3 stars · Book Reviews · literary fiction

Review | Normal People

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Normal People by Sally Rooney
Hogarth Press, 2019
Literary Fiction
273 pages
3/5 Stars

Katie, a white woman, holds a copy of "Normal People" by Sally Rooney.

Trigger Warnings: Abuse, suicide, self-harm.

GoodReads Synopsis

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

Review

This book took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions and opinions and thoughts. This book was… a lot.

I started out absolutely loving it. The way it was written reminded me of a lot of the books I read as an English major in college, and it took me back. And then… it got weird.

There was a lot of unexpected stuff. Not plot twist unexpected, more like wait where did this come from and why is this being brought up unexpected. it was a lot. I found it difficult to read and seriously thought about DNFing it, but I’m actually glad I didn’t.

While the ending wasn’t what I wanted, it was realistic and also hopeful enough to make me feel like the characters weren’t completely shitty people. If you’ve hung out here a bit, you’ll know I’m a sucker for a good ending. While this ending didn’t redeem the book entirely for me, it did help me appreciate it and the characters a little more.

But not enough to want to watch the Hulu series. I’ve had enough of Marianne and Connell.

Perfect for former English majors who want to relive their glory days.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · literary fiction

Book Review: “The End of the Affair”

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The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Audible Audio, 2012 (first published in 1951)
Literary Fiction
Audiobook (6.5 hours listening time)
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Infidelity, Character Illness and Death, Catholicism

GoodReads Synopsis:

Graham Greene’s evocative analysis of the love of self, the love of another, and the love of God is an English classic that has been translated for the stage, the screen, and even the opera house. Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”, “A Single Man”) turns in an authentic and stirring performance for this distinguished audio release.

The End of the Affair, set in London during and just after World War II, is the story of a flourishing love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah Miles. After a violent episode at Maurice’s apartment, Sarah suddenly and without explanation breaks off the affair. This very intimate story about what actually constitutes love is enhanced by Mr. Firth’s narration, who said “this book struck me very, very particularly at the time when I read it and I thought my familiarity with it would give the journey a personal slant.”

Review:

This was at least my third time reading it, the first time being in one of my English classes in college. I own the Audible audiobook that’s narrated by Colin Firth, so that makes it even better!

When I read the book in college, I was a devout Catholic, and I absolutely adored it. It became my favorite book overall, and when I decided to reread it recently, I wondered if it would live up to how I remembered it, even though I’m no longer a devout Catholic.

And ya’ll… it did. Even as a non-practicing Catholic, the book blew me away. The writing is incredible, the characters are all just unlikable enough, but not too unlikable, and the role that Catholicism plays in the story and lives of the main characters is more than just a advertisement for the religion. The story is filled with mess, and stickiness, and love, and hatred, and humanity.

Something that’s kind of cool about me is that I’ve had the same GoodReads account for over ten years, so I could see that my original rating for this book was five stars. I’m happy to report back that over five years after I initially read it… it still gets five stars from me. This book is flawless in my eyes, and further amplified by Colin Firth’s incredible narration.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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4 stars · Book Reviews · Feminism · literary fiction

Book Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale”

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Audible Studios, 2017
Literary Fiction
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings:

GoodRead Synopsis:

After a violent coup in the United States overthrows the Constitution and ushers in a new government regime, the Republic of Gilead imposes subservient roles on all women. Offred, now a Handmaid tasked with the singular role of procreation in the childless household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost everything, even her own name. Despite the danger, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life for mere glimpses of her former freedom, and records her story for future listeners.

Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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4 stars · Book Reviews · literary fiction · Reading

Book Review: “Black Buck”

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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021
Literary Fiction
400 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Racism, the ‘R’ word, the ‘N’ word, violence, workplace related harassment and racism

Synopsis:

For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems.

There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission.

An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor.

After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.

Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

From GoodReads

Review:

Ya’ll. This BOOK! It was all over Instagram, and I initially bought it for a read-a-thon I participated in in January that required I read a book published in January 2021. Although I didn’t get to read it until February, I think it was the perfect book for Black History Month.

This book was incredibly well written. I immediately cared about Darren/Buck and his journey, and felt angry when he experienced the overt racism of his coworkers. I saw how the system was stacked against him, and how he was tokenized, and I was immediately mad about it.

Humor is an iffy thing for me. I have a very specific type of humor that can be summed up in two words: John Mulaney. I knew going in that this was satire, but I felt uncomfortable at many of the jokes while reading it, which is why I think it’s crucial that everyone reads this book, or at least more books that push them beyond their comfort zone.

But the shining moment was the ending. As I’ve said in previous reviews, endings can make or break a book for me. Give me an over the top proposal in a romance novel, and I’m yours. This was not a Happy Ending. It was a Enraging Ending. But my goodness, everything that happened in the last few chapters was absolutely incredibly well done. My mom tried to talk to me while I was reading the last few pages, and I yelled at her because I was so engrossed. It was heartbreaking, and unjust, and absolutely mind-blowing. I will never forget the roller coaster of emotions that the ending of this book sent me on.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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4 stars · Book Reviews · Lifestyle · literary fiction · Reading · romance

Book Review: “Crazy Rich Asians”

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Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Doubleday, 2013
Literary Fiction / Romance
403 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Mentions of suicidality and infidelity, harassment.

GoodReads Synopsis:

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.

Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich

Review:

I actually received this book during my Cousins’ Secret Santa gift exchange in 2019 (thanks, Tina!) after seeing and loving the movie. I finally got around to reading it when I was doing a read-a-thon last month that required I read a book starting with a ‘C’ or a ‘G’, and I’m glad I did!

I really loved this book, and I loved how closely the movie followed the book! Obviously there were a few differences, but while reading the book, I could visualize the movie so well.

One thing I absolutely loved about the book was how supportive Nick was. One thing that bothers me in a lot of romance books is how the male lead can be possessive, or put his own interests before his partner. Nick was, quite frankly, the perfect partner. He put Rachel’s wellbeing before his own, did what was good for her, not what was good for him or their relationship. I absolutely fell hell over heels in love with the man.

Another thing I really appreciated was how much deeper Michael’s issues with Astrid and her family went. In the movie, it is shown that he is having an affair because of his insecurities and dissatisfaction with their marriage. In the book however, oh, it’s so much worse.

If you don’t want to be spoiled, I recommend you stop reading now.

Okay. So. Michael basically stages an affair to get out of his marriage. Like “the other woman” was actually his cousin and they set it up to make it look like they’re having an affair. Personally, I think that’s even worse than having an affair because of the effort he put in to hurting Astrid. Reading about it was absolutely wild.

One thing I liked better in the movie, though, was the ending. The movie ends with Nick and Rachel reuniting and celebrating their engagement with their families and friends with his mother’s blessing and ring The book, however, ended with some uncertainty, which I think is more realistic. After everything that his family had put her through, I can understand why Rachel wouldn’t want to jump right back into the relationship.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book! It made me want to travel to Asia, and find me a man like that Nick Young.

If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself, please consider purchasing from an independent bookstore, or if that isn’t possible for you, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate Link.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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