TV Review: Bojack Horseman

tv review, Uncategorized
Amazon.com: Bojack Horseman poster movie poster board: Handmade

Title: Bojack Horseman

Episodes: 6 seasons, Seasons 1-5 (12 episodes), Season 6 (16 episodes); ~25 minutes each

Where: Netflix

Rating: A- (with S3 and S4 the best of the seasons)


Before this year, I had tried and failed at least 3 times to watch more than one episode of Bojack Horseman. I’m not a fan of adult animation comedy as a subgenre. I think it’s because the genre is focused a lot on irrelevant humor and the storylines all feel self contained but I’m someone who enjoys going in depth with characters and witnessing character arcs and the off brand humor is too left field for me. I also don’t really enjoy mean, crude humor which is what I think a lot of adult animation focuses on. And I don’t mean crude as in there’s too much sex or whatever, I mean the humor really wants to be bluntly edgy and honest but I think that type of humor always misses the mark for me. That’s what I thought Bojack Horseman was.

One day, I decided that this would be the last time I attempted to watch Bojack and if I wasn’t into it, I would just stop attempting altogether. I am so happy I stuck beyond the first few episodes because this show is a beautful gem and will end up in my favorite TV shows of the year period.

Bojack Horseman is a mediation on a variety of different issues, sexism, racism, depression, addiction, abusive relationships, and mortality. It does so through a variety of characters, the main ones of which are Bojack who was the star of a popular 90’s sitcom but is now struggling with his alcohol addiction; Diane Nguyen, who he hires to be his ghostwriter for his memoir, Princess Carolyn, a cat who is his agent, Mr. Peanutbutter, an endlessly optimistic and cheerful dog, and Todd, a human who couch surfs in Bojack’s house.

It’s actually quite a tender show at heart but deeply, deeply sad and depressing. Bojack is one of the best antiheroes I have come across. He does a lot of bad stuff throughout the show. He’s extremely insulting, demeaning, often disregards the people who care about him, and is obsessed with the past when he was more famous. Yet I cared, and even found myself rooting for him as he tries and fails to become better than who he is, slowly trying to move beyond a self that has been shaped by a past filled with abuse and neglect. Trauma is actually a big part of the show and the show gets so creative with certain episode formats to illustrate these themes which I think elevate it above other adult comedies. For example, one episode was entirely a Bojack monologue, another a completely dialogue free episode underwater. There’s a very creative flashback episode etc. The writers creativity with each episode amplifies its storytelling and makes the themes hit more deeply.

Review: Season six of 'BoJack Horseman' is one of the show's most emotional  - The Diamondback

What I also liked however, was that Bojack was always held accountable for his actions. He was not an antihero who is explained away by a tragic backstory and everything is ok after that. Although he does have a tragic backstory, that doesn’t excuse him from the bad choices he’s made. It might sound a little cheesy but I found myself becoming more understanding of..shitty people for a lack of a better word after watching the show. Many times, Bojack did things that I would have found absolutely unacceptable but I found myself understanding that he did shitty things but in the end, he is a person who was tyring to do better and often found himself oblivious to his own flaws, again a self shaped by a past filled with abuse and neglect. At the same time, the show never minimizes the pain that trauma dealt him in this childhood. We see in some episodes, the story of his mother’s life and a little of his father’s life and how that has shaped the abuse that reigned over Bojack’s childhood. Those were definitely some of my favorite episodes. It’s why the show is able to straddle Bojack as an anithero so well.

BoJack Horseman' gets Los Angeles right - Curbed

The show’s humor is actually very endearing although it’s specific. First, it likes to reference a lot of actors, movies and Hollywood culture in general. There will be a lot of longstanding actor characters who play themselves like Jessica Biel and Margo Martindale. I always got a kick out of them because as someone who loves movies and TV shows and has had a weird knack for recognizing celebrities and little details about their lives, I always enjoyed the references. The show also uses a lot of puns which I liked as well, especially animal ones. Since in this world, anthromorphic animals and humans live alongside each other, there’s a lot of animal easter eggs, like the cow waitress squeezing milk out of her breasts into a glass and giving it to a customer. There were a lot of meta references to the characters’ actions themselves. For example, in one episode, Bojack’s grandfather is trying to comfort his wife, he literally says, “I am an American man, I don’t know how to deal with women’s emotions. I was never taught and I will never learn” and then proceeds to run out the door. That type of meta easter eggs were a treat to see. But of course, there’s the traditional adult comedy humor with its sardonic and dry humor that adds bite to the show.

It becomes clear that this is not just Bojack’s story; a lot of time is dedicated to giving the other characters full stories which I loved. As a person, I have never felt more seen than in this show, especially in the character of Diane. She desires to do important work but constantly finds herself at odds with its reality. She also often discusses feminism in a way that can sound pretentious. There was just a lot of her that I saw in me and it made very uncomfortable because I would often think, “wow is that really what I sound like” but that’s ok, it was nice seeing someone like that on the silver screen. If you don’t like any of the characters, you will grow to sympathize with them because the writers ask you to look within yourself and see their common humanity no matter how messed up they are.

BoJack Horseman' new season won't disappoint - The Daily Targum

I will say that season 3 & 4 are the best and Season 1 the weakest. Season 1 definitely felt like the Season 1 of Parks and Recreation where the quality of the show was getting there but season 2 onwards was explosively better. That’s the same for this show. There was just a lot more emotional building and story purpose after season 1 so please stick it out if you watched season 1 but didn’t feel the need to go on. This show is such a gem and again, will be on my favorite shows of 2020.

Kdrama review: It’s Okay not to be Okay

tv review
It's Okay to Not Be Okay (2020) - MyDramaList

Title: It’s Okay not to be Okay

Episodes: 16, about 1 hour each

Where: Netflix

Rating: B+



I have been blessed finally with a kdrama worthy of a review! I’m so excited to be talking about It’s Okay not to be Okay in this post. A dark, whimsical but heartwarming drama, it follows a trio of characters. Ko Muen Young is a children’s book author with antisocial personality disorder. She meets Moon Gang Tae who is a nurse working with psychiatric patients. Moon Gang Tae has an autistic brother, Sang Gang Tae who is a massive fan of Ko’s books. The drama follows them as they become entangled in each others’ lives and grapple with the demons of their past.

