Review: Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Call Me by Your Name is a beautifully written, extremely honest and unique coming-of-age-slash-coming out novel.

The long, run-on sentences keep you reading so fast and will leave you a little breathless which is very effective in evoking powerful emotions from the reader. It’s like I couldn’t read fast enough. Through the writing style, the reader feels Elio’s desires so urgently and so passionately.

The writing is smart and romantic while the subtle humor makes it very entertaining and relatable despite the undercurrent of sadness.

“But I was too self-conscious, like someone trying to feel natural while walking about naked in a locker room only to end up aroused by his own nakedness” Lol!

Also, that poor peach fruit. ๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿ˜‚

The ending is sad and yet very meaningful and still hopeful, a message that what Elio and Oliver had was something so great and so strong that even if the universe seems to conspire against them, there might still be hope for a reconciliation which probably is the direction of the second book.

Later!

Review: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

โ€œHaving a grandmother is like having an army. This is a grandchildโ€™s ultimate privilege: knowing that someone is on your side always, whatever the details. Even when you are wrong. Especially then, in fact.โ€

I am seeing a trend in Fredrik Backman‘s books. In a ‘A Man Called Ove’, Ove is at first disliked by most of his neighbors being a grumpy old man but as the story progresses, he becomes well loved by everyone because he is able to significantly help their lives one way or another.

The same is true for My Grandmother Asked You to Tell Me She’s Sorry. Except in this book, Granny’s heroism not only in her grandchildโ€™s life but in many other lives as well is realized by her almost eight year old overly precocious grandchild, Elsa, after granny passed away. As Elsa embarks on the quest assigned to her by Granny before she died, Elsa learns that every person living in their apartment building has been significantly helped by Granny.

It’s certainly a creative, inclusive, heartwarming, and touching story that will make you laugh and cry a little too. It has a complete cast of characters, from a little girl to an ancient but hip granny, to a beast of a dog, to a super tall monster who is afraid of germs, and the rest of the neighbors and Elsa’s family. It’s a story about dysfunctional families, mental health, trauma, grief, and loss, mother-daughter relationships and how you can never really know why a person behaves a certain way unless you learned about their stories.

It was only a bit confusing and a little challenging to follow the plot sometimes because of the multitude of characters both in the real world and the Land-of-Almost-Awake but the messages resonated with me just the same and I think Mr. Backman wrote another clever and endearing novel in this book. I look forward to reading Britt Marie was Here.

Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ and a half


This is what I like about Kara Thomas‘s books. They’re just so easy to read, I could fly through the pages in just a matter of a few hours. It’s like she purposely makes all her characters just a little bit flawed so you wouldn’t want to fully trust them or feel particularly close to them. Instead, she pulls your attention toward the basic mystery of the missing girl.

Little Monsters therefore is your standard whodunnit thriller, it’s intriguing and engaging, without having to dispense much emotions for the characters. That’s what I call easy reading and boy, do we need plenty of those.

So even though most of the author’s books are just a three and a half star read for me, just like this one, because the revelations and ending are quite underwhelming, she would definitely remain my go-to author for quick YA thrillers. 

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ and a half

It was nostalgic reading this book. I felt like I was transported back to my college days when my professor would require us to read a classic novel and I would oblige begrudgingly not knowing that I would end up appreciating the novel. Nobody required me to read The Good Earth though but it was strongly recommended by a newfound friend and I wanted to challenge my reads so I decided to go for it.

The book was written like a tale, and as most tales, it is a moral story and has a very universal appeal. Much of the events are highly symbolic. It wouldn’t matter what your race is, I think anyone who reads this will be able to relate with the characters, their beginnings, their small and huge achievements, acquiring land they never dared dream of, their struggles, and eventually of their end and how much of Wang Lung and O-lan‘s life revolved around their much coveted land, ‘the good earth.’

