Norwegian Wood: My Review

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Title: Norwegian Wood
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publication: 1987
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐/5

Trigger warning: suicide

The story:

Norwegian Wood is a coming of age story following Toru Watanabe through his first years of college, and his relationships with Naoko, who is presented from the beginning as someone he promised he would always remember. They are linked together through one of their friends, who has passed away, which has both reinforced their relationship and made Naoko more fragile. As she spirals down, Watanabe finds himself growing closer to others in ways he didn’t really expect.

My opinion:

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this book. I wanted to like it because it was recommended to me by a friend, and at first, I really did. In some parts, it really struck me how deeply human it felt. The characters are very realistic, with both qualities and flaws, they make mistakes and know when to acknowledge. As this is mostly a coming of age story, this felt really realistic and relatable.

But the things is, some parts really rubbed me the wrong way, whether the discourse surrounding sex – which I totally wasn’t expecting to be so present and graphic – or the representation of mental illness. I do appreciate the fact that Naoko’s portrayal seemed rather accurate, but at the same time, I’m not sure what to make of the treatment the other characters gave her. For example, the use of the term “crazy” by Reiko really made me uncomfortable as well as some other things concerning both mental illness and suicide.

The sex/rape scene between Reiko and her “rotten” student also made me feel super uncomfortable, like, it was super disturbing and I didn’t see the point of including this girl’s character in the story (like, please, if you’re going to include a gorgeous lesbian in your book, could you make it in a non disturbing way? Thanks.)

Overall, this book is cleverly crafted, it’s soft and slow-paced and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. It was a beautiful character-driven story. However, there were a few things that made me uncomfortable in the way mental illness was addressed. I also felt that the story was really dragging by the end, and the ending itself was rather underwhelming. So in the end, I was not sold. It was my first Murakami book, though, and I will definitely be checking out some of his other works!

Thanks for reading this far, and feel free to share your opinion on Norwegian Wood, or recommend any other of his works!

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Book Event: Meeting With Olivia Laing

Last Tuesday, my favourite bookstore Shakespeare and Company organised a reading with Olivia Laing, in honour of her latest release and first work of fiction Crudo, which I also just finished reading and loved: this book was mind blowing. I first came across Olivia Laing a few months ago when I read her book The Lonely City (review) which was absolutely fascinating, so when I saw that she would be in Paris and do a reading, I knew I had to be there.

 

And yes this comes straight from my Insta Story, how could I resist.

Olivia Laing has published three non fiction books, and has been on the shortlist for many book awards. Crudo is her first work of fiction. It takes place in 2017, was written in the span of 7 weeks and follows the events of the summer, through the perspective of the main character, Kathy, who is getting married, and was inspired by artist Kathy Acker and Olivia Laing herself. It deals with the Trump election, Brexit and the nuclear menace among other topic, as well as the main character’s fear of commitment.

This book was an easy and endearing read. It is extremely well written, all the more so considering there were barely any revisions, and at the same time, it is also an important read, considering it deals with all the crazy events of last summer. If this had been published two years before, as a work of speculative fiction, no one would have actually believed this would happen, and yet here we are.

Anyway. I arrived super early at the reading, knowing how these events work, and I got a spot on the second row, which was amazing. Olivia answered questions about her book, and even read some parts of it. She is such an inspiration, and I’m so glad I got to see her in person. She also talked about the book she is currently working on, which will deal with body image, a topic I’m really interested in, and I can’t wait for this project of hers to become an actual book.

After the reading, she signed copies of her book, and I even got to take pictures with her!

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The Image Of Deception: My Review

While waiting for the sequel for Lambs Can Always Become Lions, I picked up Charlotte Anne Hamilton’s latest release, The Image Of Deception and not one second do I regret it. This is the book I’ve always wanted to read. This is the book I’ve always wanted to write. And lately, one of my new favourites.

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary
Release: 2018
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The story:

When Clarissa finds out that her boyfriend of two hears has been cheating on her, she sets up a date with the other woman, pretending to be him. Without a plan, she meets up with Megan, and realises that she had no idea she was dating someone who was already taken. Together, they start plotting revenge on him, except what neither of them had in mind is that feelings would get in the way…

My opinion:

MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

One thing I really loved about this book — apart from the fact that I live for its plot, it’s really the best thing ever trust me — is the fact that both main characters are about my age, and at a similar point in their lives. There are a lot of (YA) books with characters in high school, but the thing is, the next thing kinda is New Adult and the characters in that genre usually already have a job and such, and I find it kind of hard to find books where the main characters are actually college students, dealing more or less with the same things that I deal with right now. For that and just that I am grateful for this book.