Some dramas hook you immediately. Others, you tentatively tread the murky waters until it sucks you underneath. This one intrigued me right away with its opening scene. It opens up with animated illustrations very reminiscient of the whimisically dark tones of Tim Burton that sets the frame for the rest of the show’s themes surrounding mental health. The show continues to use this fairy tale framing to tell the characters’ stories and figure out their inner feelings. The characters will often tell fables and stories to each other. I think this was particularly effective because often the characters themselves do not know how they’re feeling and it’s hard for them to convey them even if they know so they often use these stories to express their veiled emotions. For example, Moon can never keep a job for longer than 10 months and seems to be apathetic about everything except caring for his brother. We see him reading some of Ko’s stories to get a glimpse of his inner world. I also really liked this touch because it lent an air of whimsicality and fantasy sentimentality to the drama. It felt as if the characters themselves were in a modern fairytale.

it's okay not to be okay | Tumblr
it's okay not to be okay | Tumblr

The stunning cinematography also lends itself to the surreal, whimsical tone of the show. As a drama focused on maintaining the mystery around its characters, the cinematography only accentuates that, framing each character within his/her world and focusing on the intensity of each character’s inner life. The camera shots were less focused on medium shots and more on the characters themselves and transitions super well between each place. The creative lighting, in particular, reflects the darkness surrounding the characters while maintaining its surreal and whimsy tone. The production set is absolutely stunning as well. I assume they wanted the set to reflect an old fairy tale esque vibe; I particularly like the old mansion in the forest that Ko’s dad built for her and the drama certainly succeeded in integrating the old architecture with the modern settings of Korea with the OK psychiatric hospital.

its okay to not be okay best drama on Twitter: "im INLOVE with the ...

Now most of what I mentioned is an added bonus but the meat of most kdramas is the main couple. The success of a kdrama rests on the success of the main couple and their believability. Now historically, I have mainly only liked couples from coming of age dramas because of there’s less of a tendency for sexist tropes that are cast in a romantic light. There’s also less of a power imbalance as well. I believe the last traditional romantic kdrama couple I have liked was Yoo Si Jin and Kang Mo Yeon from Descendants of the Sun. As far as kdramas go, it ticked all my boxes, they were both equals in their own separate story, problematic issues that usually plague kdrama couples such as dubious consent were non existent, each had a big role to play in the story arc and the chemistry was A+. This couple is up there and supercedes the other couple in some ways. I’d like to say that what makes this couple so interesting was that with each shot and scene of anticipated tension you had no idea what they were thinking or were going to say. Moon and Ko both have a lot of inner demons to face. This unpredictability made their chemistry so much more palatable and each word they said more meaningful. I was also initially worried that they both would be the end all fix all for the mental health issues. Although this was a big part, I was relieved to see that they both had their own scenes of introspection and reflection away from the other person. Not to mention everyone, the eye fucking is off the charts! And their kiss scenes – finally steamy ones from a kdrama. Chef’s kiss!! Each smile felt earned and you couldn’t help but feel for them both despite their sometimes questionable actions. Both of their acting was phenomenol, packing so much nuance to their characters. They shined both as individuals and as a couple.

It's Okay to Not be Okay' Episode 7: Mun-yeong cuts herself away ...

I’m always looking for kdramas that defy tropes especially when those tropes are are sexist. Truly what I also enjoyed was how the drama reversed many kdrama tropes. Here are just some that I noticed and appreciated.

  1. Rich heroine vs poor hero

Rich hero/poor heroine korean dramas are extremely prevalent but the reverse? Pretty rare, I’d say. And it was nice seeing an extremely rich heroine for once so we see scenes where the heroine supports the hero financially but it’s never mentioned in relation to gender which I appreciate as well.

2. Wrist grabbing by the heroine

Now I have never liked this trope, because usually when it’s present in kdramas, it denotes a certain possessiveness and control that I’m uncomfortable with. Also, usually in scenes where wrist grabbing is done, a lot of the times, the heroine is forced to step into an embrace she did not want or forced to stop whatever she is doing or was about to do. A lot of the times too, the wrist grab is used to drag the heroine to another place to angrily talk…instead of just telling her he wants to talk. In addition, I have rarely, if ever, seen wrist grabbing done by a the main female character and in this one, it happens several times! I have contradictory feelings, on the one hand I do not condone wrist grabbing at all, on the other hand, having a female do it is honestly kind of refreshing. It was not overdone on both sides and when it was, it felt more urgent like the person had something to say and less controlling and possessive. Or maybe I’m trying to justify it, let me know.

It's Okay to Not Be Okay: Episode 13 » Dramabeans Korean drama recaps

3. Hero doing traditionally feminine job and taking care of others

Wow, the hero having traits that are traditionally reserved for the female characters in korean dramas like being a caretaker for his brother and being a nurse? Unheard of.

4. Heroine being sexually assertive

The heroine blatantly flirts with the hero and makes no secret that she likes him which is so refreshing.

5. Romantic lighting and music equally shown on the heroine

Many times in kdramas, the male hero is the one really romanticized with the lighting and music. There’s often a scene with him walking in slo mo as the light shines on him and people fawn over him. People within the kdrama universe always comment on how “handsome” and good looking he is. With this kdrama, quite the opposite, the people always comment on how beautiful our heroine is and the camera is often shown on her walking in a romanticized light

6. Mental health and how it is portrayed (themes)

Rarely do I see mental health portrayed in kdramas so although the storylines aside from our main characters were simplistic, I did appreciate that the creators wanted to create a space to say that it’s okay to have these issues and that you shouldn’t be ostracized for it. I did also like that a significant portion of time was dedicated to their healing process. Moon has a lot of conflicting emotions towards his mother because he resents her for always looking out for his autistic brother and not considering him as a person worth putting attention to. At the same time, he loves his brother but resents the huge amount of sacrifice including his identity and wellbeing to care for him. Ko is grappling with the scars that her abusive parents left her and learns how to be considerate of others. I like that there is an emphasis on the theme of belonging to yourself as well.

7. The soundtrack

Love it! It’s nothing groundbreaking using the same melancholic and sentimental songs as other kdramas but this batch was solid. I’m listening to it as I’m writing this blog post.

As much as I value that the drama does defy tropes, I also think there are quite a few flaws. First of all, I do not condone some of Ko’s actions. If the genders were reversed in this drama, I know for a fact that I would not be ok with many of the actions that Ko does and would have found them problematic including stalking, not respecting boundaries of the hero a lot of the time, violence, really being insensitive towards other people, and being very dismissive of other peoples’ feelings. A lot of her actions can be placed on her antisocial personality disorder however I’m afraid at the end, a lot of the character development on her part was missing and not explored enough. It’s cute that she never does mean things to Sang Tae though no matter how bad she is. She has a lot of redeemable qualities which make up for it but it still doesn’t excuse her previous actions. It’s odd that as I’m listing out the things I do not condone, in the end, I find her redeemable which is interesting.

Some of the autism on Sang Tae’s part may not be really portrayed accurately? I’m no expert in autism and while I do appreciate that Sang Tae had his own storyline. I wonder whether his autism was portrayed accurately in the kdrama? Of course there’s a spectrum and his character is not the mascot for all autistic people but still I wonder.

