Book Recommendations · book review · Uncategorized

Mini Book Reviews: Identity

I might be grasping at straws here by compiling all these books under the same theme but I think it works. All of these are relatively short books, no more than 304 pages and quick reads. They were all informative about some specific historical event and culture and by writing about violence, war, and family, the authors were able to see how these affect a person’s identity and sense of self. Enjoy! =) Let me know if you’ve read any of these, your thoughts or if you’re planning on reading them.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Goodreads | 89 pages | Poetry

Thank you to Copper Canyon Press for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.

Poetry is not my forte and still isn’t but I still like it and I think through this collection, I’ve discovered 2 really important secrets to help me appreciate it more and I think they actually just might help those who just can’t seem to get into poetry too. So,

  1. Read the poetry aloud.
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3.5/5

I realize this is really weird and will probably make you seem crazy. But just think of it like spoken poetry. I think orating it out loud just emphasizes each word and makes you see how each word fits together in the whole scheme of the poem. All strangeness aside, it’s actually quite cathartic.

2. Don’t try to understand it (at first).

The first time you go through this collection, don’t try to find meaning underneath each statement. In fact, I think poetry is less about meaning sometimes than the overall structure and phrasing of the words and the word choice in general. It won’t make sense but at the same time it’s really fascinating how the poet constructs the piece. How he can relate two such unrelated things and have it somehow work.

With those in mind, you’ll have a really good time with this poetry collection. This collection is all about how family shapes your identity, how your identity is an extension of your mother’s and your father’s. About finding your identity through culture, through sexuality, and ultimately through self.

Now here is your father inside

your lungs.

He also touches on the Vietnam War and Vietnam written with a fusion of Vietnamese and English in some of them such as in “Aubade with Burning City”, a piece that follows the evacuation of refugees from Vietnam while a Christmas song is playing on the radio.  Others are more about love bordering on the erotic; in fact he writes an “Ode to Masturbation” at one point and it was quite poignant (lol).The great thing about Ocean’s poetry is that he doesn’t technically have a defining structure like Emily Dickinson and her dashes. He will try out many different structures. One of the poems is written entirely in footnote, others more prose poetry. And hidden in these poems are gems of poignancy that are really beautiful. It almost feels as though this poetry collection is helping him find himself. It’s particularly displayed in one of my favorite pieces of this collection, “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong”, which sounds like a piece written to himself. And maybe it is.

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Excerpt from “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong”

 

I’m so excited to have finally read an Ocean Vuong work and I’m definitely going to check out his future works.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Goodreads | 85 pages | Nonfiction, Memoir

If you’re going to read this memoir, I highly recommend the audiobook. Trevor Noah himself narrates it and his humorous and conversational voice really shines through.I honestly think this is one of the best, if not the best, entertainment celebrity memoirs I have ever read. This is true because first and foremost, Trevor Noah can actually write without sacrificing his humorous witticisms. Sometimes the conversational voices that celebrities use in their books sort of undermine the writing process in general because it is clear that the story was not meant to be a book, more better for a video or a podcast. But Trevor Noah’s story just works so well as a book. The opening of every chapter is followed with a little history lesson or framing device about South Africa which sets up his story in a relevant way. But the memoir, for the most part, revolves around his childhood in South Africa where he was quite literally “born a crime”. Born

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4.5/5

to a Swiss father and an African mother during the time of apartheid Trevor was obviously illegal and he talks about how he spent a lot of his childhood hiding, sometimes when he and his mother were walking down the street, and police were roaming the street, she would push him away and pretend not to know him for safety’s sake. It’s very clear throughout how much his mother means to him. How his deeply religious mother, a force of nature who eschewed tradition and propriety, shaped his open perspective of the world. In spite of the poor community he lived and the fact that he grew up very poor (his mother would park at red traffic lights to save gas), Trevor reminisces that he never felt trapped or limited to the ghetto because his mother always reminded him that the community he lived in was not all that the world had to offer him. He knows he was one of the lucky ones however.

 

People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing. 

You really feel as though you knew his mother and by extension, Trevor as so much of his personality is shaped by her. Noah also discusses his struggle to belong in a certain community because of his race. He didn’t quite belong with the “whites”, not quite the “blacks”, and not even the “mixed” raced kids because they would think he would act like either a black or a white. The discussion of race was effortlessly integrated probably he has had to live by these race rules his entire life. But putting those aside, Trevor gets into some crazy shit mostly because he admits to being a troublemaker as a child.

