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Category Archives: Book Reviews


Quick post here: just wanted to put the word put that the awesome Bookshelvers Anonymous is doing an arc giveaway for Through The Ever Night by Veronica Rossi. This book is the sequel to Under The Never Sky, which was so enthralling that I absolutely can’t wait to read more in the series. Head over to their site to enter the contest and maybe by lucky enough to get this fabulous arc!

Switcheroo!


So after much consideration, I’ve decided to move this blog over to Blogger. Almost all the old posts are over there (some edited, some condensed, some missing entirely) but I think it will be a much better fit.

Come over and check it out at http://diaryofateenagereader.blogspot.com/!

Commencement


 

Cover of "Commencement: A novel"

Cover of Commencement: A novel

 

So I was at the library the other day (though, let’s face it, that’s basically the same thing as saying I was breathing the other day) looking through the Friends of the Library book sale section when I saw Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. It had a cute cover and it was only $1.50, so I immediately bought it.

 

I was also intrigued by the premise: four very different women become close friends during their first year at Smith College and the subsequent years both try their friendship and bring them closer together. Because all of my friends are going off to college literally as we speak (while I’m gap year-ing it thankfully) I felt like this book could not have come at a better time and would probably give me lots of helpful insights into what my friends (and I, eventually) could expect from that first year of college.

 

So. I started reading the book and I was actually really liking it – the characters were interesting, the writing was fluid, and I loved all the little details about Smith. (Sullivan, it turns out, is a Smith alumnae, and it really shows.) But as I rounded the 50 page mark, I realized that the book, while perfectly enjoyable, didn’t really feel like a novel to me. It felt more like I was reading a very long and well-written dossier about four different people (physical description of Sally, Sally’s family life, Sally’s relationship history etc etc…) in which the events of their lives were relayed in a dry this-happened-and-then-this-happened format, which is fine, you know, if you’re reading a history textbook or a private investigator’s report, but not exactly satisfying in a novel. I think the essential problem was that Sullivan told so much more that she showed.

 

Apart from that, I thought the book brought up a lot of really interesting and important themes. These women are constantly grappling with what it means to be a true feminist, and how hard it can feel to reconcile being a feminist with wanting to find love. The book also brings up a really valid point which is that the women of this current generation have so many more choices and so much more independence than our ancestors did, and yet there is still a world of opposition against women’s rights, not to mention the fact that these new freedoms present inherent problems and challenges of their own.

 

As a fully-fledged novel, Commencement missed the mark for me, but as a jumping-off point to explore ideas of modern feminism and the joys and challenges of female friendship, it excelled.

 

 

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert


 

Cover of "The Last American Man"

Cover of The Last American Man

 

So I guess you could say that I’m a hesitant fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. I read and enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love and Committed and (to a lesser extent) Stern Men, and I adore her TEDTalk, but there’s always been something I’ve found to be…slightly narcissistic and off-putting about her. But I just read her book The Last American Man and it is WONDERFUL. TLAM is a study of modern-day wilderness man Eustace Conway, who left home at seventeen to pursue an authentic life, living solely off the land. In what could have been an overly romanticized portrait of a rapidly dying breed, Gilbert manages to convey all of the complexity and contradictions of Conway – a man both fanatical and charismatic, perfectionistic and deeply flawed. It is a testament to Gilbert’s skills as a writer that Conway is so precisely drawn in his particular eccentricities and manias – even at his most idealistic, he is unmistakably human.

 

 

Five Quarters of the Orange and Chocolat


 

 

Cover of "Five Quarters of the Orange"

Cover of Five Quarters of the Orange

 

I recently read both Five Quarters of the Orange and Chocolat by Joanne Harris and they are both beautifully written and evocative books. FQotO is a somewhat darker and more mysterious novel, telling parallel stories of a french girl’s childhood and her later life as a small-town restaurant owner. Chocolat, on the other hand, is exuberant and celebratory. With its luscious descriptions of sweets, it seems to be begging the reader to taste every delicious aspect of life while it lasts. Throughout both books run deep veins of secrecy, mystery, wanderlust, appetite, and distrust. Mothers make delicious meals and carry dark secrets in their hearts. Daughters are wild and quietly mutinous. Judgmental neighbors look on with calculating eyes. The worlds that Harris conjures up are completely sensory, deeply absorbing, and intricately detailed.

