Review of The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

Full disclosure: I’m a John Green fanatic. He is hands-down one of my favorite authors. In all of the fiction novels he’s written, he has such a unique and authentic voice that shines through so it was so awesome to read something that was simply coming from him and not one of his characters. I really can’t say enough good things about this book to

This collection of essays is a poetic, but realistic, examination of the little nuances that humanity contributes to the world around us. In a time where we are often inundated with just how harmful humans can be to each other and Earth as a whole, Green celebrates the flaws that make the human condition what it is. He somehow manages to make something as mundane and ridiculous as the largest ball of paint a vector for commentary on larger themes of the human condition that would resonate with anyone.

This was exactly what I needed to recover after the whirlwind that was The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. For an even more ~elevated~ experience, I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook because one, it’s narrated by Green himself and two, theres 3 bonus essays that aren’t in the book. My personal favorite one is called “Mortification,” and it talks about the highlight reel that Green experiences when he tries to sleep of all the embarrassing things he’s even done in his life which is VERY relatable to this anxious gal.

5 out of 5 stars

Review of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

*This review contains mild spoilers*

In this book, every day at 11pm Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11pm. Aiden Bishop is tasked with solving this murder in order to break this horrific cycle, however, each day he wakes up in a different “host” that are varying degrees of helpful in saving Evelyn.

Honestly, this book is the wildest fever dream you’ve ever had mixed with Inception with a hefty dollop of thriller to keep things interesting. Up until the 53rd chapter Turton’s work had absolutely captivated me. This concept was so different than the mystery/thriller plots that I’m typically drawn to that I simply couldn’t put it down. I was so grateful that I had found this book during my Covid quarantine throughout Christmas and New Years. However, after the true story behind Aiden and Anna was revealed, the remaining seven chapters felt quite strained and a bit insufferable to push through. Instead of devouring each page on the edge of my seat, I found myself fairly drained by these characters. Without giving too much away, I found the pseudo-happily-ever-after for two of the characters to be far-fetched and frustrating. 

Ultimately, reading this book felt like riding an emotional rollercoaster while simultaneously trying to solve a geometry proof. I still feel the need to rate this book rather highly because it was so captivating for so long. However, after so much emotional turmoil as a reader, I was disappointed with how everything shook out in the end. 

3.5 out of 5 stars

Review of Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Happy 2022 Friends! One of my New Years resolutions was to read and write more so I’m going to try my hardest to resurrect this little passion project of mine that I keep coming back to. I had a lot of time to read and write reviews while I was stuck in quarantine with Covid this past Christmas & New Years so I figured I’d get back to blogging. My goal is to post once a week (but go easy on me if things get a little crazy with school & work). Anyways, hope you enjoy my thoughts on this book & happy reading!

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Wish You Were Here is narrated by Diana O’Toole who is “right on schedule” with her life plan. She has a great job at Sotheby’s, living with her boyfriend Finn who is a surgical resident, and she is about to go on one-in a life-time getaway to the Galapagos where, judging by the little blue box in his underwear drawer, Finn is about to propose to her. Then, the pandemic hits and everything changes. While Finn is required to work obscene hours fighting on the frontlines against COVID, Diana takes his suggestion and goes to the Galapagos on her own. 

Much to my surprise, I found this book to be frustrating. As a nurse still working on the front lines of this seemingly never-ending pandemic, the book was somewhat triggering for me. While I appreciated the research that went in to what front line workers were going through in March of 2020 as we desperately tried to figure out how to save people from this virus, it felt way too soon to fictionalize and memorialize. The language was very far-fetched at times. I have been a nurse for a few years now and never felt the need to use words like “cytokine storm” to my significant other which made the emails from Finn off-putting to me. While I recognized Picoult’s attempts to use much needed science to convey to the reader how dire the situation was, when the lay person can’t understand the language, it’s not as successful. 

Without giving away any spoilers, I appreciated the themes that resonated throughout the book about making the most of a second chance and living your most authentic life possible but overall, I felt like the wounds of the pandemic were just to raw to read a book about it. I was also frustrated by the way Finn’s character developed. I felt like he was characterized as being so rigid and not being able to deviate from the plan that him and Diana had dreamt of for themselves, yet I think the fact of the matter is that he was surrounded by uncertainty and death every day, he just wanted something concrete and worthwhile to cling to. 