All of this is told with the usual Trevor Noah humor very on par with his humor as host of the Daily Show. But he never tries too hard to cater to a certain audience or sounds too self-deprecating as sometimes celebrity memoirs will do and most importantly, he never writes as though he is wondering why he is even writing a book. Trevor Noah lets the audience know that this story is important to him and is important in general. Informative, sincere, and humorous, I highly, highly recommend.

Human Acts by Han Kang

Goodreads | 218 pages | Contemporary, Korean lit

I think I liked Human Acts even more than The Vegetarian and I think readers who didn’t like the Vegetarian should still give this a shot because it is definitely not as bizarre or surreal as The Vegetarian. It definitely leans more towards the gritty and brutal

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4/5

tone. Written by several different perspectives within a 3 decade span, Human Acts tells a fictionalized story behind the very true student uprisings in Korea in 1980. Han Kang really delves into the concept of the body, how you can be separated from your body. How after torture, you can even be disgusted by your body. Is the body separate from the person’s soul?  To answer she eve writes one chapter from the perspective of a corpse which honestly I wouldn’t want any other author to write.

When they threw a straw sack over the body of the man at the very top, the tower of bodies was transformed into the corpse of some enormous, fantastical beast, its dozens of legs splayed out beneath it.

It works because there is something about Han Kang’s writing that is so visceral, that requires an equally visceral and immediate reaction. Her writing is so penetratingly vivid and poetic. I usually hate describing writing as poetic because it is overused now but it’s definitely true for Han Kang because I looked at the back flap and what do you know, she started her writing career as a poet so hence poetic writing which really helps the imagery of this book. Because of this, however, it can also become confusing because there is a lot of section breaks and it was sometimes difficult to discern how the subsequent perspectives were related to the previous ones but that’s a minor quibble. She also touches on the concept of nationality, the feeling of belonging to a nation but at the same time in disbelief at how your nation can ultimately betray you. This is explored by following these characters through the aftermath of the uprisings and how these acts of violence have scarring effects on a person and their memory. This book would definitely benefit from a reread to see how everything ties together. But, in all, such a brilliant book and one that already cements Han Kang as an exceptionally accomplished writer.

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Book Recommendations · Uncategorized

Recommendations: Graphic Novels The Second Edition

I’ve done a graphic novels recommendation post before but when I was looking over it again, it was severely lacking and I’ve been reading so many more graphic novels within the past year or so. So here’s an updated version. I wholeheartedly recommend all of these. I find that graphic novels are so great for reading slumps or if you don’t have a lot of time like you’re waiting for your late friend to come pick you up or you’re waiting for people to hurry the fuck up even though they said they were ready 20 minutes ago, a graphic novel is perfect for that in between time. But it’s also perfect for a rainy day when you just want to stare at beautiful artwork. Bear in mind though that I don’t really know a thing about art so if my descriptions of art are off, that’s why.

*All pictures are not my own unless otherwise stated.

Dark Fairytale Retellings


Image result for fables graphic novelFables (Series) by Bill Willingham & others

Type of Artwork: Comic Book Style, Ink and pencil

Read if you like: Fairy Tales (Duh), Mystery, Crime, Gritty Worldbuilding

I really enjoyed the culmination of finding all your favorite fairy tale characters portrayed in a way that that makes then less than perfect people. There’s also a android/apple game based on this series. I review both here.

 

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Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & KerascoetImage result for beautiful darkness

Translated by: Helge Dascher

Read if you like: Dark Subversion of Fairytales

Type of Artwork: Watercolor, Cartoon, Realistic landscape and animal drawings

This French graphic novel starts off all cute and fuzzy but then quickly spirals into an existential and symbolic subversion of fairy tales and their tropes before you realize what you’re even reading. It actually is quite violent and graphic at times; it almost feels like fairytales written by a horror author. It will leave you wondering what the fuck you just read but it was still very memorable to me.

 

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Science Fiction/Fantasy

Image result for descenders vol 1Descenders (series) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen

Type of Artwork: Watercolor

Read if you like: Star Wars, Pacific Rim, Mini Robot Companions, classic adventure character tropes: the underdog, the mentor etc. etc.

Although it doesn’t boast anything particularly new or original, Descenders is for those scifi fans who want a little comfort food or even those who want to get more into science fiction and love the plot of a scifi opera. There’s a little bit of mystery but also has a bigger, more epic plot that plays out in the next installments.