 

 

Franny and Zooey and Vonnegut


Cover of "Cat's Cradle: A Novel"

Cover of Cat’s Cradle: A Novel

Last year, something wonderful happened to me: I fell in love. No, it wasn’t with a fellow student, and no, we have never actually spoken, but when I first picked up Slaughterhouse Five, I knew the love I felt for Kurt Vonnegut would never diminish.

So imagine my joy when my friend leant me Cat’s Cradle, and I was again immersed in a world of pathos, nihilism, imagination, and humor. I absolutely loved it! With its completely original and unclassifiable story line, ridiculously imaginative characters, and valuable message, Cat’s Cradle is a gorgeous, funny, sad, weird, wonderful classic.

I also just finished Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger and I (unexpectedly) loved it as well. I saw unexpectedly because I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with The Catcher in the Rye. (First I hated it, then I liked it, then I loved it, then I was annoyed by it, then I was tired of it, and now I like to think we’ve come to a sort of truce.) But to me, Franny and Zooey was like Catcher‘s slightly older, slightly more mature, but still angsty sibling. It was easy for me to relate to Franny’s academic discontent, her feelings of directionlessness and malaise, her devotion to an obscure novel. These are common late-adolescence/early-adulthood themes, and Salinger presented them beautifully and respectfully.

More later!

Books From Humanities, Or, Reading for School Isn’t Always Boring


Cover of "The Odyssey"

Cover of The Odyssey

So I’m not even going to comment on how many months it has been since my last blog post, because the number is just shameful and wrong and horrible to look at. BUT I am back now and (hopefully) better than ever!

Since I’m a senior in high school right now, just forcing myself to physically go to school is hard enough, but actually enjoying it is nearly impossible. Having said that, there are a few bright spots amid the constant sea of pointless busy-work and annoying underclassmen, and one of those is my Humanities class. This class, man, let me tell you, this class is awesome. Like seriously, all we do is read these ancient and wonderful and complex texts and then we get to class and just discuss them for two hours. And we drink tea while we’re doing it. Has there ever been a more perfect class? I think not. So in honor of this lovely class that is helping me slog through the (seemingly endless) weeks until June, here is a list of some of the ancient and wonderful and complex texts that we have read so far:

• It took me a while to really get into The Odyssey by Homer, but when I did, I realized that this book is such a classic because it is simply brilliant. The plotting is so complex and intriguing, the characters are vibrant and surprisingly relatable, the language is incredibly beautiful and deeply moving. If you’re willing to stick with it for the long haul (and through those slightly dull stretches where Odysseus is living with the Phaeacians) you will be rewarded in spades.

• Dialogues of Plato is absolutely fascinating. My favorite dialogue was The Republic (though I feel like it’s kind of unoriginal to say that) because it presents such an interesting view of Plato’s utopian society. Who wouldn’t want a philosopher king to run their city?

• The Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus has such a dark and sinister beauty, you can just feel the complex net of family, fate, murder, deception, and betrayal that entraps the House of Atreus. Mmm, so good.

• Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. I love this book so much. I love the fact that Marcus Aurelius was such a powerful leader, but he speaks with such humility and ease. I love the advice in this book is as applicable to my life as a 21st century teenager as it was to that of a roman emperor. I love that it is practical and simply written and scattered and imperfect. It’s like the most sincerely beautiful self-help book imaginable.

The Dhammapada. Oh my goodness gracious, talk about love. This book is amazing. AMAZING. Its language is so precise, its imagery so evocative and beautiful. I absolutely loved learning about Buddhism in class, and this book was a big part of that.

• The Bhagavad Gita. This book is so gorgeous and thought-provoking. As I was reading it, I kept marking every beautiful image and idea that I liked, and at the end, nearly every page was marked. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Ahh talking about these books makes me want to read them all again, they are so brilliant and gorgeous.

More later!

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