Jodi Picoult’s work always will have a special place in my heart but this one missed the mark for me. I was disappointed by the lack of multiple perspectives which she so eloquently does in her works which create a unique level of depth. This in combination with the overall theme of the plot made it challenging for me to get through.

3 out of 5 stars

Review of The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

I was absolutely over the moon to receive an ARC of Jodi Picoult’s latest book which comes out September 22nd 2020 called The Book of Two Ways. This woman can truly do no wrong in my book and this novel did not disappoint. In this novel, Dawn Edelstein survives a plane crash and in what she believes to be her last moments, she thinks about a long lost love of hers named Wyatt Armstrong instead of her husband Brian and daughter, Meret. Following the crash, the airline provides transportation anywhere the survivors want to go. Dawn is faced with a choice: to return to Boston and continue life as she knows it working as a death doula with her husband and daughter or to return to the archaeological site in Egypt where she last saw Wyatt and finish what she started.

loved this book. I am always so impressed with how well researched Picoult is in each of her novels and this one is no different. I learned more about Egyptology and quantum physics than I ever thought I would reading a fiction novel! It is this meticulous research that is a hallmark of Picoult’s work that makes her characters jump off the page. All of this information is impeccably woven into the storyline in the unique voices of each of the characters therefore it flowed organically and ultimately enhanced the reading experience. This was one of those books that I struggled to started another one afterwards because I felt like I had to mourn the loss of a friendship I had formed with all of the characters in this book.

I loved how flawed Dawn is as a protagonist. She tries desperately to do the right thing but still ends up hurting the people she loves and wants to protect the most which is a sentiment that I think any reader can relate to. I thought Picoult’s choice to make her pursue a career as a death doula after abandoning her PhD work with Wyatt was so fitting because it felt as though she was mourning the ending of her own life as she knew it as she helped each client of hers leave this world.

Honestly, I can’t recommend this book enough. It has something in it for everyone and captures love and heartbreak, life and death, and so many other themes of life in such a captivating way. Thank you to NetGalley & Jodi Picoult for giving me the opportunity to enjoy this book before hits shelves on September 22nd 2020! 

5 out of 5 stars 

 

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Review of Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Hi friends–it’s been a minute! So much has changed in my life but my book addiction is still going strong! Although I’m still going to work (#nurselife), quarantine life has provided me with even more time to read. I had just finished Sally Rooney’s second novel Normal People (review to come) when this COVID-19 madness started and loved it so much I wanted to read anything and everything she’s ever written. Thus, my last purchase from my favorite local bookstore before it closed its doors for quarantine was Sally Rooney’s first novel entitled Conversations with Friends.  

Conversations with Friends is about ex-girlfriends and best friends Bobbi and Frances who meet a photographer Melissa at one of their local poetry readings and are slowly drawn into her and her husband Nick’s world. As time goes on, Frances and Nick develop a level of intimacy that pushes the boundaries of his marriage with Melissa and the complex relationship between her and Bobbi which this book dives into.

It’s safe to say I have a love-hate relationship with the characters in this book, which speaks to Rooney’s incredible writing style and expert ability to create such deeply flawed characters. Frances and Bobbi are frustratingly relatable. I don’t think I’ve ever read an author that developed such complex and three dimensional characters within the first few chapters of their book. She allows them to be so vulnerable about their insecurities and difficult pasts but still creates a level of mystery that, even in my greatest moments of frustration with Frances and Bobbi’s decisions, left me unable to stop turning the pages. I couldn’t help but recognize bits of myself and various people in my life in them but the trajectory of their character development often left me contemplating some of the less than favorable aspects of myself and humanity as a whole.  Ultimately, Rooney perfectly captures the distinct and often toxic self-absorption that is often rampant in young adulthood. 

