Review// A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

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Author: Jennifer Egan
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: June 8, 2010
Book Length: 341 pages 
Publisher: Anchor Books
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

My Review:

There’s this memory that I have from grade 9 geography class that will stick with me for the rest of my life: we were watching a nature documentary, and this one scene of a waterfall flowing through rocks was on the television screen as the narrative voice of a woman said, “tiiiime paaasses” – elongating the vowels just like that. This one girl in my class thought the voiceover was hilarious, so she kept repeating ‘tiiiime paaasses’ over and over and giggling as only a 14-year-old girl can in her vivacious way. In that moment I remember thinking that as funny as it all seemed, that voice was right—time passes. And although I knew it at the time, the way you always do when you realize you’re living in a moment you know will turn to a lifelong memory, time really does seem to have passed so quickly since then. That’s what this book is about: the passage of time.

This book focuses on a web of people who are all connected in some way – the story is told from the perspective of a different person per chapter, and at different time periods in their lives. I loved that, for example, you would read about the childhood of one character, and then in the next chapter narrated by a different person, the child that was in the previous chapter was now referenced as an adult. I found this to be a very unique writing style and it made the characters feel so real to me. Sometimes it wasn’t until a few pages into a new chapter that I would realize who was narrating and what their connection was to the others, and I kind of enjoyed the mystery of having to piece them and the time periods all together.

I felt like this book did a great job of mirroring reality.  Not everything is always going to be sunshine and rainbows—some of it is—but not all. Since the chapters presented such a well-rounded perspective of these characters, you got to see their lives from all angles—good and bad— and I really enjoyed that.  The choices you make when you’re young will affect your future; the people you associate yourself with will shape you as a person; sometimes people grow apart; and sometimes people change, sometimes they don’t, but no matter what, time doesn’t stop for anybody.

This is my favourite read of the year so far. I would highly recommend it if you enjoy character development, books that make you think about life, and/or are looking for a unique reading experience.

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Review// The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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Author: Cormac McCarthy
Series: Standalone
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: September 26, 2006
Book Length: 241 pages 
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Review: 4/5

My Review:

In a post-apocalyptic world where a man and his son struggle to survive, The Road offers a horrifying glimpse into what life is like for the little civilization that is left.

This book follows the man and child as they are walking along the road in search of food, shelter, and supplies to continue their journey. Admittedly, it wasn’t until about the 40% mark that things started to get interesting for me. Up until that point, it didn’t seem like the two were faced with very many dangers aside from the unfortunate living conditions that made it difficult to get through each day. This danger eventually came in the form of people whom the boy referred to as “bad guys” that seemed to be capturing, severing and eating other humans. As they ventured off the road from abandoned house to abandoned house searching for what they needed, I was always curious as to what, if anything, may be lurking in the shadows next.

Although the man and the boy do not speak to each other very much, the conversations they did have pulled at my heart strings. It was evident that in this new world, people were forced to harden in order to maintain any chance of going on, but the true softness of humanity could still be found in the voice of the child. Society had become very ‘every man for himself’, yet it was the boy who always found it in his heart to ask his father to extend a hand and share their food or bring other potential ‘good guys’ along on their journey.

This is undoubtedly a book about survival, but not so much about the act itself as it is about the survival of the defining qualities of human nature: compassion, hope, humility, kindness, and optimism—even when it seems too difficult to carry on.

What’s the bravest thing you ever did?
He spat into the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.

-Catherine

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Review// You by Caroline Kepnes

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Author: Caroline Kepnes
Series: Standalone
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Book Length: 424 pages 
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

My Review:

This was just as terrifying the second time around. Everything that happened to Beck and the people around her after meeting Joe was a nightmare, but no matter how psychotic Joe was, I remained addicted to the thrill of being inside his mind. The creepiest thing was that he was so twisted, scary, and manipulative, yet all the while appearing completely normal to everyone around him. I think that this story works because the reader almost wants to root for Joe. He stole things from Beck’s house and created a hidden shrine of her belongings, attacked people she loved, stalked her every move, and the list goes on, but despite all of that, you get so caught up in his mind games that you almost start to believe the victims of his deserved what they had coming.

I had been meaning to re-read this for a while now, and I’m so happy I finally got around to it. If there is any lesson to be taken away from this book, it’s to be very careful who you trust and the amount of things you expose about yourself online, because you never know who is watching you.

