Reading Wrap-Up | November 2015

So I read 9 books this month! I’m impressed with myself. That’s the most I’ve read in a while! Three of the books are not pictured as they were read in eBook form. I read a real stinker this month, but I also read a couple 5 star books so I’m pretty happy with November!

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

My rating: 4/5 Stars

This book is about a teenage girl with schizophrenia who struggles everyday to tell the difference between reality and her delusions. This makes for a compelling, unreliable narrator. I really enjoyed this book; definitely recommend!

Fates and Furies by Lauren GroffFates and Furies by Lauren Groff

My rating: 2/5 Stars

Didn’t like anything about this. Pretentious writing, vapid characters, boring and unimpactful plot. Not the literary masterpiece it is said to be (at least in my opinion).

Full Review

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

My rating: 4/5 Stars

This was such a pleasure to read! Representation for plus size girls (who don’t hate themselves… imagine it!) in YA is always appreciated. Lots of great messages about self-love and not being afraid to grab life by the horns.

Full Review

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 3.5/5 Stars

This book is pretty much everything you love about a full-length Gillian Flynn novel, but in a compacted form. I really enjoyed it and would have even liked to see this story fleshed out into a full novel. Personally, I just wasn’t a fan of the way she ended it, so that’s where points came off.

Full Review

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 3.5/5 Stars

After trying SO many times, I finally got into this book and finished it! I found it to be enjoyable, but ultimately very predictable. Still interested to read the rest of the series!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

My rating: 4.5/5 Stars

This was such a beautiful coming of age story. I think Ari and Dante are the sweetest and most likeable main characters I’ve ever come across. Loved it.

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

An incredibly important book that I think everyone should read. It’s about Yeonmi Park’s life in North Korea under the Kim dictators, the human trafficking she suffered when defecting to China and her life after making it to freedom in South Korea. It was very informative and incredibly inspiring.

Full Review

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 5/5 Stars

This book didn’t suffer from a sophomore slump in the slightest! It was just as good (if not better) than The Raven Boys. This installment focused more on Ronan and we got to find out a lot more about him which was very interesting. If you loved The Raven Boys, definitely continue on!

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

My rating: 5/5 Stars

I can definitely see why this is regarded as a modern classic. This is the story of a small group of students who have a hand in killing one of their classmates. The very first page of the book tells us this. The Secret History isn’t about who did it as much as the motivation behind why they did it and the repercussions of it. Loved it!

Full Review

Those are my brief thoughts on all the books I read this month. Have you read any of them? What did you think?

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Book Review | The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Gripping, Slow-Burn Goodness

The Secret History - Donna TarttTitle: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Literary Fiction – Thriller/Suspense
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date: September 4, 1992
Pages: 576

Synopsis:

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

Review:

What’s the protocol for reviewing super old books? In the 20+ years this has been out I’m sure it’s been reviewed an infinite amount of times. I suppose I am mostly writing out my thoughts to convince others who may be on the fence about checking out her work to pick this up.

Our narrator is Richard. He comes from a humble background in California and he has parents who don’t particularly care about him and who he doesn’t get along with. He decides to go to Hampden College in Vermont to get as far away from them as possible. At this college is a Greek class taught by a professor named Julian. What’s special about this class is that he is very particular about who can join and he teaches every class these students take. The class only contains 5 students. Richard is entranced with this group of greek students and does his damnedest to be included in the class. Eventually he is let in, and that’s where everything starts.

The Secret History - Donna Tartt

“[…] Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.”

The very first page of the book tells us that one of the elite students of their greek class is dead and the other students in the class had a hand in killing him. This is clearly not a book about who did it, but rather WHY they did it. What was the motivation? What could have possibly caused them to kill someone who was seemingly their good friend? What were the repercussions of doing it?

I have to applaud Donna Tartt. This book is not only nearly 600 pages, but extremely dense. Even though I knew that Bunny would die, I was completely gripped as I was reading. This book is very much a slow-burn. You can’t just rush through The Secret History. You really have to spend time with it and ruminate in it.

