Monday, July 30, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Popular Books That Lived Up To The Hype

Picking up a popular book with glowing goodreads reviews and a rabid fanbase is nerve-wracking. Those books seem doomed from the beginning and that's why I often would rather read a book that's lesser known or only recently released. However, some live up to the hype. These are those impressive finds: 

1) Six of Crows 
I waited forever to read Six of Crows. I was so scared! I wasn't the biggest fan of the Grisha trilogy but all my friends seemed to love SoC. However, when I finally read the duology, I was so mad at myself for waiting so long. It was absolutely amazing and now I myself am a rabid fan. 

2) Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda
I waited until this was out in paperback because I was terrified it wouldn't be for me. However, Simon Vs. was an amazingly perfect book and it even exceeded the hype. (Sadly, the movie was fun but it did not live up to the book)

3) Mistborn 
I was reluctant to start this adult fantasy series. They looked so dense! But all the glowing reviews convinced to finally give it a try and I am so glad I did. Mist born was such a clever, exciting adventure. I am ashamed to say I still need to read the second and third books though... 


4) Saving Francesca
So this book didn't have quite the same level of hype as the others... but I do know many, many devoted fans of Melina Marchetta. Thankfully, I adored Saving Francesca. And I'm no longer scared to read Marchetta's books now.

5) An Ember in the Ashes
Sabaa Tahir rocks. I was tentatively expecting An Ember In The Ashes to be another sub-par, over-hyped dystopian let-down. It wasn't. This series is incredible and addicting. 

6) Scythe 
I just finished this book yesterday and now I need Thunderhead! I wasn't expecting to like a series about death... but it was so good. I would definitely have never picked it up if there hadn't been sooo much hype. I'll have a review up soon. 

7) Vampire Academy 
These books have terrible covers and are about vampires (not my favorite). Yet this series has become one of my most beloved of all time. I'm glad for its enormous popularity.

8) The Book Thief 
This beautiful, heart-wrenching novel deserves all its praise. This is on my list of books that I think everyone should read. Everyone.

9) Big Little Lies
I grabbed this at the airport during a long layover. It was on the one of those "bestsellers" stands. I was hesitant - thinking it would be silly - but the book was the perfect mix of entertaining and nuanced.

Thanks for stopping by! 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Book Review: The Fragile Ordinary

The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young 
*I received an e-arc for free in exchange for an honest review*
Publication Date: June 26th, 2018
I am Comet Caldwell.

And I sort of, kind of, absolutely hate my name.

People expect extraordinary things from a girl named Comet. That she’ll be effortlessly cool and light up a room the way a comet blazes across the sky.

But from the shyness that makes her book-character friends more appealing than real people to the parents whose indifference hurts more than an open wound, Comet has never wanted to be the center of attention. She can’t wait to graduate from her high school in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the only place she ever feels truly herself is on her anonymous poetry blog. But surely that will change once she leaves to attend university somewhere far, far away.

When new student Tobias King blazes in from America and shakes up the school, Comet thinks she’s got the bad boy figured out. Until they’re thrown together for a class assignment and begin to form an unlikely connection. Everything shifts in Comet’s ordinary world. Tobias has a dark past and runs with a tough crowd—and none of them are happy about his interest in Comet. Targeted by bullies and thrown into the spotlight, Comet and Tobias can go their separate ways…or take a risk on something extraordinary.

So I seem to be in the minority that didn't love this book. The Fragile Ordinary didn't have much blatantly wrong about it; I just felt like I wasn't emotionally impacted or invested. So, let's dig into some of my problems and what I thought was done well.

What I liked:

1) The Parent-Daughter Dynamics
Comet's relationship with her parents was complex, heartbreaking, and well-done. Her mom basically ignored her and her dad wasn't much better... and we see all these interesting conflicts arise from this. 
2) Stevie
Stevie - the character who would normally be the villain - was three dimensional and shown as an actual human being. Yes he did some bad things at the end, but I was invested in his story and sad about his ending. His story was also well-done.

What I didn't like:
1) Comet
I just couldn't connect to Comet. She's supposed to be relate-able to readers but it sounds forced. She says things like "I'm such a geek" and in general just seems unauthentically quirky? And this critique is coming from ME (a person who is maybe a little quirky). It's not the quirkiness I have a problem with; it's the less-than-genuine portrayal of it. 
2) The Romance
The romance was lacking. So I didn't care a whit about Tobias and I didn't care if he ended up with Comet. There's a problem there. 
3) The pacing/writing 
I was occasionally bored and I felt like the writing was a tiny bit juvenile. It was easily readable though - I just felt like the plot was slower and kind of bland. 