There’s nothing to worry about anymore. I’ve never felt so at peace with where I am, right now, on a train, tunneling toward my home, toward you. I take my time walking up the stairs and onto the street. I want life to move slowly because I want to anticipate you with all my heart, greet you with all my heart, fuck you with all my heart and miss you with all my heart. I have to laugh because I sound like a greeting card but I deserve this, you, joy.

If you’ve watched the Netlfix adaptation, I would love to hear your thoughts! 🙂 

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Review// The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

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Author: Heather Rose
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: September 1, 2016
Book Length: 296 pages 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Review: 1/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A mesmerising literary novel about a lost man in search of connection – a meditation on love, art and commitment, set against the backdrop of one of the greatest art events in modern history, Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present.

She watched as the final hours of The Artist is Present passed by, sitter after sitter in a gaze with the woman across the table. Jane felt she had witnessed a thing of inexplicable beauty among humans who had been drawn to this art and had found the reflection of a great mystery. What are we? How should we live?

If this was a dream, then he wanted to know when it would end. Maybe it would end if he went to see Lydia. But it was the one thing he was not allowed to do.

Arky Levin is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has asked him to keep one devastating promise. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky. As he watches and meets other people drawn to the exhibit, he slowly starts to understand what might be missing in his life and what he must do.

This dazzlingly original novel asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love and finds a way to answer them.

My Review:

I feel guilty for not having felt the way the majority of reviewers did about this. I thought I would enjoy it because art and history are two of my favourite things to learn about and this incorporated both, but I just couldn’t get into the story. This was somewhere between a 1 and 2, but if it wasn’t for book club, I would have ‘DNF’d’ it before it got slightly more enjoyable, so I think a 1 is more appropriate.

Despite giving it a 1, I think the idea behind the book was interesting. Marina Abramovic, the artist in the book, was an actual performance artist who performed a piece called The Artist is Present, where she sat for 75 days straight across from various visitors to the MoMa for a few minutes at a time. In the book, the visitors would basically see these visions of their lovers as they sat across from and stared into Marina’s eyes – some getting very emotional. If you search The Artist is Present on YouTube, you will see real footage of people having sat across from her during the exhibition, and I think it’s cool that this whole thing happened in real life and was made into a book including some real and some fictional events. I also liked the storyline with Levin the most; his chapters were the ones I was most engrossed in because I wanted to know what would happen between him and his wife.

Even though the idea was interesting, I still felt bored while reading. I know there is a documentary about this performance art piece, and something tells me I would probably like that better. Overall, I really don’t think this was necessarily bad, it just wasn’t for me. So if you think it sounds interesting, I would give it a chance because majority of people did like this more than I did.

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Review// I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

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Author: Vivek Shraya
Series: Standalone
Genre: Nonfiction
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Book Length: 96 pages 
Publisher: Penguin Books Canada
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.

Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she’s endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.

Now, with raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I’m Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of colour and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.

My Review:

I would be lying if I said that the title didn’t have a huge influence on my intrigue in this initially, however, this book ended up giving me way more insight than I could have ever guessed. Exploring masculinity from the perspective of a trans woman through her experiences both pre and post transition, Vivek Shraya delivers a very raw take on how misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has impacted her life.

A particularly insightful part in this for me was Shraya’s take on the ‘good man’:

In spite of my negative experiences, I’ve maintained a robust attachment to the idea of the “good man.” A common theme in my encounters and relationships is my certainty that the men I have admired were “good”, a synonym for “different from the rest.” The attachment to the promise of goodness is what left me bereft when, in various ways, I discovered that each of these men wasn’t “one of the good guys.” 

She goes on to talk about how instead of categorizing men (or anyone, really) as ‘good’, that we value specific characteristics one possesses such as communication, dependability, and the like. If we are to focus on specific characteristics as opposed to categorizing people as generally ‘good’, it not only eliminates the elevated image we’ve created of them, but unlike how being ‘good’ cancels out when one does something ‘bad’, these character attributes can coexist alongside one another.

Although I can’t speak to experiences one faces in the LGBTQ+ community, I can relate to the experiences and scenarios presented that affect women on a daily basis. What I liked about this was also that it didn’t skip past the fact that women who defend or feed into misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are equally to blame. Overall, I thought this was very well written, and at 96 pages, the only thing I wish is that it was longer.

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