Now let’s just move on to the part where it melted my stone cold bisexual heart. Both Clarissa and Megan are absolutely wonderful, realistic characters, and I just loved the dynamic between the two of them. It was sweet to see them slowly falling for each other without accepting it at first — slowly, and then all at once.

I also really loved Megan’s roommate, she was such an inspiring character! That’s just one of the things I love about Charlotte Anne Hamilton’s books, they are so beautifully diverse.

Bonus, Clarissa has an adorable dog who is to die for!

Overall, the pace of the book was perfect, the characters were adorable, and it ended with a positive message — I just love that Megan and Clarissa gave up on actually getting a revenge and concentrated on their own relationship, going at their own pace and supporting each other!

Sing Unburied Sing: My Review

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Sing, Unburied, Sing was written by Jesmyn Ward. It was the winner of the National Book Award in 2017. I heard of it from my favourite bookstore Shakespeare and Company, and as I was studying African-American literature for one of my classes last semester, I decided to pick it up. Not one second did I regret this decision. Although it took me quite some time to finish this book, it was definitely worth the read.

Title: Sing, Unburied, Sing
Author: Jesmyn Ward
Publication year: 2017
Genre: Contemporary
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

The story:

Jojo is thirteen. He lives with his grandparents and his drug addict mother Leonie. When he is not at school, he spends most of his time caring for his little sister Kayla. When his father Michael is set to be released from prison, his mother decides to take both of them on a trip to take him home, along with one of her friends. The trip also revives old memories about her brother Given’s death, as well as the time her father spend at Parchman, the same prison Michael was at.

My thoughts:

Sing, Unburied, Sing was a troubling and beautiful story. It is unique and well written. Ths plot is slow paced, and mainly follows the perspectives of Jojo and Leonie, alternating from one chapter to another, which shows the struggles that both of them are facing, both in their life in general – Leonie lost her brother, her mother is sick, her boyfriend is just getting released, while Jojo is growing up with a mother who doesn’t really take care of him – and on this trip in particular.

I read this book after reading some of Toni Morrison’s work, and found that it somehow had a similar atmosphere, with what of the ghostly presences faced by both Jojo and Leonie. Although unlike Beloved or The Bluest Eye, it does take place nowadays, it sometimes gives off the same kind of eerie feeling. Maybe it’s just because it’s something I am unfamiliar with, but I think it made this book quite powerful.

Overall, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a family story, that deals with love and coming of age, and also manages to tackle the issue of police brutality and racism in general on several occasions, which is yet another reason why I would recommend this book. It’s not an easy read, but it’s definitely worth the ride.

Fledgling: My Review

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I was looking through the books I have read in 2017, to find topics for a new article, and I realised I haven’t made a review for Fledgling by Octavia Butler yet. This book was recommended by one of my professors last semester and I absolutely loved it. It was unlike anything I have ever read before, and I definitely recommend you check it out as well. I’ve mentioned it a few times here, but I haven’t made a proper book review, and this book more than deserves one. So here we go.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Sci-Fi, Afrofuturism
Publication: 2005
My rating: ★★★★✩

First of all, a few words about Afrofuturism, which was the topic of my class (taught by Adourahman Waberi, I reviewed his book In the United States of Africa here).

Basically, Afrofuturism is an artistic movment that started with music in the 60s and 70s, with artists such as Sun Ra. It is now also present in literature. It combines aspects such as science fiction and history, sometimes revisiting history with a more afro-centric perspective. I have read some afrofuturist books and they are always unique and fascinating. This was no exception.

The story:

The main character wakes up in a cave with no recall of her past life and what she is doing there. She is naked, and her entire body is in pain. She is hungry, and shows inhuman abilities. She looks like an 11 year old girl, but feels like so much more.

Little by little, she starts uncovering the truth of who she is: she is, in facts, a 53 year old Ina – or vampire if you prefer – and she was genetically modified, making her stronger than the rest of her family. She is able to resist the sun, and stay awake during the day. But people are after her for her abilities, and the whole Ina community is turning upside down.

Warning: May Contain Spoilers

My opinion:

I came into this book not really knowing what to expect, and oh boy, it was a hell of a ride.