My only critique is that I was slightly disappointed by the ending. Without giving too much away, I feel like I needed a little more resolution. While I respected the fact that Rooney resolved many of the story’s conflicts in a way that was authentic to the characters she created, the ending felt as though there wasn’t as much growth from the characters and I had hoped. That being said, I overall enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend to anyone that’s looking for a new and distinct voice in the fiction world.

4/5 stars

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I’m baaaaaaack//Review of Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Helloooo, it’s me! Sorry it’s been so long since I last posted! I hit a bit of a reading rut but I’m back in action. Here’s my review of Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me.

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After a man decided to explain psychology to me even after I told him repeatedly that I got my bachelors degree in that exact subject, it seemed only fitting to make Make Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit my next read. In this collection of related essays, Solnit employs humor to offer a rather cutting analysis of the problematic discourse that occurs between men and women. Specifically, she focuses on the assumption that many men make that they are all knowing and women are not and how this wrongful assumption is rooted in cultural inequality that that continues to perpetuate the inferiority of women.

To put it simply, Solnit’s analysis was absolutely spot on. She eloquently explain what it means to be a modern women, from the casual, everyday sexism, to the very real fear of being raped and murdered, with a level of clarity that any manplainer wishes he could achieve. Her explanation of the many ways in which women are silenced by men was heightened by her use of personal anecdotes and specific examples from men “cutting you off at the dinner table or conference” to “threatening you if you open your mouth” (Solnit 140). Ultimately, Solnit strikes the perfect balance between a frightening survey of what it means to be a woman in today’s world, a call to action, and a light at the end of the “thousand-mile road” (Solnit 140) that keeps us moving forward.

My only criticism of the essays was the chapter entitled “Woolf’s Darkness,”which focused entirely on the work of Virginia Woolf and how her works tied in to modern feminism. Maybe it’s due to my own ignorance when it comes to her work, but I felt as though the chapter was a bit too tangential and interrupted the flow of the incredibly argument that Solnit built upon throughout the chapters the preceded and followed “Woolf’s Darkness.”

Men Explain things to Me is an incredibly powerful collection of essays that accurately captures the need for modern feminism. From the every day microaggressions to the terrifying rate at which women are being permanently silenced by men, Solnit’s work is an incredibly important piece of social commentary that everyone should learn from.

5 out of 5 stars

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Review of Mexico by Josh Barkan

I’m not usually drawn to collections of short stories however, after my local Barnes and Noble rearranged the ENTIRE fiction section, I made this rather rash book buying decision. Luckily, this ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made. Mexico follows the stories of various characters who are simply living their lives and trying their best to avoid the violence surrounding the. Regardless of their best efforts to do the right thing and make the best lives for themselves, the violence manages to impact their decisions and day-to-day experiences.

The reason I usually steer clear of short story collections is because I feel as though they can be disjointed. Just as I feel connected to the characters in one story, it’s time to move onto the next one which I find very frustrating. Barkan, on the other hand, created a truly cohesive and moving collection of vignettes. He manages to transport the reader within each story with the strong, unique voices of each character and reaches a level a closure as the end of each one which allows for a seamless transition onto the next story. Furthermore, each story leaves the reader wrestling with the question of what really is the right thing to do in many of the circumstances each character faces, among other important questions about the human condition. Ultimately, the organic way in which Barkan captures how the violence from the cartels manages to snake its way into the lives of even the most innocent individuals is what makes this book so unique.

Mexico is a truly remarkable collection of short stories. I could not but this book down for the life of me because I was so moved by each characters story. Despite being a work of fiction, Mexico offers a refreshing perspective on what Mexican citizens are enduring in their day to day lives. If you’re looking for a book that no other collection of short stories will compare to, be sure to bump Barkan’s Mexico to the top of your reading list. You won’t regret it.

5 out of 5 stars

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Review of Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

I am an absolute sucker for a good story about man’s best friend so when I happened about Steven Rowley’s Lily and the Octopus at my local public library, I couldn’t help myself. To put it simply, this story is about a man named Ted whose best friend is his aging dachshund named Lily. After discovering a tumor, or “octopus,” on her head, Ted struggles to come to terms with losing the one thing he never imagined life without.