I mean it looks like I hated this book (I didn't!). I definitely liked parts. I just wasn't majorly impressed. But many people loved it so don't just take my word for it.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Review: The Idiot

The Idiot by Elif Batuman 

Selin, a tall, highly strung Turkish-American from New Jersey turns up at Harvard and finds herself dangerously overwhelmed by the challenges and possibilities of adulthood. She studies linguistics and literature, and spends a lot of time thinking about what language – and languages – can and cannot do. Along the way she befriends Svetlana, a cosmopolitan Serb, and obsesses over Ivan, a mathematician from Hungary.

Selin ponders profound questions about how culture and language shape who we are, how difficult it is to be a failed writer, and how baffling love is. At once clever and clueless, Batuman’s heroine shows us with perfect hilarity and soulful inquisitiveness just how messy it can be to forge a self.

I picked up The Idiot while in Britain on a summer trip. I had never heard of it before but something inexplicably drew me to it. I then read the synopsis and the blurbs and was sold; it was about a Harvard student and I was going to go see the campus while on a trip to Boston. The book came at the perfect time. Vanity Fair called it "masterfully funny" on the front cover so I thought I was in for a lighter read.

And it was hilarious; there's no doubt about it. There were so many parts that made me laugh out loud. SO many. Batuman, with her dry humor, has quite a talent for unexpectedly witty sentences. And there were so many thoughts of Selin's that resonated with me - so many quotes that I plan to write down and keep somewhere.

However, I really wouldn't classify this as light reading. There's reference after reference to famous literature, art, people etc. Selin is a student at Harvard, and while she is clueless about some things, she is also extraordinarily smart in academic areas. My brain definitely grew a bit after reading this (kind of like how the Grinch's heart grew in the 1966 movie... that's what it felt like) .

Also, while this book was funny, there were parts that were (kind of) depressing. And it wasn't like unbearably dreary stuff; Batuman simply portrayed life as it is - with all its ugliness and sharp edges. And what's amazing is that she doesn't even dwell on many horrible tidbits.

For example, Selin's friend Svetlana (who I found so interesting that I could easily write a ten page paper on her) divulges that she had an eating disorder and, upon finding out, her mother's only response was to tell her there were pills for making her skinny. And then her family continued to harangue her about her weight. Isn't that horrible? And all this information only took up like a small paragraph or two. It's grittily realistic. This is one of many examples of these breathtaking bombs Batuman surprises us with.

Another one of the more realistic (but not fun) parts of the book is seeing Selin struggle. She doesn't sleep, she lives in books, she's judgey etc. (she's going to get a B in Russian maybe... oh no) One of my favorite scenes is when she sees a therapist (I think... or some sort of counselor-type) and he diagnoses her flaws. Although she is still such a lovable character.

Then there's Ivan. Ohhhhhhh, he was one of Selin's worst decisions (and she made quite a few). I knew he was incredibly bad news from the get-go. And Selin discovers what it's like to get her heart broken and it sucks. But their relationship was weirdly intellectual; and their bond was so fascinating.

There's two parts of The Idiot in my mind: Harvard and Hungary. And both of these parts were just jam packed of things. I know "things" is a bad word (too vague) but that's what it felt like: so many people and classes and stories and anecdotes and thoughts. It was so stimulating. The section is Hungary was particularly a roller coaster of new people (which Selin herself comments on).

At the end Selin has less answers than she wanted, but I think she has more answers than she think she has. And, yes, she's still young and frustrated and confused... but please show me a college student who isn't. I'm sorry if I rambled during this review; but I could have rambled on for pages. So I guess you also should be thankful for my attempt at brevity at this late hour?

5/5 Stars

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 13, 2018

I'm Back!

I'm back from my trip to visit colleges! There were definitely colleges I loved and others that I axed off the list. I have to now start thinking about applying and writing my essays. Isn't that strange?

Sadly, I only managed to read like 2.5 books on my trip. Although, I also journaled everyday, walked a lottttttt, and took notes on prospective schools. So, it was a pretty productive venture.

Here's what I read on my trip:

When Dimple Met Rishi was cute, and I love the author (I stalk her on twitter), but I definitely had a few issues. I'll do a review soon and try to articulate my thoughts.

The Idiot, however, was absolutely amazing. Elif Batuman is an author to watch for sure. I'll definitely have a review for this since I cannot stop thinking about it.

So, what's next? I have my home studio ballet intensive to look forward to (along with the regular 5 days/week of classes all summer), a week-long family trip, college prep and extended essay writing, and hopefully lots more reading!