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Sweet Tooth (Series) by Jeff LemireImage result for sweet tooth vol. 1

Type of Artwork: Ink, Realistic color scheme

Read if you like: Person-traveling-alone-to-find-paradise stories, post-apocalyptic, stories about genetic manipulation

After his father dies, Gus, a human/animal hybrid travels across post-epidemic America to find a refuge for hybrids to live in peace. The first volume is spent mostly traveling but it’s partly coming of age where Gus, an innocent soul, learns about the world around him. What I enjoyed about this more than other post-apocalyptic novels is the addition of scifi and a dystopian atmosphere.

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Image result for harrow county volume 1Harrow County by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Cook

Type of Artwork: Watercolor, Gradient shading

Read if you like: witches, horror, small towns

The story is readable but the true standout of this novel is the fabulous artwork. It just makes everything a little more fluid but compact and little more scarier.

 

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Paper Girls by Brian K. VaughnImage result for paper girls vol. 1

Type of Artwork: Saturated, Contrast, Realistic Colors but occasionally uses a monochrome color palette

Read if you like: Stranger Things, Ensemble Casts, the ’80s, time travel, scifi creatures

So instead of a bunch of boys and one girl exploring the suburbs together, it’s a group of girls all distinct and all really sassy. They discover super cool supernatural creatures and time travel contraptions in a break neck and action-packed plot.

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Coming-of-age

Image result for this one summerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

Type of Artwork: Monochrome Palette of Purples and Grays

Read if you like: Slice-of-life, ambiguous endings, feminist commentary, friendship, family

One of the criticisms of this novel is that it doesn’t have a clear-cut conclusion but it’s actually something I like about it. It’s literally about following two friends one summer. It’s a very quiet, melancholic look at family and friends and what it means to grow up as a girl.

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Skim by Mariko and Jilian TamakiImage result for skim graphic novel

Type of Artwork: Ink Brush, Black and White

Read if you like: high school coming of age

A student commits suicide and this is the story of how another student grows up. She deals with family and friends. It’s a very slow story as can be expected from a Tamaki author and delves into everything from weight to suicide to depression.

 

 

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Image result for el deafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell

Type of Artwork: Cartoon, No Shading

Read if you like: Children’s stories, children’s coming-of-age

El Deafo uses anamorphic characters to portray a sense of innocence and relatability. It’s a memoir about a girl who is deaf as she navigates first friendships and things like that. In the novel, her hearing aids are attached to a box which looks really big and bulky and although technology has caught up and hearing aids are a lot smaller and compatible now, it doesn’t undermine the same feelings of being different and self-conscious that most, if not all kids go through. It is also fluffy and light so it’s easily readable for kids too.

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Lumberjanes (series) by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Waters, Brooke A. AllenImage result for lumberjanes vol.1

Type of Artwork: Digital Cartoon, Bright Colors

Read if you like: Friendship, Ensemble casts, cartoon animation shows

This is the definition of a cute and fun pick-me-up. It’s nothing too insightful but it will make you want to have adventures out in the woods with your best friends. Camping and girl scouts has never looked more appealing.

 

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Social Commentary

Image result for march vol. 1March Vol. 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Ayon, Nate Powell

Type of Artwork: Black, Gray, and White Colors, Sketchy

Read if you are interested in: Civil Rights Movement

This is a memoir about Lewis’s experiences being at the forefront of the Civil Rights movements from training others to how to participate at restaurant stand-ins. The novel starts when Lewis is meeting Obama and he recounts his past living in an era of intense racism where even his given rights were attacked. It felt so incredibly heartbreaking because this happened in recent memory and it seems like it’s happening now.

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Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
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Type of Artwork: Cartoon, Photographs

Read if you like: weddings, wedding trivia, first-world problems

Lucy Knisley wrote this book about planning her wedding while actually planning her wedding. She talks about the societal pressures and expectations of planning her wedding and weddings in general. I really liked how she deconstructs wedding myths and expectations and strives to make her wedding her own. For example, she avoided the sexist tradition of having your father walk you down the aisle by having both her and her husband’s parents walk both of them down the aisle. She also talks about her own love story, how she met her husband and their relationship. This might be the epitome of first-world problems but it was still pretty inspiring.

 

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Romance

17465574Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Translated by: Ivanka Hahnenberger

Type of Artwork: Watercolor, Monochrome Palette of Grays and Blues

Read if you like: first love, relationship stories, discovering sexuality

Clementine is both a coming-of-age story and a story about her relationship with Emma. I love the gradual buildup of this relationship as well as the slow discovery of Clementine’s sexuality while grappling with her identity and of the expectations around her.  Only Clementine’s hair is blue throughout highlights the isolation but also the excitement of distinguishing your identity.

Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic

Image result for sunstone vol. 1

Type of Artwork: Digital, Cartoon-Realistic

Read if you like: Romance, Romantic Comedies, Erotica

This is a romantic comedy about two women who meet online and subsequently start a loving, caring, but steamy BDSM relationship. It’s half about finding someone who shares the same kinks as you but also the fears and anxiety of meeting someone in person that you’ve only interacted with online which I thought were handled well. It follows a standard romantic comedy formula so it’s a lot cuter than you might expect. The two girls, although not as fleshed out as I would like, still relatable and endearing.

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Book Recommendations · book review · Uncategorized · wrap up

July 2016 Wrap Up

June, I mean July, wow…get it together Carolyn was a fail reading month in terms of number of books (5). Quantity wise..meh..it could be better but I did enjoy most of the books I read. I know July has also been a whack blogging month with me not posting as consistently as I usually do but I’ll explain more in my July Favorites. Onto the books!

The first book I read was actually a reread:

Legend by Marie Lu

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3/5

 

I loved it the first time around, hated it the second time. What happened? I explain all of my thoughts and feelings in my discussion post here.


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3.5/5

On the other side of the spectrum, I read Sunstone Vol. 1 by Stjepan Sejic (Graphic novel)

 

The red on the cover really, really makes it seem like some really, really intense erotica, with lots of really kinky sex scenes but it’s definitely a lot more lighthearted than it would seem. It is a romantic comedy following two women who are into BDSM (one’s a dominant, the other a submissive) who meet over the internet and they hit it off and start a relationship. Contrary to what popular books might have us believe *stares pointedly at 50 Shades of Grey* it is possible to portray a healthy BDSM relationship in a book. What a concept. And really, it made the desire to be in a BDSM relationship and all its quirks seem utterly understandable from a non BDSM perspective. The interaction between our main characters is sweet and almost cheesy. And I really like that the steamy scenes are very integral to our character’s development which makes it more sensual rather than just being there for the sake of being a hot scene. I adore the art too. It’s very muted in some areas but deep and vibrant in others but all with some kind of red in them.


And then on the other side of the spectrum once again, I read a literary theory book called

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4/5

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.

 

This book is about exactly what the title says. Prose dissects famous sentences and pieces of dialogue and points of view, as well as explain to us why details and character gestures and paragraph structure is so important. When do I break a paragraph? How much detail is needed? Which POV do I use? It sounds like some grammar lover’s heaven but it actually was really informative and you can tell that Prose has a deep passion for reading and writing (how fitting considering her name). We love our stories but we often underestimate how much word choice actually matters to telling that story. Whether to use a comma or semicolon etc. matters. It just gave me such a deep appreciation for the little things that writers have to think about while writing a book or anything really. I do think that the examples she gives us sometimes feel too long; she’ll give us some text from a classic or modern classic and then analyzes that section but the analysis would be so much shorter than the actual text she gave and I feel like she does contradict herself sometimes. She also does have a habit of sounding subtly pretentious when she writes about what constitutes “good” writing which I didn’t find bothersome at all (maybe because I’m low key pretentious about writing) but it might bother others.


And the last full book I completed was Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray, my favorite book of the month. It is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this series. I did write a full review here.

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4.25/5

 


DNF- Nuts by Alice Clayton

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In my neverending quest for a stellar romance novel, I decided to give Nuts by Alice Clayton after hearing so many good things about it. It’s an interesting concept for a romance novel, I’ll give you that because the love interest is a farmer. Nope, not the usual fantasy like firefighter or pliceman or doctor or mafia boss or motorcycle rider but a farmer? Sure why not. Our main character, Roxie, is a chef in LA and her mother has just got an offer to go on the TV show, The Amazing Race. She pleads with Roxie to return and manage the restaurant while she’s away even though Roxie does not want to go back to her hometown (this reminds me so much of Sweet Home Alabama). But she reluctantly agrees and there, she sparks a relationship with local farmer, Leo. I’m sad to say that this romance novel really did not cut it for me (I DNFed it at 25%ish). First of all, Roxie is your stereotypical “I-don’t-do-relationships” type of person which is getting to be one of THE MOST annoying romance tropes of all time. Oh you’re such a special snowflake, you don’t do relationships, where have I heard that before?? Oh yeah, in every other fucking romance novel. Girl, we know you do do relationships because we all know by the end of the book you’re gonna be that sexy hunk you met on page 10. Second of all, you don’t write believable sexual tension by saying “The tension was so thick..” Just because you write that will not make me believe it so the romance was pretty much subpar.