Oh Jung Se Opens Up About Playing Moon Sang-Tae on "It's Okay to ...

The last con I have is the boring secondary storylines. Perhaps the main couples’ storyline was too compelling but it overshadowed the rest of the storylines! As the drama went on, I progressively became more invested in the main couple but wanted to skim more of the secondary storylines because they just were not that interesting. Anything that happened at the hospital like Areum’s storyline was just meh to me.

Despite these flaws and some skipping, I bingewatched this drama in under a week and I rarely do that now with kdramas. I fell in love with the main characters. The stories made me cry a few times. I really liked the focus on mental health and creating a space where people with mental health issues can feel safe and heard. The unique cinematography and framing elevate this above other kdramas as well as the excellent acting and chemistry between our main couple.

Have you seen this drama? Let me your thoughts on it or gush about Ko Muen Young and Moon Gang Tae with me. Was there ever a prettier couple??

Romance Roundup 2020: 8 Lightning Reviews

book review, mini book review, Uncategorized

2020 has been a tough year for me, especially for my reading. That’s why I could only consume what I call candy books: romance books–light books that I know aren’t the best but I read them anyway because they are easy to fall into and put a quick smile on my face (if done right). I have a love-hate relationship with romance; there’s so much potential to be had but I find many fall into stereotypes, regressive gender roles, predictable plotting, conventional romance norms, and archetypes of characters that never seem fully fleshed out. I have to say I do have hope for romance’s future though as recent ones seem to be more socially progressive and different. In this post, I try out different types of romance from fantasy romance to YA comtemporary and everything in between. I did include books with very heavy romance elements too. Before getting into the post, I do want to say I did actually find a maybe favorite of the year in this bunch. Can you guess which book it is?

Key

Overall review: Highest rating is 5 “stars”How did I like the book in general? How did I like the plot, the story? My general thoughts?

Steam Factor: Highest rating is 5 “fires”; Kind of selfexplanatory, how were the steamy scenes ;); problematic;

Romance: Highest rating is 5 “hearts”; Did I even like the main pairing together as a couple? Problematic? Did I anticipate the couples’ every scene together? Did they work well together? Where’s that oomph factor? Were they developed as characters?

  1. The Kiss Thief by LJ Shen
The Kiss Thief - Kindle edition by Shen, LJ. Mystery, Thriller ...

Overall Review: You know at first, I was like sure, this is totally believable: a senator essentially selling his daughter out to another guy because he didn’t want to lose votes or something. Romance novels are oftentimes unbelievable but the plot was too weird even for me. Granted I did DNF this at the first really steamy scene because it was problematic on all levels and I was not having it so I gave up. It left such a bad taste in my mouth. There was a ton of unnecessary drama leading up to it and the type of drama that didn’t even add to the anticipation of the steam scenes. It’s gonna take a lot for me to try another LJ Shen book.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Steam: 0

Romance: 0

2. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Amazon.com: Tweet Cute: A Novel (9781250237323): Lord, Emma: Books

Overall Review: This book was equal parts romance and equal parts coming of age; it’s almost hard to tell which one it is first, probably coming of age but I’m including it here anyways lol. I think what I’m starting to realize about myself and my taste in YA contemporary is that I love the fluffy but only when done exceptionally well like in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, otherwise, it just kind of falls flat. In this one, the whole time I was just waiting for Jack to tell Pepper about his true online identity and everyone knows Pepper was going to be fine with it so why bother waiting 90% of the book to tell it? I think the problem I have with withholding secrets in YA contemporary romance is that there are no stakes, you know the other person is going to be ok with it eventually. I also thought the family dynamic resolution was too clean at the end for Pepper at least. That’s what this was, clean. Nothing stood out, none of the characters. The heroine is the same archetype in all YA contemporaries, a stickler for the rules, has a plan laid out for her entire future, is a straight A student. The plot just has no stakes, no tension! That’s really it. But I did enjoy the Twitter rivalry. Any book that centers on food I am here for. And New York. I actually visited New York this year before COVID 19 hit and I love picturing all the references in the book I’ve actually seen (like the Met)!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam: 0

Romance: (It was pretty cute but that’s about it)

3. Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas

Birthday Girl

Overall Review: I get why Penelope Douglas is so well loved. She adds little details to the characters that elevate it over other contemporary romance writers. Also she writes taboo really well because you understand why these characters would like each other despite the age gap. But it ends up relying on romance cliches in the end.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam: (wow can Penelope Douglas write steam; the smut scenes were great and nonproblematic)

Romance: (Even though Penelope Douglas did try some different things in the romance, she fell trap to so many romance tropes that it ended up feeling cliche. Jordan is clearly a very distinct “not like other girls” woman. The author clearly wanted me to like her because unlike other girls, she gets down and dirty and likes doing working outside? Aren’t you a special snowflake? Of course Pike just can’t stand it when she wears really revealing clothing; it starts a fight and somehow the girl is always the one acquiesing. Isn’t there any other way for romance authors to build tension between characters???)

4. The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

The Governess Game: Girl Meets Duke - Kindle edition by Dare ...

Overall review: When it comes to historical romance, Tessa Dare is always a safe bet. Her books are a warm hug, nothing groundbreaking but endlessly cozy. I haven’t read any of her older books, but this trilogy applies modern norms of love to a historical setting so it’s candy but it’s candy where half the money goes to something like a woman’s shelter. It’s super cute. There’s endearing characters (the two daughters!) and very little drama and angst. As far as romance goes, you could do way worse. Each main character has his/her own dreams and goals and just come together all the more stronger.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Steam:

Romance: (love the witty banter; also loving the slow progression of their relationship)

5. The King’s Man by Elizabeth Kingston

The King's Man (Welsh Blades #1) by Elizabeth Kingston

Overall: One of the things I dislike about the romance genre is how traditional it is, taking a while for progressive themes to take hold whether it’s race, gender, or gender roles so I’m always on the lookout for romance books that break this mold. This one sounded promising because it’s about a woman is a soldier and is trained in combat which I rarely, if ever see in romance, only second to probably a sexually promiscuous main character. But that’s another story. The synopsis had such promise!! But I was so disappointed at the writing and the offputting pacing. The characters were also stilted sometimes veering into being way too mean or way too nice. The hero in the story was also such a jerk so there’s that too.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Steam:

Romance: (I will give some points for good progression? but other than that, I’ll pass)

6. Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women Book 1 ...