And the characters? Not one of them was a good person. Not even Richard. But even though these people did bad things, you still find yourself empathizing with them and even wanting them to get away with what they’ve done. Tartt really did some amazing things in this book. Each detail, each and every sentence was masterfully crafted.

I think my favorite thing about the book was the underlying tense and suspenseful tone. You just got this feeling that more was going on than what was being shown on the surface.

I really enjoyed this book, and I definitely want to read her other books after experiencing The Secret History. Her writing and storytelling style is right up my alley.

5 Stars!

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Thanksgiving Holiday Reading!

So I’ve taken the whole of next week off to create my paid Thanksgiving holiday! I’m excited about it! I do like my job, but a break is quite nice. I don’t take much time off and I try to I save my holidays for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I plan to use my break to catch up on things. Like I am currently finishing up the anime Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which I started months and months ago but got put on hold somehow. It’s really good by the way, if you haven’t watched it or are looking for a good anime. The storyline is fantastic and well-developed.

As far as reading goes, I’m currently reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This book is kind of a modern classic and I’ve only heard great things about it so I wanted to pick it up. I’ve read about 80 pages so far and I am enjoying it! I’ll talk a bit more about it in my November wrap-up once I’ve finished it.

What are your Thanksgiving plans looking like? And what are you currently reading? 

 

Book Review | In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park: Incredibly Informative and Inspiring

Title: In Order To Live
Author: Yeonmi Park with Maryanne Vollers
Genre: Biography – Memoir
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Pages: 288

Synopsis:

In In Order to Live, Park shines a light not just into the darkest corners of life in North Korea, describing the deprivation and deception she endured and which millions of North Korean people continue to endure to this day, but also onto her own most painful and difficult memories. She tells with bravery and dignity for the first time the story of how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea—and to freedom.

Park’s testimony is rare, edifying, and terribly important, and the story she tells in In Order to Live is heartbreaking and unimaginable, but never without hope. Her voice is riveting and dignified. This is the human spirit at its most indomitable.

My Thoughts:

It feels weird to be doing a “review” of this book. To review this book would be like rating her experiences and her life. In actuality, I am not really reviewing this book as much as sharing what I took from it and why it’s important that others read this book and educate themselves, as well.

“I am grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.”

I had heard North Korea called the most oppressive and horrible place on Earth many times, but I didn’t know any details about the country. In this book, Park shares stories of her life, as well as information about her parents and grandparents’ lives in North Korea. It was incredibly enlightening to read.

The Kim Dictators brainwash the people of North Korea into believing that they are essentially Gods and that North Korea is a prosperous country, despite the fact that everyone is starving and technological advances are decades behind. In In Order to Live, Yeonmi recounts having a dream when she was young that she was sitting on the lap of one of the Kim Dictators and he had given her candy. She said it was her most precious memory for a while. Reading that made me realize the extent of the mental manipulation that occurs.

In the “China” section of the book, Park shares her experiences with being trafficked. She originally thought she’d never share that part of her life as she found it shameful, but she wanted to bring light to what happens to around 70% of North Korean women who defect to China. I am 25 and in my mind, I am a young person. Yeonmi park is only 22. It’s hard to believe that so many horrible things happened to such a young woman. The entire time I was reading I just kept thinking, “That could be me. What would I do in that situation?” Honestly, I’m not sure I would have had such a strong will to survive as Yeonmi Park had. Her determination is so inspiring.

“I Am A Revolutionary, Not a Victim”

Yeonmi Park is now a Human Rights Activist who is diligently working to bring attention to the oppression in her home country. It’s amazing to see how far she has come. Stories like hers really give you a kick in the ass. Many of us have basic necessities, material things and opportunities that we take for granted everyday. There’s so much we can do if we just try.

If I were to rate this book, I would give it 5 stars. I’m not usually interested in history or biographies, but this memoir was fascinating and thought-provoking. If memoirs aren’t usually your thing, I’d still urge you to give this one a try.


I’d like to leave you with this video where Yeonmi Park spoke at the 2014 One Young World Summit in Dublin, Ireland. The Summit brought together 1,250 young leaders from 190 countries to debate and devise solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. The introduction does include a lot of key details from the book, but just not as in-depth.