I’m basically not having any luck with romance this year so I’m bringing out the big guns in August and I’m going to read It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. I thought her last book and most people’s favorite CoHo book, Maybe Someday was just ok but I’ve heard people say this one is the best CoHo book and it’s unlike anything she’s ever written. We’ll see about that.


Anyways, as for what I’m currently reading, I’m reading A History of Seven Killings by Marlon James still. I’m really liking it. It’s just dense. I’m also more than halfway through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and haha, oh man, do I have things to say about this script. Be prepared for much ranting in my next post. And finally, I’m just starting to read Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman which I’m liking it so far although I am only on page like 10 so take that with a grain of salt.

How was your July reading? Any new favorites? Disappointments? Have you read any of these books before? If so, let me know your thoughts. =)

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Book Recommendations · Misc · Uncategorized

Fictional Summer Lookbook

I’m feeling really summery right now probably because I just finished The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson aka Ms. Queen of Summer Contemporary. Sigh dogs, cute guys, quirky diners, and 4 awesome friends. What more could you want in a YA contemporary? What more could you want in a summer? Actually no, it would have been better if one of the dogs was a corgi because corgis are my favorite.

It is my least favorite Matson so far although I still have Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour left to read but still really enjoyable. Anyways, I was inspired to create some summer outfits for some fictional characters. I’m actually a really big fan of fashion so why not combine books and fashion?

So of course, first of all The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. This outfit was actually inspired by one of the outfits the main character, Andie, wore for one of her dates.

lookbook1

 

I’m actually not a fan of denim but it’s seriously made such a comeback in the past year. But it’s definitely very versatile and I feel like this outfit works so well for whatever Andie is planning to do. Whether it be going to the diner with friends, walking dogs, going on casual dates, or doing a scavenger hunt, or you know going on last-minute bookstore trips (that scene was so cute)

Caelena in Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas is such a badass (even though her assassin skills are in question tbh) that if she existed in our contemporary world, I always imagine her in some kind of leather jacket (and then consequently beating up gangsters in the dark or something). So I gave it to her.

lookbook2

 

The thing about Caelena is that she can rock battle clothing but she feels very comfortable in a dress as well (which is really refreshing in a heroine) so I just added a really flirty top and some pink heel boots that are both feminine and edgy which I think is basically Caelena. Also I think it’s an awesome summer outfit for nighttime adventures. I can just imagine her going out on her motorcycle to watch the stars..

On the other end of the spectrum, I designed an outfit for Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I feel like Lara Jean has such a distinct style, very cutesy and sophisticated.

lookbook3

I remember when she was dressing up once, that she liked to dress in vintage clothing? If I’m wrong, this is embarassing, but the collared top really has a vintage feel to it while being modern at the same time. I paired with the skater skirt because it’s fun but relatively conservative. I also adore the messenger bag mostly because of the buckles, it’s really sophisticated. Anyways I can totally see Lara Jean wearing this to bake something with Kitty or going on a casual Starbucks date with Peter.

What’s summer without going to the beach? The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler takes place in a beach town.

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It’s been a while since I’ve read the book but I do remember the main character going to beach parties to..dance..I think. I used a lot of ocean type of jewelry because why not, they’re so cute. I would totally get that starfish ring. But I tried to pick flowy, nonconstricting types of clothing that you’d wear to the beach. The wedges are practical for the beach but I don’t care because I’m wedge-obsessed right now and this was the best outfit it worked with hehe.

One of my favorite scenes in Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, is the one where Sloane and Emily try to go in a club with fake IDs (even though they didn’t actually end up going in) but I had a fun time imagining what they’d wear.

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Ever since I bought red lipstick, I’ve been dying for a chance to wear it. Surprisingly, works really well for me. But yeah, I was going for sexy..

If Simon had a concert outside on a hot summer day with his band, it’s my headcanon that Isabella would wear something like this.

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I honestly don’t know why chokers are so popular all of a sudden but I’m starting to warm up to them. I’m also all about the dark pink lipstick. I feel like this outfit would also work really well for sightseeing somewhere so maybe Anna from Anna and the French Kiss?

Which outfit is your favorite, if any at all? Favorite summer outfits? Favorite summer reads?

Disclaimer: All pictures of individual clothes are not mine. Creation of photosets was helped by the website polyvore.com.

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Book Recommendations · book review · Uncategorized

Mini Book Reviews: Korean culture

I was thinking about the Asian/Asian American literature I’ve read and I realized I haven’t read many (if any at all) books set in Korea or by Korean authors so I kind of scratched the surface this month with these three books. I didn’t realize as I was reading them that they actually had very similar themes to one another: about generational and cultural clashes, about themes of filial obligation and commentary on Korean society. I hope you find something you like! =) Goodreads links when you click on the picture!

