayers’s brevity and snark offer an exceptional and thought provoking look at what it means to be human in today’s society.
All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
661 pages, but worth every word. At first glance,this Depression-era novel is the story of Willie Stark, an initially idealistic politician who amasses power and uses ruthless methods to get what he wants. However, this is equally the story of the men and women around Willie, especially his right hand man and the narrator of the book, Jack Burden. I’ve already written about how much I love Jack; the truth is, I enjoyed all the characters in this book. They are multilayered and even characters with only one or two scenes have color and depth. Rarely, though, do characters only have one scene. They always seem to come around as the story weaves a tighter and tighter plot towards the final, emotional conclusion. The writing style is beautiful and poetic and the plot is thought provoking and full of character change. Definitely my favorite book from 2016.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton is utterly brilliant and reading him is like thinking on a different level. This is a book on theology and orthodoxy and Christianity; it is a convulsion of ideas and pictures about stories, worldview, and the role of joy in the Christian’s life. I didn’t always agree with Chesterton but I was challenged to think more deeply about why. He writes in a clear fashion that makes abstract concepts understandable, yet deals with subjects so profound I could read this book ten times and still gain something new. Here is one popular quote to illustrate – “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
They were Germany’s Iron Youth, but as WW1 drags on 19-year-old Paul Bäumer and his friends become more and more disillusioned and embittered by war. What will become of men trained only to kill? I found this book so beautiful. Difficult. Thought provoking. Introspective. Painful but real. The narrative isn’t “exciting” necessarily and the whole story seems to drift from moment to moment, but in doing so it reflects the characters and their outlook. Their lives have been stopped and now drift with the war. I love the mercy and realism, the camaraderie and sorrow. The war created one good thing – their friendship – and then destroyed it with all the senseless death. So poignant. My second favorite read from this year.