The book also touched a lot of issues like gender inequality, oppression, slavery, most of which have been suffered and experienced by O-lan who is a figure of great strength and resilience even till her death and I couldn’t help but appreciate the lives of the many women who suffered a great deal when women didn’t have much rights. O-lan is mostly the reason why I liked the book and why I decided to persevere despite the writing even though beautifully descriptive and also hilarious at certain places…

โ€œAnd what will we do with a pretty woman? We must have a woman who will tend the house and bear children as she works in the fields, and will a pretty woman do these things? She will be forever thinking about clothes to go with her face!โ€

โ€œNow will you be so polite as to fall on your face like this before the Old Mistress?โ€

…is also a little verbose and bordering into apathetic. I also felt really bad that Wang Lungโ€™s emotional capacity has degraded over the years. I thought from their vast experience, he would have learned to really love O-lan. So sad. The author is trying to make it real though, I understand that.

But overall, I would still see this book as a literary masterpiece reminiscent of two of my favorite classics, ‘The Pearl’ by John Steinbeck and the short story, ‘Wedding Dance’ written by Amador Daguio, a Filipino author.

Review: Scythe by Neil Shusterman

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

This is very entertaining. I didn’t realize I missed reading dystopian slash utopian types of books until I picked up Scythe. The world building is very interesting. It’s the 2040s and there is no longer natural death, there is no poverty, no crimes, no government, no accidents which therefore leads to this end result-scythes are required to glean the lives of people in order to sustain population balance. And in the midst of this so called scythedom, two teenagers, Citra and Rowan (who remind me just a little of Katniss and Peeta, *winks*) are chosen to be apprentices to compete against each other to become a scythe, except only one of them could be victorious and the victor will have to glean the life of the loser.

There’s plenty of humor throughout the book even though the story is generally morbid.

โ€œOh, go glean yourself,โ€ Lol.

I especially liked the scythes’ journal entries especially those of Hon. Curie’s. I think those journal entries are what made the entire book more appealing and more substantial. Also, the plot twists are quite surprising and exciting too.

And as with most dystopian-utopian stories, plenty of philosophies about life, death, morality and the likes come to play at the center of the plot which makes the story even more riveting. Of course, this is not to say that the book is free from flaws and absurdities, there are plenty of those but they are just the right amount to convince me to still employ suspension of disbelief.

Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

*Please forgive the lengthy review. Got carried away.^^*

A delightful, sensational read but also surprisingly touching that by the last quarter of the book, I’ve become a blubbering mess. This is a very enjoyable, entertaining, educative, eye-opening and emotional historical fiction.

Vivian, now an old lady, writes to Angela to explain what her relationship was to Angela’s father and so she starts with the very beginning, with her exploits as a 19-year old girl who was then only interested about fashion and more trivial things that she abandoned her college education and went to New York to stay with her Aunt Peg who owns Lily Playhouse.

Vivian’s self-deprecating humor and honesty make her a very entertaining narrator. Her passion and exceptional talent in sewing and tailoring as well as her extraordinary eye for beauty are magnets to the reader’s aesthetics sensibilities. The narrative is so easy to read. There are 450 + pages but I couldn’t allow myself to miss a single word. In fact, even though Vivian is already elaborating about her sexual conquests, they don’t feel raunchy at all, they’re actually comically irreverent.

Beauty, show girls, fashion, glamour, style, comical musical stage plays, the art of dressmaking and building costumes- these are what make up the first half of the plot and I am not in the slightest bit a fashionable person but even I was enamored at everything that I was reading.

Perhaps it’s because of Vivian’s uniquely dynamic development as a character which took an absolute 360-degree turn but it’s also specifically because of the historical backdrop of the plot which is New York from 1940 till 2010. Not only did I get to see Vivian impressively mature and grow through the years, but I was also able to picture New York City in its post-world war years, including its crucial as well as formative period, even the notable and eventful “flower-power” years through Vivian’s eyes and it honestly was an incredible reading experience.

Written with exquisite attention to detail and elaborate research, the novel developed into a larger than life story filled with so much heart, humor, and honesty and graced with characters so flawed and yet so real, laced with a philosophical reminder that people are made up of both good things and bad, that we go through awful life circumstances whether they’re self-inflicted or not but those are not the things that define us. They’re not what indicate the inherent goodness in a person and as Vivian finally reaches an all-encompassing acceptance of the flawed nature of human beings, she learns to accept herself and starts to realize that she doesn’t have to be a good girl to be a good person and a loyal friend, she’s pretty much the perfect symbol of New York itself.