Starting off with my least favorite…

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin; Translated by: Chi-Young Kim

 

 

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3/5

what
A mother suddenly goes missing at a Seoul station subway and her family, mainly her daughter, son, and husband try and find her. With their mother/wife missing, they reminisce about their own relationship with her over the years.

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PLAM, though not very daring as an overall book, is actually quite daring structurally. It alternates between 2nd and 3rd person perspective between the daughter, Chi-Hon (2nd), the brother Chong Hyul (3rd), and the father (2nd), and finally a perspective from Mom herself. It works and..doesn’t work at the same time. It works because the 2nd person perspective allows the reader to envision themselves as the daughter or the father and consequently feels like your own mother is missing. But the constant switching does not allow enough time to fully immerse myself in their relationship. It just starts to explore the daughter’s relationship with her mother before suddenly switching to the son’s perspective. And it would have been much more interesting if Shin had added a layered nuance to the relationship because they all end up looking like they have the same relationship and it was sooooo boring. The mother is a stereotypical type of Asian mom: you know the ones that are very self-sacrificing and when they are hurting, they hide it from everyone but to their kids, they have a very tough love mentality.* I’m not saying they don’t exist, but there’s always more to someone that just their stereotype. But essentially they all came to the conclusion that they should have been more grateful to their mother and they finally realize their mother was actually a person and not someone who just worked in the kitchen before she disappeared. PLEASE I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU THAT BEFORE I EVEN STARTED THE BOOK. But instead of seeing the mother as a person, they now put her on a pedestal and she’s basically an angel. And, in the end, I didn’t care whether or not they found their mom, which is sad, because if your mom disappeared I would think that you would want to convince me to care about her. It had so much potential to explore the themes it only scratched the surface of such as filial obligations, generational barriers, and Korean etiquette.

But I mean I did really like all the descriptions of the food. I mean, that’s enough to give it an extra star.

Sidenote*: I was reminded of this video when I was writing about the “stereotypical” Asian mom. It’s kind of a parody of the quirks that stereotypical asian moms tend to have. It still makes me laugh everytime I watch it.


The Vegetarian by Han Kang; Translator: Deborah Smith

what

Yeong-Hye decides to become a vegetarian (actually vegan) one day after a haunting nightmare. We follow the effect of this choice on her husband, brother-in-law, and sister

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4/5

in 3 different parts of the story.

 

thoughts

I can see why not everyone likes The Vegetarian. It’s a darkly odd and twisted book though not as weird to me as everyone claims it to be (maybe that just says something about me lol; my weird tolerance is very high). But I’m in the bandwagon that really enjoyed the reading experience. Like PLAM, it alternates perspectives between different family members that are important to Yeong-Hye. Her husband, her brother-in-law, and finally, her sister. But its writing and nuanced theme exploration far surpass PLAM’s. The writing is strangely detached and emotionless but it is so visceral in its imagery with hints of magical realism that kind of balances out the detached quality. It’s kind of funny that a book titled The Vegetarian (or more accurately, the vegan) is not really about being a vegetarian so to speak. It’s about the collapse of societal etiquette that was expected of her. What happens when a subservient wife starts rebelling against her societal role? She starts wearing obscene clothing, starts to ignore her husband and doesn’t cook for him, and even ignores her father’s advice. She is a very mysterious figure in the book but I felt like she was fully realized because every perspective had a different relationship with her and more so, I got to understand the desires and fears of the people around her because of her sudden change, how her husband didn’t marry her for love, her sister’s self-sacrifice, and how her brother-in-law wants to have sex with her (ew). What happens when their subconscious desires that have never been spoken of in polite society or fully acknowledged reveal themselves? And what will happen to Yeong-Hye when her own desires are stifled? What happens when she becomes unrecognizable, when her state of being becomes problematic but is never discussed in a society that prides itself on silently enduring problems? I love the commentary it raises and I thoroughly enjoyed this surreal journey. 

Sidenote: Props to the translator, the words and their intended meaning were translated excellently.


Shelter by Jung Yun (Korean-American author)

what

 

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4.25/5

A Korean man, Kyung Cho, and his Irish-American wife, Gillian who live with their 4-year-old son Ethan, deal with the aftermath of a tragic event that happened to Kyung’s parents.