Overall: If I could be so bold, I think this is the best historical romance I have read this year and ever.. This had everything I wanted in a romance and more. I think a lot of times romance dialogue and scenarios can be really cliche and predictable which is fine but the details to build up these cliches can make a world of difference to the unique flavor of the story. I also appreciate that there wasn’t an overemphasis on how masculine or feminine the hero and heroine are respectively when describing them. I also appreciate that the conflict between the hero’s wealth and standing in society clashing with the possibility of having a relationship with his poorer heroine counterpart wasn’t just used as a one time climactic conflict that’s then solved instantaneously before the happy ending but rather a series of smaller conflicts to allow for character growth. There’s also some elements more typical of regency romance like the thinly veiled wit and ball scenes. The banter is also top notch. Also, I cannot forget the backdrop of the suffragette movement that actually took quite a bit of background which I appreciate. This is like top notch candy, candy you get at a bougie candy store like Sugarfina, with gummy bears made up of like gluten free ingredients but still taste great. I cannot wait for the second book in the series following one of the secondary characters (who btw are amazing).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Steam: (wish there was more but honestly what’s there is top notch)

Romance: (Love the two together; so much banter)

7. The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom, #1)

Overall Review: When I started this book, I was, by no means, expecting the worldbuilding to be good at all. One of my favorite romance tropes is “woman being sent away to be married to other guy from another kingdom” (idk why). Fantasy romances tend to have very soft worldbuilding but this one surprised me. Though by no means any close to the dynamic worldbuilding I love in epic fantasies, I appreciate the slight attention to detail and the mystery surrounding the world; it gave a great visual as I was reading. In these types of books, I expect the world to enhance the relationship of the characters instead of the other way around and this one did a solid job. I also appreciated the heroine was always looking for a way out and didn’t fall in love with the hero in her mental processes right away but really allowing the trust between both of them to grow naturally. She was always doubting which is great because it fits with how she grew up. It’s also really fast paced, perfect immersive beach read.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam: Could use just one more scene

Romance: (love)

8. If I never met you by Mhairi Mcfarlane

If I Never Met You

Overall: Overall, it was ok. It was lukewarm, nothing wrong persay I especially enjoy the character growth in the beginning after our heroine goes through a breakup after a 13 year relationship. But there was barely any sense of chemistry. The hints and dialogue at workplace feminism were a plus but not enough to make up for the plot and lackluster romance. (I just realized I forgot to include this poll but I guess knowing my review, it doesn’t matter)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Steam: 0

Romance:

9. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Chain of Gold (The Last Hours, #1)

Overall: Not technically a romance, but has very heavy romance elements. You know what I really liked Chain of Gold at first but as I moved along, it was very clear that the sort of contrived tension and conflict building in Clare’s books continues to rear its ugly head. I thought Grace was going to be a true source of angst, like James would actually be in love with her for reals without any sort of manipulation (that would have been angsty) but no..And then I just lost interest. I do like the humor though. The four main heros’ personalities started to blur together for me. I do like Cordelia though; I think she’s definitely different than all of Clare’s other heroines. I did really like the Tessa, Will, and Jem cameos too. I ship Lucy and Matthew too; I hope that’s a thing in the next book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam:

Romance:

10. A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers, #1)

Overall: A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which as we all know is all about the romance. I liked elements of this book in the moment but truthfully the characters were super bland. The heroine is a stubborn do gooder of course. I did like how she talked about how her cerebral palsy affects her daily life though. The hero an angsty king with a dark past. They both spent way too much time angsting about their problems and each time their problems were mentioned, there was no added depth to them so they felt very repetitive. There was nothing special about either and so nothing special about the romance either. I thought the plot took some interesting turns that I liked but overall an average book. I would read it if in the mood. It’s a quick read.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam: 0

Romance:

So we come to the end of the romance roundup! Did you guess right? If you guessed Bringing Down the Duke, you guessed right!! Pat yourself on the back, get some ice cream 🙂 I hope you enjoyed this post! Seeing this post and getting a taste of what I read and like in romance, is there any books you would recommend me?

The Bookish Heavenly Virtue Tag

Uncategorized

Thank you so much to @hardcoverhaven for tagging me! It’s been so long since I’ve done one and I forgot how fun they were. This is a great opportunity to showcase some books I’ve been reading in this strange year 2020.

Chastity

Which books do you wish you had never read?

The Kiss Thief by LJ Shen

The Kiss Thief - Kindle edition by Shen, LJ. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense  Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Look, when I started this book, I didn’t think it was going to the best thing ever to hit the romance genre. I was just looking for a good time and I was sort of willing to forgive the alpha jealousy personality of the male hero but then THAT scene came on and I kept asking myself, what is happening?? There were so problematic things happening, and then all of a sudden all the little prior things in the story I ignored for the sake of an entertaining story became glaringly problematic and I DNFed the book right then and there.

TEMPERANCE

Which book/series did you find so good that you didn’t want to read it all at once and you read it in doses just to make the pleasure last longer?

Third Shift Society by Meredith Moriarty

Representative image

This is actually a webcomic that’s been nominated by the Eisner award for best webtoon. It’s about a woman who teams up with a pumpkin man to fight supernatural mysteries in their town together. I tried to pace myself but ended up reading the whole thing in a few hours. I kind of fell in love with its cheesiness and just reveled in the sheer fun. It just reminded me of the days when I would ship couples endlessly on Tumblr and reblog every single interaction gif. Yeah, I’m shipping the two main characters so hard. The art style is easy to follow with its reminiscence to manga. It’s kind of like the Avatar the Last Airbender in art style, with a blend of Western and Japanese manga art style. I also like the supernatural mysteries and side characters. Can’t wait for more! You can read it free here.

CHARITY

Which book/series/author do you tirelessly push on others, telling them about it or even giving away spare copies bought for that reason?

The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series and The Happiness Trap

Book Review: "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" by Jenny Han | Fox River  Valley Public Library

A lot of my friends don’t read as much as I do so I always recommend To All the Boys because it’s easy to read quickly (plus it’s cute). I also usually recommend self help books because some of them have actually helped me. My favorite one by far would have to be The Happiness Trap. It helped me through some dark times and helped me form the values I have in my life while offering tips and tricks for how to be mindful.

DILIGENCE

Which series/author would you follow no matter what happens and how long you have to wait?

Scott Lynch – The Lies of Locke Lamora series

The Lies of Locke Lamora eBook by Scott Lynch | Rakuten Kobo

I feel like I’ve been waiting for the next book in the series for years now (at least 4 years now). And no sign of when he will publish it…The last book ended on such a cliffhanger too.

PATIENCE

Is there an author/book/series you’ve read that improved with time, starting out unpromising, but ultimately proving rewarding?