Without a doubt, City of Girls, is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ and a half

I was initially bothered by the lack of quotes. I could imagine the author looking all smug, acting like she’s beyond such silly grammatical indicators when she deliberately decided not to use them. But as the story pushes through, I got used to it and soon learned the meaning of an obviously conscious writing choice. Because this book is all about defying or contradicting norm considering nothing about this book is normal.

It’s a huge irony, that’s what this book is beginning with the title itself. Connell and Marianne are definitely not normal people, far from it really and that’s why even though I often felt frustrated over their “breakups” because of a simple miscommunication, I still felt for them and understood them. Because for them, nothing is ever that simple or normal. It’s honestly depressing and yet I just couldn’t stop reading.

Normal People isn’t your standard romance. This is highly philosophical and quite literary too. The writing is bold and unflinching, like it seems to say that life is what it is, people usually become messed up because of their crappy upbringing and that’s that. Lucky if they could still find that one person who will completely understand and love them for who they are. And yet, the meaning still resonates in my heart and I was quite affected. I felt really bad for Marianne, her negative view of herself because of her awful experience with her family.

The ending is believable. It makes you want to believe different possibilities for Marianne and Connell and at the rate they’re going, what happens to them is very unpredictable but it gives room for hope.

This review comes with a warning though. Several sensitive issues and topics were touched in the novel so please read with caution.

Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

“If you will forgive me for being personal- I do not like your face, Mr. Ratchett”

I’m feeling pretty proud of myself because finally, I have read an Agatha Christie novel. I feel like I’ve earned a membership in a secret elite book club or something. But it’s not really only after a self fulfilling purpose that I am now putting this book on its rightful pedestal because this is certainly a very clever, witty, twisty, unexpected, and enjoyable detective story and Ms. Christie truly deserved to earn that Queen of Mystery title.

The mystery was like solving an intricate puzzle not very different from those old mind games I used to play when I was younger. Like that hangman mystery. A man committed suicide and there is a pool of water underneath him…and so on, just please Google it. They make you really think and like Mr. Boug, at some point my head did ache a little but it was all worth it. In the end, it was a complete surprise. I hadn’t any clue of that possibility.

Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Iโ€™m still forcing foreign lumps back in my throat after reading Turtles All the Way Down. It feels like an epiphanic moment for me to finally figure out why Mr. Green used that title and damn, Iโ€™m still sniffing thinking about it. Sure, The Fault In Our Stars made me cry eight years ago but back then that book felt like its very sole mission is to make me cry and honestly I resented that story a bit (or a lot to be truthful), that tragic twist in the end. Ugh!

But this book, itโ€™s so genuine and relatable and emotional, and just a fair warning to readers, it could trigger so many emotions possibly including anxiety so please do read it with caution.

“Well, everyoneโ€™s crazy these days, Dr. Singh. Adolescent sanity is so twentieth century.โ€

โ€œItโ€™s so weird, to know youโ€™re crazy and not be able to do something about it, you know? Itโ€™s not like you believe yourself to be normal. You know there is a problem. But you canโ€™t figure a way through to fixing it. Because you canโ€™t be sure, you know? “

Nobody died (at least not amongst the major characters] but I find myself often tearing up quietly from time to time while reading the book. Itโ€™s a very beautifully written, honest story about what it really means to have anxiety that the word anxiety couldnโ€™t even begin to really describe that particular condition that starts mentally and pushes its way out physically.

โ€œBut you give your thoughts too much power, Aza. Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself , even when your thoughts donโ€™t.โ€

โ€œYouโ€™re both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. Youโ€™re the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. Youโ€™re the storyteller and the story told. You are somebodyโ€™s something, but you are also you.โ€

โ€œDr. Singh liked to say that an unwanted thought was like a car driving past you when youโ€™re standing on the side of the road, and I told myself I didnโ€™t have to get into that car, that my moment of choice was not whether to have the thought, but whether to be carried away by it.โ€

Of all John Green characters, Aza might yet by my favorite to date. Sheโ€™s a believable, genuine character with plausible mental health concerns and I just want to encase her in a place of safety if there is such a thing so she wouldnโ€™t spiral into those evil, nagging thoughts threatening her very life. But the story is also very honest and direct that this condition is โ€œnot uncommonโ€ as Dr. Singh put it as a gentle reminder, and hopefully and encouragement that anyone who has anxiety or other mental health problems is never alone.