Review// Enigma Variations by André Aciman

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Author: André Aciman
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Book Length: 266 pages 
Publisher: Straus & Giroux
Review: 4/5

My Review:

What I find interesting about my feelings towards this book is that I didn’t entirely love any part of the story or characters, like, at all, yet I could not put it down at certain points due to how lovely the writing was.

This book is about a man named Paul and his love interests throughout his life. I don’t believe it was ever explicitly stated, but from what I gathered, he was in his forties by the end of it. The love interests each had their own section of the book which detailed the relationship Paul had with them respectively.

Though I was intrigued by some stories more than others, especially Star Love, I can’t say that I really felt a connection to either Paul, or any of the men and women who played a significant role in his life at different stages. If anything, I would say that Paul was unlikable. The way he talked about his lovers made me feel like he didn’t care about any of them; he just wanted them around to make him feel good about himself. He would describe each one in such an unhealthy, obsessive manner that quite frankly made me feel uncomfortable at times, and yet he would always be searching for the next best thing. I also felt dissatisfied every time one story ended because I felt things weren’t explicitly clear with regards to how the relationships ended. Regardless, I have to say that I really didn’t care whether Paul found love, or whatever he believed love was. What I did care for, however, was the writing style. André Aciman knows how to write beautiful prose, and for that reason alone, I would definitely consider giving any other books of his a read.

“Our star life, yours with mine. As someone said over dinner once, each of us is given at least nine versions of our lives, some we guzzle, others we take tiny, timid sips from, and some our lips never touch.” Neither of us asked which was our life. We didn’t want to know.

-Catherine

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Review// Animal Farm by George Orwell

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Author: George Orwell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Classic
Release Date: August 17, 1945
Book Length: 95 pages 
Publisher: Penguin Books
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Mr. Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges…

My Review:

This book was wild – or at least, it was domesticated at first and then got progressively wilder after the animals overthrew human leadership in favour of their own rules:

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

Orwell’s Animal Farm is a definitive example of what can happen when the fight for freedom quickly turns to a bloodthirsty hunt for power. Progressing through the story was so interesting, because as the pigs gained power, the other animals started to question the original commandments, and honestly, so did I:

1. Four legs good, two legs, better
2. [Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is inferior].
3. [Only pigs wear clothes].
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal [unless they defy the leader].
7. [Pigs are superior].

“Was the original commandment ‘no animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets?’ Maybe? No wait, it can’t be… I don’t remember that.” That is something I thought to myself while reading, and if I couldn’t definitively remember something so small after like 60 pages, how can you expect those who have been brainwashed by propaganda and corruption to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t either? That is why I gave this 5 stars – I felt the ‘aha’ moment many times while reading, and I think the author did an excellent job packing such a powerful story line in such a short book.

-Catherine

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Review// Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Author: Julie Murphy
Series: Dumplin #1
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Book Length: 371 pages 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

My Review:

Beautiful, he says. Fat, I think. But can’t I be both at the same time?

Finally. Finally I’ve read a book whose movie did it justice (and was maybe even better than the book?) – I really enjoyed this.

Willowdean Dickson, or Dumplin’, as her mom calls her, is a plus-sized Texas teen who decides to compete in the annual Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant which her mother and former winner of the pageant is running. Will’s initiative sparks other girls who wouldn’t have otherwise to join the pageant as well, which I loved.

Other things I loved:
• Millie! – Millie was one of the girls that Will inspired to also join the pageant. I thought Will was pretty confident in her skin, until I met Millie. I think Will sort of did care what other people thought, but Millie was completely oblivious to anything but her own happiness, kind of like a child, and it was endearing.
• The setting – this book made me want to go to Texas, although I felt like I was already there when reading.
• Bo – I loved the scenes with Bo and Will, I was rooting so hard for them to get together.
• The focus on Will’s relationship with her late aunt – Will was really close to her aunt Lucy, and I thought the way the author portrayed the stages of grief after her loss was done really well.