The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

Amazon.com: The Queen of Attolia (Queen's Thief) (9780062642974): Turner,  Megan Whalen: Books

When I first read the first book in the series, I almost coudn’t finish it because to be frank it was kind of boring. The second book, however, was a masterpiece. Reading the second book was like seeing the real Mona Lisa for the first time after seeing a toddler’s depiction of it. This analogy sucks but you get the point. The rest of the series continued to be like that too, only getting richer and more complex with every book. I cannot wait for the last book and will be rereading the series before then.

KINDNESS

Which fictional character would you consider your role-model in the hassle of everyday life?

Kestrel from The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Amazon.com: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy Book 1) eBook:  Rutkoski, Marie: Kindle Store

Honestly, Kestrel is a queen. I just admire her cunning and intellect and the ways that she sticks to her principles. If you’ve read the story, (without spoilers for nonreaders), you’ll know that she was born to believe in war and conquering other lands. It was a way of life but she grew to develop her own sense of self and the journey was beautiful to read about. This trilogy in general is one of the most underrated YA fantasy series.

HUMILITY

Which author/book/series do you find most underrated?

The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski March series by John Lewis

March

I wanted to say The Winner’s Trilogy but I mention that series a lot so I’ll say the March graphic novel series. It follows the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. I think why I like this series so much is that it shows the nuances of the Civil Rights Movement rather than showing it was a (literally) black and white issue but more of a gray progression to success. You get an appreciation for how difficult it is to have a movement like the Civil Rights movement, feminist movement etc. despite social stigma and uncertainty of whether it was going to be even successful.

I tag:

Alicia @AKernelofNonsense (when she is back from hiatus)

Rachel @LifeofaFemaleBibliophile

And anyone else who wants to do it!

The Korean novel that inspired a new feminist movement: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 Review

book review, Uncategorized

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 | Book by Cho Nam-Joo, Jamie Chang ...

Title: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Author: Cho Nam-Joo

Series? No

Pages: 176 pages

Translated from the Korean by Jamie Chang

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 


 

As a US citizen, I may be familiar with the workings of feminism here but it’s definitely an experience learning about it from a citizen in a country foreign to me. What I know, I know only from Korean dramas, other Korean novels, and the news. This book and its surrounding controversy really shed a light on the complications the word feminism holds in Korea.

This story definitely made its mark in Korea, becoming the first Korean novel to sell a million copies in Korea since 2009 and already has a movie adaptation out. I sped through this riveting book in a few hours. I definitely did not expect the book to be written like this. It has a detached, dark tone to it like The Vegetarian but definitely grounds itself in its contemporary setting, not surrealism. It follows Kim Jiyoung who is living with her husband and daughter in present day. One day, she suddenly possesses the ability to act uncannily like the different women she has met in her life. Her concerned husband recommends seeing a psychiatrist. This synopsis, I thought, was what was going to make up the entire book. I was wrong; it only takes up the first maybe 20 pages. The rest of the novel tells of Kim Jiyoung’s life (sped up almost) from her childhood all the way up to where she is now. This little novel is reminiscient of a documentary because even though Kim Jiyoung is fictional, the author infuses the story with real facts about Korea and women, footnotes where appropriate. These include stats on abortion, maternity leave and working women in Korea. It was definitely a learning experience; one of the most fascinating facts I learned was that Korea was one of the worst OECD coutnries to live in for a working woman; women earn 63% of what men earn vs 84% as the average. The story also represents a documentary in that there’s no real style, it is blunt and factually precise as any documentary with no style and euphemism to hide the horrific realities behind. You can only stare at the cold, hard facts. Kim Jiyoung’s life just gives reader a person to connect onto, but it’s almost unnecessary as Kim Jiyoung could represent any everyday woman and the societal oppression she faces.

A woman's place

I definitely appreciated seeing feminism explored from an Asian perspective because Nam Joo talked about the unfair precedence that a son needed to be born. In order for a mother to gain any respect, she must give birth to a son so important that boys are in this culture. I definitely was not removed from that talk and it’s still prevalent in the Asian world. Mothers would continue trying until a son was born. Similarly, this is why China has a 2:1 ration of boys to girls which is leading to a shortage of girls due to the one child policy that is still having consequences to this day. When the son is born, they get the best food, do no work, and sit near the head of the table. Sons were expected to carry on the family name. Isn’t it interesting that a patriarchial cultural norm like taking on a man’s last name when you’re married only perpetuates more patriarchial norms like revering sons because they are the ones who can carry on this name to their children? I also appreciated the commebtary on Asian familial dynamics especially regarding the mother-in-law. It’s still a very real thing about the mean mother in law, a character still portrayed in korean dramas but rooted in truth. I found it so ironic that a woman would willfully wish her daughter in law to have a son and scoff at the daughter, a true testament to the hold this dangerous cultral sentiment holds, that a boy is more important than a girl that she would willfully disrespect a daughter, a member of her own sex!

Review: "Kim Ji-young, Born 1982" Shows How Korean Society Has ...

Those discriminations are more prevalent in Asian speaking households in my experience, however, the rest of the book is not surprisingly very similar to other sexisms women around the world face in the workplace and in school. There are many scenes when Kim Jiyoung is going through interviews and men promoting other men but not women regardless of merit because the women would “eventually leave anyways” when they had a child.

I also appreciated that the author explained why men and other women would be unaware, even complicit in this discrimination. I like that she doesn’t attribute the sexism to a few bad apples but to a system where most everyone is culpable. Because everyone is to blame, passing on these toxic ideals to children perpetuates a vicious cycle of sexism. One of the book’s many strengths is the insidious little ways that women are forced into a certain box and the context surrounding that. Taken out of context, the things that women complain about would seem ridiculous. For example, Kim Jiyoung’s  sister in the story wants to become a journalist. The mother herself advised against it, recommending the job of a teacher instead because of the shorter hours so she could take care of her family. The mother insinuates that the sister’s first job is to take care of her future family even though the sister had not even expressed any interest in children. Some people may say why didn’t the sister just go with her dreams? No one was technically stopping her. Well, as you move along in the story, you see the amount of familial pressure and societal pressure, whether direct or indirect, that the sister faced to fit into that mold and her anger makes sense.

It’s insidious because it is masked.  The story took into account the history of women making sacrifices for their family and the unfair expectations placed on them. I felt more and more hopeless and more of a sense of injustice as Kim Jiyoung felt more and more disenchanted with the discrimination. What women are doing is not selfish, neither is it necessarily brave or admirable, they are just the best with what they have. I find that Kim Jiyoung has been praised as brave simply because she is fighting against a system that should not have to be fought. A system that should not be as oppressive as it is now.

