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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

Recommendations: Graphic Novels

The world of graphic novels is awesome. You can read them in one sitting or read them when you need a break from your heavier dystopian or long ass classic but you need a sense of accomplishment from finishing a book. Maybe you love art combined with storytelling.

System: You can buy graphic novels the same way you buy single issue comics, that is to say whenever they’re released. Or you can buy what you all the trade paperback which is essentially a bind up of several single issues in one book.

If you would like to enter into the world of graphic novels, click play..i mean keep on reading..if not don’t read this and sit in the corner by yourself because that was uncalled for

Instructions for beginners:

  • Start off with something you know. Read the graphic novel adaptation of a series you’ve already read. Some examples include The Infernal Devices, Vampire Academy, Legend.
  • Flip through it at the beginning and see if you like the art style. If you don’t like it, come back to it but chances are you might not enjoy it as much.

Level 1: The Beginning aka for the beginners

In Which I try to pick graphic novels meant for a younger audience. The simpler story line makes the graphic novel easy to follow and is a great start for graphic novel beginners.

18527488Cleopatra in Space– Reminds me a lot of an animated Disney channel cartoon. The story is just so much fun. The art is crisp and clean so it’s super easy to follow.

Zita the Spacegirl-Has some adorable animal sidekicks and an old-fashioned good vs. evil storyline. 8879121

Bonus Level: Amulet series– Also has some adorable animal sidekicks and a really epic storyline and just brings out the adventurous spirit in you. It also some of the most gorgeous artwork in a graphic novel series I’ve seen. You can’t move onto the other levels without reading this one. Jk you can, but I highly recommend.1238684


Level 2: The Important Issues

American Born Chinese- This graphic novel has a lot to say about being an Asian immigrant in America without being too preachy or even heavy. It has a lot of humor and heart to it.

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Level 3: Graphic Memoirs

15196Maus  I & II– Maus is a memoir about Spiegelman’s experience in the concentration camps during WWII. It flashes back and forth between the past and present and the most interesting about it is that it’s drawn in an anamorphic way. The Nazis are cats and the Jews are mice. I’ve read a lot of WWII literature and this still manages to be thought-provoking because it delves into the mental consequences of having lived through such a horrific event but still trying to live a normal life after that.

9516Persepolis– About a young girl coming of age during the Islamic Reolution. I loved reading from the perspective of a young girl and her views on the world at such a period of turmoil.

Stitches by David Smalls- This one is about a mute boy and his relationship with his tumultuous relationship with his parents.    Completely heartbreaking but it’s one of those books that cheesy as it sounds makes you feel    like you can survive anything.


Level 4: The Weird..and the Explicit (Please don’t let this deter you from picking these up because their stories are so, so amazing.)

Chew– It’s about a detective who is a cibopath which means he gets psychic impressions from the things he eats. Anything he eats. Expect lots of cannibalism. Also expect laud out loud moments and super fun plotline.

Rat Queens– Forgive me for using the “X meets Y” formula but this really is like Lord of the Rings meets Bridesmaids. The funny and endearing characters really make this story worth rooting for.

Saga– It is essentially about two planets that are at war with each other. Well, two members of the opposing sides fall in love and have a child and are now on the run.

Sex Criminals– Whenever a couple has sex, they stop time. What do

they do with this ability? Read it and find out! I sound like an infomercial but seriously it’s good.

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BOSS LEVEL: The Adventures of TIntin

I’m not putting this last because it’s difficult to read, it’s just one of, if not my favorite graphic novel series of all time. I love the artwork, the characters, just the adventure and mystery are so well-crafted and fun.

What are your favorite graphic novels?

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wrap up

June 2015 Wrap Up

My summer officially started this month which is probably the reason why I got to read so much. I read a lot of wonderful books this month and I can’t wait to share with you. If you have any questions or want a review on any of these books, don’t hesitate to ask! However, there will be a review and discussion of The Wrath and the Dawn coming up this week, which I’m super excited for because that book was awesome.

Books:

(3/5)                                   (3/5)                                  (3.5/5)                                  (4/5)

(4.5/5)                                (4/5)                              (3.5/5)                              (3.5/5)

   (4/5)                                     (4/5)

Short Stories and Novellas:

    (4/5)                                        (4/5)*                                     (3.5/5)

*I only read one story published in this magazine. It’s called The Fisher Queen by Alyssa Wong. It’s offered for free online with permission from the author if you want to read it (which I highly recommend you do, it’s a dark and twisted take on mermaids) 🙂

Graphic Novels and Comics:

(3.5/5)                                  (4/5)                                     (3.5/5)                                 (4/5)

  (4/5)                                       (4/5)                                  (4/5)                                      (4.5/5)

DNF (Did Not Finish)

-For most of these books, I did read at least 30 percent before I decided I did not want to continue with it. The reason as to why I didn’t finish them was probably a mixture of something I found too problematic with it mixed with the fact that I was probably bored with it.

Tags

The Summertime Madness Tag!

I’m in a summer mood which is weird because it’s raining right now. I first saw this tag on Kassidy’s channel and I love summer so I really wanted to do it. Enjoy!

1. Show a book with a summery cover

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Ice cream, sun, hanging out with your best friend, shorts..This book is absolutely perfect for summer inside and outside.