As someone who lost a four-legged friend to an octopus of her own, I thought Rowley did a phenomenal job of capturing the unique bond between a person and their dog as well as the heart-wrenching moments when you are forced to say goodbye. However, I thoughts the personification of Lily’s brain tumor as an octopus watered down the significance of Ted and Lily’s relationship. As cheesy as it may sound, I found myself longing for a montage that showed how Lily has helped Ted through his various struggles. Instead, the reader is left to navigate these seemingly never-ending, elaborate, octopus-destroying fantasies that left me very confused. While I understand that referring to the tumor as an”octopus” was a coping mechanism for Ted, there were many moments, such as the inflatable shark bit, where I thought it went too far and absolutely overpowered what could have been a truly remarkable story.

While I do find Steven Rowley to be a very talented writer overall, I believe this story could have been a lot better. To put this book in the same league as Life of Pi simply because they both feature fantastical relationships between man and animals is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion. While Yann Martel’s Life of Pi offered eloquent and thought-provoking commentary on the human condition, Steven Rowley’s “octopus” did nothing more than detract from the beautiful relationship between Ted and Lily.

3 out of 5 stars

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Review of The Mortifications by Derek Palacio

I received The Mortifications by Derek Palacio through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a review and honestly, I couldn’t make it past the first fifty pages. Set in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift, this novel follows the Encarnaciones, a Cuban family that is torn apart by the revolution. While Uxbal, the patriarch of the family, chooses to remain in Cuba, Soledad and their two children Isabel and Ulises migrate to Hartford, CT in search of a better life.

I had such high hopes for this book. Although this novel took place during an era that I am quite unfamiliar with, I looked forward to learning from and falling in love with what I thought would be a beautiful immigration story. However, Palacio offered less of a historical context than I had anticipated and moreover, the pace of the novel was excruciatingly slow. While I appreciated the lyrical nature of Palacio’s writing style, the lack of action of any sort failed to keep my attention beyond the first few chapters.

Ultimately, I am quite frustrated with myself for being unable to finish this book to the end. I truly wanted to love this book but the strange character dynamic and painfully slow pace was simply too much for me to get past. I would, however, give other works by Palacio a fair chance because his overall writing style was something I found quite enjoyable.

1 out of 5 stars

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Review of The Circle by Dave Eggers

GoodReads Summary: 
When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Review:
The Circle was both gripping and eerie. When I first started reading this novel, I felt a similar sinking feeling in my stomach as I did when I started B.A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors. I knew something was off, but I could’t figure out what was exactly making me feel so uneasy. The descriptive language that Egger uses is unique and crucial to creating this world within The Circle that the reader quickly recognizes as too good to be true but somehow seems unstoppable.

Through this ultra-connected dystopia, Eggers makes some very important social commentary, by showing just how damaging this can be. He clearly demonstrates how easily we can get caught up in our online presence that we lose touch with our ability to converse in real life with out the added “watchers” of people in our social networks. Furthermore, we have gotten to the point where we are more willing to spend hours stalking someone on social media to find out more about a person instead of simply communicating with them directly, just as Mae felt the need to do as the novel progressed. Mercer’s character also demonstrates just how resistant some people can be to technological advances. Although in this particular case Mercer rightfully recognized the ramifications of The Circle, his actions speak volumes about individuals in today’s society who resist both social change and technological advances on principle.

As for the main character, Mae Holland, I was quite disappointed with her. She seemed so strong-willed and capable of beating to her own drum even within the confines of The Circle that I firmly believes that she would be this story’s heroine. However, the way in which she was so easily absorbed into the faux-community culture and inner workings of The Circle despite seeing all that it was capable of was extremely frustrating to me. The Circle cost her so much, including her parents, that it was just hard for me to respect her as the novel went on.

Overall, I was absolutely fascinated with this book. Although it was published a few years ago, I feel as though the social commentary that this novel makes is even more relevant now as we continue to become increasingly connected in today’s world. If you’re looking for a book that is somewhere between George Orwell’s 1984 and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Pretties, and Specials trilogy, I would highly recommend The Circle by Dave Eggers.

4 out of 5 stars

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