Review of Cho Nam-Joo's 'Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982' - The Hindu

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I hope with books like these that just the discourse will spur a cultural change or one another’s point of view at least. It seems the world, every group digs its heels into the ground before considering anotehr viewpoint but it seems hopefully that this book is makign the wave it needs to in Korea.

Additional Links about the author and the book’s controversy that I found interesting:

  1. The Heroine of This Korean Bestseller is Extremely Ordinary by Alexandra Alter from NY Times
  2. In this Korean bestseller, a Young Mother is Driven to Psychosis by Eun Hong from NY Times

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My favorite book of the year so far Review: My Dark Vanessa

book review, Uncategorized

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Title: My Dark Vanessa

Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Series? No

Pages: 384

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 


Yay, four months into the year and I have one of my favorite books of the year! This book was a definitely a wild ride and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. Russell has crafted a difficult story about an abusive relationship that provides no easy answers and that’s why I absolutely loved it.

As soon as I started reading, I was hit with an isolating and oppressive story that did no let me go. We switch back and forth between two timelines, one in Vanessa’s high school and college years when she at fifteen enters a sexual relationship with her English teacher, Strane (42). The other timeline is in the present in 2017 when Vanessa is an adult and she finds out someone has come forward with a sexual assault allegation against Strane. A journalist seeks Vanessa out to corrobate the other victim’s story but Vanessa refuses. It’s interesting to see what Russell has to say about victimhood in this novel. The story is clever because you read about Vanessa’s ordinary life and in turn, she normalizes the abusive experience. It is only in occassional moments that she seems to glean that something is not right with the relationship. Strane is not a straight perpetrator either. Strane slyly manipulates her all in the name of love, constantly referring to her as powerful, having power over him yet Vanessa accepts it. The reader sees that she is being manipulated but you also see why Vanessa doesn’t understand that she is in an unfair power dynamic, even citing that she was the one making him fall to his knees. So she has all the power. Right? She even believes she wants Strane. I think it portrays the complexity of abuse very well, going into parts that are often not written about. Even though Vanessa has moments of knowing this relationship is wrong, she makes leaps to justify it. I also aprpeciated the mention of dissociative disorder which I don’t read a lot about but is very common in victims of abuse.

It’s interesting that Vanessa never considers herself a victim, stating it’s just a mental state. Being in her head truly allowed me to understand her logic. I read an interview with this author after I read it, the comments about how her early readers thought Vanessa was too unlikeable and that Strane should have had a POV to elicit more sympathy for Vanessa. I’m really glad Russell chose not to write it that way because in that way, we get to explore different types of victims with different types of stories. It still pains me that we only accept a victim, especially a woman, if she is passive and likeable. I like that we’re exploring a story where the it is the victim’s story and this victim doesn’t fit into a box we know well.

Russell also revealed she wanted this book to open conversation on consent.  also shows us the complexities of consent. Strane clearly asks her for consent during sexual encounters and asks if she is comfortable. Of course, a yes means yes right? Of course, it’s more complex than that. Even after they are apart and Vanessa leaves for college, Vanessa’s every waking moment is consumed by this man. The story in the past spans from high school to college and when she becomes legal, it becomes like every other type of relationship. It’s really fascinating to be lured by Vanessa’s POV seeing how how Strane manipulates her ideas of responsibility, power, sex, and relationships and you see that ripple into her adulthood. Too fittingly, there are many references to Lolita in here, a kind of meta comparison to what is happening between the two characters but of course with widely different interpretations. Truly, you feel as though you were stuck in her head. I like seeing how she grows and changes (or lack thereof).

A lot of the reviews of this book have complained that the secondary characters didn’t have any depth. I disagree. I think enough of their personalities were gleaned to make a foil for Vanessa, but her entire world revolves around Strane and her perceptions of the other characters would predictably be limited so I had no problems with that. It also gives a sense of claustrophobia and isolation to Vanessa’s story. The tone of the story was sensually bleak and oppressive. I also found it fascinating how big cultural events like the Bush presidential election were mentioned because it added a sense of false normalcy and place to this book.

I thought her storyline in the present was equally as fascinating as well. Vanessa doesn’t believe she has been abused, raped, or coerced. She denies anything remotely bad has happened to her but it’s interesting to see how she copes with it. She frequently dissociates and has to drink and smoke to cope with her life. I think this book really stands out from other books of this nature because of Vanessa’s ignorance and denial of her abuse to the journalist. In the era of the #metoo movement, it’s very hard to accept that  refusal to acknowledge what has been done to her but it only brings into question difficult facets of victimhood and justice. Is it your reponsbility to come forward with your story to corrobate other victims and to inspire others to take action? What happens to justice if you don’t? Even at the end of the book, you don’t find the satisfying answers and solutions that you feel Vanesssa deserves but the uncertain ending makes her experiences all the more harrowing.

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Not as good as Season 1 but sets the stage for Season 3: The Wire Season 2 review

tv review, Uncategorized

*Spoilers for S1 but not S2

One of the main reasons why I enjoy watching TV is because I get to follow the characters’ lives through a long period of time, really getting to see a character fleshed out, grow, fall, and get back up again. I think this arc is the most rewarding aspect of storytelling.

The Wire delivers on this rewarding aspect of stories. The show builds its foundation on its compellingly tragic characters. Despite how they may want to change, the tragedy is that they can’t help themselves which makes their eventual downfall even more painful. Season 2 also got built on top of the layered relationships developed in Season 1. In this season, we follow the some of the same characters from the first season, most notably some of the major players from the Barksdale organization like Avon, Stringer, and D’Angelo, as they navigate their new roles. Avon and D’Angelo are trying to adapt to jail. Avon is still trying to win D’Angelo’s favor. Stringer is trying to maintain the drug dealing. Their stories, however, are more sidelined this season in favor of another central mystery in the ports of Baltimore.

The Wire Cast Was Confused About Season 2 | Vanity Fair

The other storyline of the season revolves around a port union and the fiasco that ensues after 14 dead women are found in one of their stacks. There are three new main characters of the season, Nick (the port leader), Ziggy (his son), and Nick (his nephew). This storyline was definitely a springing point for the show to explore the concept of the traditional vs new technology. Frank is continually trying to support his union even through illegal smuggling but he appreciates the hard work. He resents when people remind him that these workers are a thing of the past, soon to be replaced by machines. Ziggy, on the other hand, enthusiastically starts selling drugs on the side and making deals with the mysterious “The Greek” to make more money. He is always, much to his chagrin, the butt of the joke and his progressive descent to his brekaing point at this provides a big source of tension throughout. Although they were my least set of characters, they were definitely interesting and their stories were well pulled together by taut acting and punchy dialogue.