2. Pick one fictional place that would be the perfect destination for your Summer Vacation!

Atargatis Cove from The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

22840182This cove has everything I could ask for in a summer vacation. It’s got an ocean, summer beach house, the promise of mermaid mythology, hot boys (I want a Christian Kane!), mouthwatering seafood and drinks, and fun parties. Summer would be pretty freaking awesome at Atargatis Cove.

3. You’re about to go on a flight to your Summer Vacation. But you want to read a book that lasts for the whole flight so what novella do you choose?

A Year and A Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch. I’m currently reading this one right now and it’s fabulous so far. It’s a fantasy novella about thieves on their last mission before they truly retire. The worldbuilding is so great and I love the characters so I would pick this one.

4. You have a case of Summertime Sadness what happy book do you pick up to shine a smile on your face?

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Faking It by Cora Carmack. One of the few NA books I can tolerate without pulling my hair out. Instead of a bad boy/good girl. It’s got a bad girl/good boy which is something that needs to written about more often imo. I adore their relationship. It’s full of banter and swoonworthy moments and it’s perfect for summer because it’s a light and fluffy read.

5. You’re sitting at the beach all alone…which fictional character would be your beach babe?

Oh gosh, this is hard. But right now, I want Peter Kavinksy to be my beach babe. I can just imagine it. He’ll probably be a 15749186lifeguard or regular beach goer and he’ll come up to me while I’m staring off into the distance at the ocean (because I do that a lot) and we’ll have a meet cute. We’ll have adventures on the beach, eat ice cream and have a romantic walk at sunset. In my dreams right?

6. To match your ice cream you want an icy cool sidekick! Which fictional sidekick do you pick?

Isabelle Lightwood. I need someone bold and fearless to take me out of my comfort zone. Plus, getting ice cream with Isabelle just sounds like so much fun because it wouldn’t just be ice cream, it would be ice cream and some other crazy adventure she spontaneously decides to take me on. I would not mind if she brought along Simon either. I’m ok with being the third wheel in this relationship.

7. Share the Summertime Happiness! Who do you TAG?

Analee @ Book Snacks

Anjie @ Love Thy Shelf

Summer @ XingSings

and you!

Book Recommendations

Book Recommendations: Pick-Me-Ups

I’ve been turning a lot to books lately to feel better. There’s nothing better than a good book to escape all your troubles and worries away. Here are some of the books I turn to when I’m having a bad day.

1. Harry Potter

I’m not really kidding when I say Hogwarts is almost like a second home. Rowling’s descriptions of Hogsmeade and butterbeer during winter break and just magic in general just make feel me cozy and happy. I lose myself in the day-to-day fiascos that Harry, Ron, and Hermione get into and everything is fine.

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book is the perfect form of escape. Morgenstern’s writing is some of the most lyrical and magical prose I’ve ever read. I literally feel transported when I read her book. I love all the magical illusions that happen and I love the other-wordliness of this book. Btw, when is the movie coming out?

3. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

A romantic comedy in book form; it doesn’t get more pick-me-up than that. I love the humor and wit in this book but I also fell in love with the fluffy romance and the hilarious yet endearing characters, Poppy and Sam. It has all the ingredients of a regular romantic comedy but the execution of cliched tropes are done so well. I dare you not to smile during this book. If this book were a stuffed animal, this would be me:

4. Calvin and Hobbes comics

These comics are for the days you feel no one understands you or if you just wanna feel like a kid in an adult’s body. I love the sketchy artwork and you can’t really help but laugh at and with Calvin for all the shenanigans he gets into with Hobbes.

wrap up

May 2015 Wrap Up

Only two more weeks until summer! Though summer is more about the fact that my finals are over and less about being excited for summer because this is the summer of reevaluating my goals..fun. But either way, summer is always the time I have a lot of time to read and I’m always excited about that.

Books I Read:

     (2.5/5)                      (3.8/5)                          (3.5/5)                        (3.7/5)

(3.9/5)                        (2/5)                         (3.5/5)                        (3.5/5)

Short Stories/Novellas:

(3.5/5)                        (3.5/5)                       (3/5)                        (3.8/5)

  • The Singing Bone by Grimm brothers (3/5)

I didn’t know how to rate fairy tales because they are so timeless so I just rated it on how much I enjoyed it.

Comics:

1. Fantastic Four Vol. 1 Issue 1 (May 2000) by Karl Kesel (3.5/5)

2. The Amazing Spiderman Issue 1 (July 1991) by David Michelinie (4/5)

I didn’t realize I actually read that much so I’m going to separate my May Wrap Up and Favorites in another post.

Book Recommendations

Mother’s Day Book Recommendations

As Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself thinking more and more about my relationship with my mother. If I could describe my relationship with my mother, it would be frustratingly complicated. So this post is recommending the books that explore the relationship between mothers and their daughters in all dimensions honoring mothers but also exploring the complications and what that means. All Goodreads pages will be linked on the book cover.

89731 Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata: One of my favorite childhood books. A heartbreaking and emotional story.The bond of a mother and daughter in the perspective of a middle-grade kid struggling to cope with her sister’s illness.

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: I find this one particularly important to the Asian-American experience. There are complications between filial obligation but also between generations and cultures that every Asian American child but had immigrant parents will understand.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: The exploration of love and mothers with magical realism and delicious food. This one does not center around mother-daughter relationships but is still an important part of the story.

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The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: This one is less about about biological mothers and more about the mothers that come into our lives and change them. I love the emotional bond between the beekeeping sisters and our main character who comes into their lives broken and by the end of the book, comes out stronger than before.

What is your favorite book about mother relationships?