Things I didn’t like:

• Will and Mitch – Oh my. Where to begin with this? It was really sad and cringe worthy having to read through the parts where Will was leading Mitch on for ¾ of the book! I feel like the truth should have come out way sooner and in a much more mature way than it did.
• How mean Will was to basically everyone – her best friend Ellen, her mom, Mitch… the list can go on. Ellen was supposed to be her best friend, but they didn’t talk for ¾ of the book. She went on and on about how much she missed her, but was too proud to apologize for majority of the book; I almost forgot they were supposed to be best friends.

Being comfortable in your own skin is an uphill battle that I think everyone faces from time to time. Sometimes it is difficult not to let our decisions be affected by what we think others will think of us, or by how we think we will look if we step out of our comfort zone. This book’s message is that anybody can do anything they set their mind to, and that you should live your life based on what makes you happy, not by what others will think is the societal norm for you. Overall a great book with a positive message. Definitely want to read the next book in the series!

-Catherine

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Review// Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Book Length: 368 pages 
Publisher: Hutchinson
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

My Review:

“To be honest, I thought Daisy’d get tired of trying to write an album pretty quickly. I underestimated her. Let me tell you this. Don’t ever doubt Daisy Jones” 

I had a feeling I would fall in love with Daisy Jones just as I had fallen in love with Evelyn Hugo and guess what – I was right. Badass takes-no-bullshit female protagonist? Check. Rock band? Check. Characters that felt so real, I wish they existed? Check. This book was practically made for me. What I didn’t anticipate though was falling in love with The Six and all the other characters too. I am going to miss Camila, Karen, Graham, and yes, even Billy. As I was reading, I was kind of getting A Star is Born vibes, so if you liked that movie, there is a good chance you will appreciate this book. It took me by the hand and brought me back to the 1970s – an era I have never lived through but feel like I have experienced in some small way because of Daisy Jones.

The book is written in an interview-style format, which I wasn’t sure I was going to like, but I thought it worked well for the subject matter. I think it’s hard to write a whole novel in this style and still have it flow, but TJR did an excellent job. However, if there is one thing I disliked, it would be that the ending felt a little rushed. As quickly as Daisy Jones and The Six rose to fame is as quickly as it felt like falling action took place – a little bit too quickly in my opinion. I loved the book as a whole, I just wish there had been a bit more time taken in ending it off less abruptly.

I heard that there is going to be a TV series out based on this book, and I am really excited to see it all come to life – I’d love to be able to search Spotify for the Aurora album and listen to all the songs whose lyrics read so poetic and emotional. This was an excellent book and one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

– Catherine

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An Open Letter to Myself on my One Year Blogging Anniversary

Dear me,

You did it – you’ve been blogging for a whole year. I know that when you started this, it was because you love to read, and you wanted an outlet to share all of your thoughts about one of your favourite hobbies, but I also know that you probably didn’t anticipate lasting this long so I’m really proud of you. Although ‘this is one for the books’, it’s also become one for the life lessons, new friendships, and everything in between. This is a space where you can talk about whatever you want, and I like that you never shied away from that, even when it made you vulnerable and nervous to be so open.

In the past year especially, you have been growing into such a strong and beautiful person even though you don’t see that a lot of the time. Between you and me, I think the one year ago you who started this blog would be really proud of the person you are now, and if you could see yourself through her eyes, I bet your perception of yourself would be a lot different. Reading has helped you through so much, and I’m glad you could find a community of people like you to share that passion with. When you first started one year ago, I don’t think you understood how impactful your blog would be on your personal life. You have made some amazing friends, both online and off, and read some of the most eye-opening and life changing books this past year which have enriched your life in ways you may not even be fully aware of yet.

If your experiences last year are any indication of what’s to come, I’m excited to look back this time next year at all of the new adventures you went on because of all the great books waiting to be discovered by you right now in this very moment. I know that these days it’s become difficult to finish books as fast as you used to, and sometimes even to pick one up at all, but my wish for you is that in the next year, as you get to know yourself more deeply, that you get to read even more books that change your life for the better. Happy one year of blogging; I can’t wait to see all the wonderful things and books in store for you next.

Always & Forever,
Catherine

“One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”


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