Sidenote: I imagine Ethan looks cute af because let’s face it, halfies are so cute..

thoughts

It’s a family drama that reads like a thriller and had me so anxious throughout even though when I think back on it, nothing much actually happens. In fact, I would argue that the writing is not really anything special that jumps out at you like the writing in The Vegetarian. It’s as blunt and direct as writing can get. But its strength lies in the way Yun so skillfully weaves in layers and layers to Kyung’s character without you realizing it. He’s quite the unreliable narrator, a selfish and resentful one, and because of that his actions are unpredictable and how we think of his parents, his wife is from his perspective, so even their actions are different than we expect because we think of them as one way from Kyung’s perspective when they might not be that person at all.

Kyung has a lot to deal with in this book but the one thing that’s always on his mind and controls his actions is the abuse he suffered as a child. Watching his father beat his mother, but also enduring the abuse his mother dealt him. I love the way Yun explores abuse in Shelter. Abuse doesn’t manifest itself in dramatic and obvious ways, she seems to imply, it just seeps into who you are. And as the story continues, I saw hints of his parents in Kyung, the people he never wanted to resemble. He struggles with being a good father and husband because he fears his past has not taught him how to be either. Yun explores what abuse has on cultural Korean norms as Kyung tries to reconcile his filial obligation to his desire to distance himself from his parents but also his struggle to hide and endure his past or finally acknowledge it. Can he let his past go? But more importantly, can he let his resentment of his past go? The subtle combination of these themes with the addition of fantastic storytelling (the reason I read this book in 2 days) makes this a must read. 

Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts? Also, if you have any recommendations for books set in Korea or by Korean authors, I’d love to know!! =)

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Book Recommendations · book review · Uncategorized

Mini Book Reviews: Nonfiction

 

Happy Easter everyone! I’m currently in the midst of packing so I can go back to my apartment and start my last quarter at school..In other news, my heart goes out to those in Belgium and Iraq. I don’t know how I was going to transition into these set of reviews but I wanted to review a few nonfiction books that I’ve read recently. I hope you find something you enjoy! 🙂

 

Catfish and Mandala 4370-“Some call you the lost brothers. Look at you. Living in America has lightened your skin, made you forget your language. You eat nutritious Western food and you are bigger and stronger than us. You know better than to smoke and drink like Vietnamese. Someday, your blood will mix so well with the Western blood that there will be no difference between you and them. You are already lost to us.”

Rating: 4 stars

Author: Andrew X. Pham

Goodreads

Older generation Vietnamese people are obsessed with the Vietnam War, obsessed. We have countless songs and stories about it and I find that a LOT of Vietnamese/Vietnamese American literature focuses solely on the war and not much else. Which is why I’m so glad I found Catfish and Mandala. It focuses not only on the immigration experience but also immerses us into the country of Vietnam, its beauty but also its dark underbelly. Pham alternates between the past in which he recounts how he escaped to America and the brutal reality of not knowing where you belong but also the present where he tries to come to terms with not only his ambivalence towards Vietnam but the circumstances surrounding the suicide of his transgender sister and the numerous generational conflicts of his parents. I thought it was written in a very honest way and I find that Pham writes with an extra touch of style that a lot of Vietnamese American authors I’ve read lack. It was interesting to see an almost immediate account of someone escaping on a boat when I’ve really only heard about it indirectly through family members.

Between the World and Me25489625 “I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.”

Rating: 3 Stars

Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Goodreads

What it’s about-A father writing letters to his son about his experience as a black man in America, what it means to be black in America, and what he hopes for the future of race in America.

This book has gotten rave reviews from so many people and I had really high hopes but alas, it’s another one of those overhyped books that I did not seem to like as much. #hipster jk, kind of. DOn’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about this book. Coates has some really interesting race theories that I’ve never encountered before. He boils down the conflict of the black people to violence of the black “body” and how there will always be this barrier to the American dream for the black people because the American dream was made possible because of the enslavement and degradation of black people. He asks us to reevaluate what the American dream even means. And he includes many contemporary examples of police brutality including Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. Which is where I had problems. See, he simplifies the problem too much. It’s not about blacks vs. whites, it’s not about police vs. blacks, good vs. evil. He never gives me the other points of view. I want to know the full story and because he doesn’t give me those other POVs, it just ends up sounding like propaganda. And for all the philosophy that he gives, he’s actually kind of vague and abstract about all of them which just makes it feel like he spewed out anything on his  mind and that was that. The structure of the book is also quite erratic. It just jumps from one thing to another almost like a stream of consciousness. So I think this book is worth reading but it does have his flaws.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers-“It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what pe12900261_1077589925596072_93077103_nople did, or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they dodged. A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught.”