THE WIRE: Season 2 Review | Collider

I’m happy to say that although the Baltimore police spend a few episodes apart from each other, they still come together eventually to work on the port murder case. I really enjoyed the new character of Russell, a newbie police officer who helps them. I’ve been attached to the old characters in Season 1 and I loved seeing their chemistry again after time apart. I appreciated that this season also expanded on their personal storylines. McNulty is trying to get back with his ex-wife, to which she says “How can I trust you again?”. Kima’s and Daniel’s struggle to find a balance between working dangerous and detrimental cases and the needs of their partners who advise against it. I really liked following Kima’s struggle to do real police work with her wife’s concern for her safety and well being. I would have liked to see more backstory for Herc, Carver, Bunk, and Lester though.

The Wire': Why The Second Season Was Important

As always, The Wire’s craftsmanship is as good as it ever was. The tension is deftly pulled through the characters and each storyline takes its time to build its relationships before it is interested in sensational action. Depressing as the show is, the season was even heavier on the timely humor; it had me laughing out loud at several points. Eventually all the story threads are interwoven with each other which was fascinating to see unravel. The concept and theme of “playing the game” was also explored through different lens this season.

SPOILER THOUGHTS

  • Prez is so much likeable this season (that punch to Valchek was amazing)
  • I admit the Valcheck storyline was a little frivolous and uninteresting but it is the initial storyline that catalyzes the other ones so I guess it served its purpose
  • I think Frank represents traditional values, Ziggy the new, and Nick is halway between both which were interesting ideals to explore
  • I feel bad for McNulty but at the same time I agree with Elena.
  • I feel bad for Carver and Herc not being told Nick was already in custody even though I don’t really care for them
  • Ziggy was so annoying, I could barely stand him although the acting was really good.
  • i’m excited to see of Brother Mouzone
    • The scene with Omar shooting Brother Mouzone was probably my favorite scene of the season.
  • I also loved Omar’s courtroom answers to the lawyer.
  • The death of D’Angelo was so sad!!!! I was starting to like him this season too.
  • It’s interesting to see some of the police struggle with new tech this season
  • There were so many more special moments of humor this season which I loved.

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A movie review on my favorite movie of the year so far: Emma.

movie reviews, Uncategorized

Johnny Flynn, Callum Turner, and Anya Taylor-Joy in Emma. (2020)

I had a very bad week last week and this movie was like a savior angel upon my movie watching. It was definitely exactly what I needed.

First of all, this Emma version is so different than other Jane Austen adaptations in style.  Stylistically, it’s sort of like Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. It is focused on the color contrast between outfits and every scene is a dance (literally and figuratively) between characters. It’s as if this movie was choreographed and framed to be a musical but there’s no music. One of the reasons why I loved it so much as well was because it was such a visual feast. In every scene, you are rewarded with panoramic views of Highbury and Emma’s idyllic estate. Again, the bold visuals and almost abrupt and choppy editing make this Emma very unique. I also have to mention the costuming was slightly different than the other versions. I don’t remember the other versions having such bold hat designs (but I’m not complaining). The music is not as soft and whimsical as you would expect but more blunt.

Emma filming locations | Tatler

This Emma version is definitely bolder and sexier but it doesn’t skimp on the wordplay and the essence of the characters that make the world of Emma so endearing. Usually with Jane Austen adaptations too, there’s a heavy focus on minute gestures and eye fucking. This one is the same and yet it was fast paced, the trivially significant gestures, when they did come (like a certain hand resting on Emma’s back), were very rewarding and satisfying. As an aside, I loved that dance scene. The plot were also very fast paced but the story didn’t feel rushed.The casting and acting were equally brilliant. They all reminded me of their respective characters but in a different way. Usually Caroline is portrayed as beautiful but entitled, this Caroline’s actor played an unconventional but no less effective Caroline. Shoutout to the two Sex Education actors that appeared in this movie; it was odd seeing them in historical clothing but it still worked nonetheless. The same goes for Emma’s casting.  Usually she is played by a blonde with long, conventionally curly hair and wide, innocent eyes. This Emma captures more the shrewdness and cunning of the character with her narrow eyes and springy short ringlets. It worked well. Elton was a bit goofier than I remember him to be though? But Frank, Jane, Harriet, and Mrs. Bates were all on point.

The new Emma may look pretty – but Jane Austen deserves to be ...

The chemistry and friendship between characters were also very endearing. Emma and Harriet was natural and vibrant. Each character’s interaction with Emma helped me believe their longstanding history with each other. You, as the audience, can fill in the gaps of their history and whatnot. The relationship between Emma and her father was also lovely to see. Of course, we can’t forget the relationship between Emma and Knightley. You can definitely see the friendship in their past but hints at something more throughout the movie. This Knightley is definitely plays into his more earnest and sincere side rather than being reproachful but it’s definitely when it needs to be. I have to say the “badly done” was very well handled in this movie. I would have liked to see more of Emma’s famous “aha” moment when she finds out she loves Knightley but still, the movie made unique choices in its portrayal of their relationship which I appreciated. The sideburns were weird though.

This Millennial 'Emma' Respects Its Elders - The New York Times

These days I really value when a movie takes a story done many times and revamps it into something bold and so clearly in the director’s individual vision. I loved this Emma’s more riskier take on the novel, but it definitely paid off for me. It has definitely inspired me to revisit other Emma adaptations (I’ve seen the 2009 movie, Clueless, and Emma Approved) and watch the ones I haven’t seen (1996 movie, 1997 movie, and the 2009 BBC series).

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More shows should be made like this – The Wire Season 1 Review

tv review, Uncategorized

Image result for the wire

I’m so happy I finally starting watching this show. I’ve been putting it off for so long for 2 main reasons. One is I don’t watch a lot of dramas; I much prefer comedy. I also feared how the show would treat women (I was right). But since I had spring break and I was in a show slump, I felt like spicing things up and decided to take the plunge. And it was totally worth it.

The Wire’s intriguing first episode follows the trial of D’Angelo Barksdale for the murder of a gang member. Soon the trial expands into a deep, dark rabbit hole of the illegal narcotics organization of the Baltimore projects. What follows throughout the entirety of the season is an emotionally charged and urgent chase by the Baltimore police department to arrest and convict the ringleader, Avon Barksdale. The show alternates between the POVs of the detail following the case and the people on the streets. The main theme threading throughout the show is “playin the game”, referring to essentially the rules that govern the world they live in. On the streets, the game is to “play or be played.” All of these characters are enslaved by the game even as they furiously try to win and make a place for themselves within it. Ironically, the unspoken rules of the game did not stop on the streets. Corruption runs abound at the police department. McNulty, the main detective, is fed up with police officers only looking to go up the ranks instead of doing the actual work of a police officer. His chain of command continually tries to dissuade him from continuing the case and orders him to make quick arrests to increase their stats. After a few episodes, you are left wondering if the police department, the people sworn to protect, are anything morally better than those who sell drugs for a living. How does a corrupt institution foster further corruption? This juxtaposition is one of the reasons why the Wire is so compelling, every single character walks a fine line of gray yet never steps beyond the unbelievable.

Image result for the wire

Why does this show continually show up as one of the greatest shows of all time? Well for one, this show could have been self indulgent in its violence and darkness as shows of this dark subject matter tend to do. The Wire doesn’t need to flaunt or prove its grittiness. Most of the violence is done off screen. The tension mounts subtly, often just through character conversations. As the police make more arrests, the Barksdale group get more desperate in covering up their secrets. The drama doesn’t need to scream for you to notice. It trusts that the amount of time it spends on its characters builds a foundation for emotional depth and tension throughout. There are so many scenes of them just discussing the case or taking pictures of the suspects on rooftops but it’s in those moments that reveal who they are. You also feel as if you are there with them from day to day.

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The Wire excellently paces its tension and themes throughout but truly it would be nothing without its character building. The characters show their humanity in closeups, in the dialogue, and the phenomenal acting. This is what the Wire does best; it’s the epitome of nuance. It finds ways to creatively show and build a character’s perspective on life. One of my favorites, Wallace, is often referenced by the others as not “hard enough” for the streets. He lovingly takes care of the kids under his charge and is sensitive to the brutal killings done in the name of Barksdale, often hinting that he wants to leave the game. Of course you root for him, innocent as he is and wish him the best. When he gets called into the police station to be a confidential informant, he offers a licorice to a Lutenant Daniels. The small scene reveals a ton about him because the other ones often curse at and insult police officers when taken in for questioning. Little things like that make a TV show great. Supposedly, the first season is suppose to be the worst one according to critic reviews. If that’s the case, I’ll be in for a real treat in the next seasons. It’s definitely not your typical TV show but for me, it was well worth the risk and I don’t usually even like crime dramas.

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Book Recommendations from Winter 2020

Book Recommendations, book review, Uncategorized

If there is anything positive to come out of this quarantine, it is that I have been catching up on all the reading I have missed during my first quarter of classes. So I decided to recommend the top books I’ve read this winter, hopefully you can find something you like from the list.

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

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Omg, if you are looking for a fun and cute story to lift your moods. Look no further, because this fits all the checkboxes. You can read the first volume for free here on the author’s website. The drawings are done digitally with a very smooth look reminisent of 2D animated movies. The story is so heartwarming; it’s all about friendship and acceptance and all kinds of love. The dragons here are cute creatures who can brew different kinds of magical tea. The landscapes are cozy and inviting and remind me of landscape paintings.

 

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An Excerpt

 

To be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If FortunateThis is a novella following a group of space explorers documenting new species from the different planets they travel to. It’s not action packed but it is full of adventure and wonder. I was actually surprised Chambers was not a scientist herself (coming from a person who majored in Biology) as she paid such an accurate homage to scientific process, a tedious and sometimes thankless process but the rewards of discovering something new are unmatched. I was utterly fascinated by the different species they encountered; she definitely played with our traditional ideas of how living things should be. This novella also gleans into the day to day life of a scientist albeit in space. You really get a sense of the loneliness and disconnect they have from Earth considering how little time passes for them versus on Earth. You also get glimpses of their backstories, what it’s like to leave Earth forever and what is happening on Earth as they are up there.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo’s first foray into a genre (mystery/thriler) other than fantasy was a huge Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)success for me. I think she succeeded because she played up her strengths as a writer. This book, although being a mystery firmly set in contemporary setting and space, has a dark, foreboding sense of atmosphere. There’s also a fantasy element to the book–magic–which is something Leigh Bardguo excelled at writing more which I think traditional mystery writers would have a harder time executing. The magic feels like a lived in part of this world and I adored the history behind the magic and Yale and its societies as the center to all this magic. The main character is one of those millenial women fuckups that the media loves nowadays but I’m not complaining about it because Bardugo takes the time to write Alex’s history and it makes her story standout. The other characters are just as memorable. I was completely entranced and will be eagerly awaiting the next book.

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold – Winner of the Printz Honor Award

DamselThis book has a lot of mixed reviews on Goodreads and I can definitely see why even though I personally loved it. First of all, it’s not really a teen book for teens, it’s more of a teen book for adults, like Martin Scoresese’s Hugo was for adults. Its premise is an interesting one: every generation, a damsel is rescued from a dragon with no memory of who she was before. She must marry the prince and bear his heirs. The cycle repeats on and on. At first glance, it is highly blunt and ominous in its message, driving home the message of the insidiousness of rape culture.  But the meat of the story is hidden within these metpahoric and symbolic lines. How does a woman find her voice in a world where she is not given a choice? The writing is a definitely a step up from a lot of YA books due to its focus on the character’s introspection so I’m not surprised it won the Printz.

Glass Town by Isabel GreenbergGlass Town

Glass Town is a graphic novel loosely following the Bronte sisters and their fictional imaginary world of Glass Town. As with all books of this nature, this imaginary world is only reflective of what the characters’ currrent mindset is like and Glass Town in the book really reflects the sibling relationships and how each character deals with grief and death. Definitely a quieter, literary graphic novel for a rainy day. I completely adored their imaginary world. The fluid, sketchy art is not for everyone but I didn’t mind it.

 

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The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie, #1)I admit that although this was a solid first book, it falls a lot into the trappings of YA storytelling. She definitely overemphasizes and overdramatizes to hone in her point when it doesn’t need to be there. The worldbuilding is also quite lackluster. It follows a lot of common worldbuilding of a lot of older YA where the poor are enslaved and used for the rich’s use, with no sense of subtely. It reminded me of a lot of The Hunger Games where the rich people wear very garish, vivid colors whereas the poor wear drab clothing. All of them are vapid. Been there, done that. However, I will say the world has a lot of potential especially as Nirrim and Sid continue to unravel the mysteries of the magic system. I’m happy to say though that Rutkoski’s knack for slow burn relationships, sophisticated dialogue, and quiet storytelling is back and better than ever. I’m very excited to see where Nirrim’s and Sid’s relationship goes. I also thought Nirrim’s relationship with her abusive foster mother was also much more nuanced than many other YA books that tackle this. I also loved how Rutkoski explores different facets of lying and power different than in the Winner’s trilogy. I was so flippin happy to see mentions of the characters in the The Winner’s trilogy and I think Kestrel and Arin are going to play bigger roles in the next book. I’m very curious about their character development because one character’s perception of them in this book was less than stella. I’m hoping it’s just the character’s bias but it’ll definitely an interesting character arc so we’ll see.

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