Rating: 4 stars

Author: Katherine Boo

Goodreads

Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize
I was a little skeptical going into this book because it’s a book about a Mumbai slum written from a Western perspective. There’s always the fear of the viewing the West as the “savior”, things like that. But I’m very happy it didn’t dissolve into that. Instead, Boo paints these people with tenderness and detached sentimentality that makes it all the more powerful and heart-wrenching. There was a point in the book where a woman self-immolates herself so her family can get money from the another family that they have incriminated and all the boy from the other family can think about is that he is going to jail. I thought it was impressive that Boo writes about poverty as not about just being poor and not having enough food to eat. It is about the lengths that people will go to to survive and move up in the social hierarchy. It’s about the elevated power of money when everyone is poor and how that leads to a  deeply ingrained game of corruption that everyone in this community has to play in or they will not survive. It’s a stunning piece of investigative journalism where you read about what Boo did to acquire this information. I believe that she lived in Mumbai for a time. She had eyewitness accounts and interviews to many of the people and events described in the book. She spent years trying to obtain certain records to use in the book. I think her dedication really shines.

Just a side note- This book is narrative nonfiction which means that it’s a real story but Boo writes the story in third person as if the people in it were fictional characters like
“James went to the store and bought tomatoes” like a book version of a documentary. It can be a bad thing to some readers as it makes it feel like a story instead of something that has actually happened to real people but it depends on the reader. I personally didn’t mind.

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Book Recommendations · Uncategorized

Holiday Book Gift Guide

Do you want to give the Christmas gift of reading but the person you’re shopping for doesn’t like to read? What do you do now? Well, I have a few suggestions and hopefully they won’t let the book gather to dust on their coffee table. I’m not going to suggest books for people who already read because chances are you already know what kind of books they like or they have a specific book in mind that they want. So in the next few days, when you go Christmas gift shopping, why not take a look at these?

For the reluctant young readers:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid*/The Invention of Hugo Cabret/Crossover by Kwame Alexander/The Familiars by Jay Epstein

I’ve read the whole series of Diary of a Wimpy Kid except the last one. No regrets. Amazing sense of sarcastic and dumb humor that kids are sure to love. The pictures are a hilarious bonus too.

The rest of the book also have stunning pictures to go along with the text. Selznick has also written a new book called Marvels but I haven’t read it yet.

For the movie buff:

Marvel encyclopedia/Lord of the Rings movie book/Star Wars comics

The Marvels one is exactly as you’d expect it to be, just descriptions of all the superheroes with gorgeous illustrations. The Hobbit one is like the making of the movie. This one comes with those cool flap covers. I think any Star Wars fan would love to read the comics so get them the latest one. Get them a BB8 while you’re at it or maybe just a BB8 cup

For The Visual Learner:

The Art of Ratatouille (They also have ones for most of the Disney movies)/Humans of New York

*The Art of “” Books come with all the Disney movies so you can get the Art of Tangled or Big Hero 6 or whichever one. I picked these because the full page photos are amazing but the text makes the experience so much more informative.

For the baker:

Nerdy Nummies cookbook by Rosanna Pansino

Extra bonus if your recipient is a geek like me because all the recipes are “geek-based” like textbook smores etc.

For the Youtube watcher:

A lot of people watch Youtube personalities and a lot of them write like they speak so these books are quick to read and just plain entertaining.

The Amazing Book is not on Fire by Dan and Phil/Binge by Tyler Oakley/A Work in Progress by Connor Franta

You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day/Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grownup by Grace Helbig

For the TV/pop culture lover:

A Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes/Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari/Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Game Lover:

Ready Player One by Ernest CLine, The Legend of Zeld/Minecraft: The Ultimate Survival Guide

*While you’re at it, maybe get them a League giftcard? (if they play League obviously)

For the Beauty Guru:

*I recommend the Michelle Phan one for high school aged people because any older and the advice will seem obvious.

*The Fluer De Force Glam Guide is also a book about tips on beauty and style.

Nonfiction lover:

A lot of people in my life who don’t read that often tend to lean toward nonfiction to read. I picked these because these are accessible to any reader but are also extremely fascinating.

Quiet by Susan Cain/Moonwalking with Einstein/What if? by Randall Munroe

*Quiet is one of my favorite nonfiction books of all time. It explores the power of introverts.

That was longer than I expected but I hope you found something that you might like to give 🙂

And just a reminder that “My Week in Favorites” poll is still open if you’d still like to comment. I closed it on the 14th but I extended it to today.

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