At the beginning of the book, the main character has amnesia, so the reader just ignores as much as she does, which is super interesting. Soon, we realise she shows characteristics similar to that of vampires, however, she is different. She later finds out she is actually an Ina, and that vampires are a fiction inspired by Ina.  She has, in addition, been genetically modified to be stronger. She also discovers that her family has been killed because of the experiments they did, experiments that gave her a darker skin, which is more resisting to the sun.

Throughout the book, we see her insufferable need to feed, as well as her need to do the right things for the things she cares, and in honour of her lost family.

Ina are a secret to the society, except to the people they have chosen to feed, and who can live with them. These people are called symbionts, and every Ina needs several ones of them. They can also live longer, but they have to keep a secret. Ina live in big families, or communities.

What I really liked about this book is its very original take on the somehow classic literary theme that is vampirism. It is a perfect blend of fantasy and science-fiction – since we find out that Ina can be genetically modified. And more importantly, it raises issues of racism, as some of the Ina enemies to our main character want her dead because of her skin colour, because they consider that all Ina should be white caucasian as the territory they are originally from is in Eastern Europe (just like the image we have of Dracula). They consider her not pure, and not worthy of living, which led to the extermination of her entire family, responsible for this genetic modification.

This book is calling out on racism in a very subtle way in my opinion, as it is presented among a fictional community of fictional vampires, and yet, that doesn’t make it any less powerful. The actions of these Ina are cruel and undeserved, and yet also a very harsh representation of some real life people’s beliefs.

I had never heard of this book before my professor recommended it, and I have never read anything like it. And was fascinating, the world building is really amazing. It is a very clever and well-written book. I definitely recommend it.

Have you read Fledgling or any other book by Octavia Butler? Feel free to give your opinion in the comments, and recommend me books you think I might like!

Summer Crush: My Review

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Summer Crush is an anthology of three stories, by Jay E. Tria, Six de los Reyes, and Tara Frejas. Thanks for all three authors, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review, as part of their blog tour. I absolutely loved Summer Crush!

Genre: New Adult, Romance
Publication: April 9th, 2017
Blog Tour: May 12-19th
My rating: ★★★★☆

Blurb:

Each story follows people attending the same event for the weekend: Summer Crush, on the beach of La Union. A weekend that is all supposed to be about music and sun and dance and happiness.

But for Ana, there is stress lingering in the shadow. Her band member boyfriend Miki co-wrote the star song of the festival, but her thoughts are elsewhere. Her job as an accountant is consuming her life away, and as much as she loves it, she sometimes wishes she didn’t have to spend so much time on it, and starts rethinking her life with Miki. (Story: You only need reminding me by Jay E. Tria)

Filippina has just been reinstated as EG Project’s roadie, and things are going great, except when her semi-secret boyfriend shows up at La Union, and her ex crush starts acting up and might screw up the band’s concert. (Story: Almost There by Tara Frejas)

Rhys has too much things on her hands for the weekend, with Arabella, the new band she’s supposed to take care of, and the song she was forced into cowriting with a member of Trainman. And now she also has to perform on stage. So really, it’s not the time to rethink her relationship with her boyfriend. But lingering feelings for her friend Isaiah get in the way, and as it happens, things don’t always go as planned… (Story: Ocean Eyes by Six de los Reyes)

My opinion:

I was worried that this book might be too cheesy or cliché for me, as it was very obviously classified as romance, but I was delighted to find that it was absolutely my cup of tea, and I definitely recommend it. Now that summer is coming, it’s the perfect read.

Each story is different, and I loved reading from different points of view, and seeing characters from one story in another story. It made me realise I should read anthologies likes this more often, so if you have any to recommend, please do!

The book was easy to read, and the writing of each story very enjoyable. The characters are very relatable, especially Rhys. I really loved her, and how all her inner troubles about life, and crowds and standing out were depicted. Filipina and Ana, the two other main girl characters are also very relatable. These women are strong and know what they want, and it’s very refreshing to read about them.

One more thing I liked in this book was all the little references to music, and all the song lyrics inserted in the story. I love music and poetry, and having this inserted in a novel is always something I enjoy, so of course, I loved it here.

Overall, this was a light and sweet read. It’s quick and easy to read, with beautifully depicted and very relatable characters. I definitely loved this book, and I hope you do too! Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments if you have read it as well!

Recommended for:

If you like anthologies like Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, then this is definitely a book I will recommend! The main difference is that this one takes place in the summer, but otherwise, it’s the same kind of concept, and I love it.

When I knew I could read more about the characters of Scandalized by Tara Frejas, I knew I had to get my hands on this book. You can hear my thoughts on Scandalized here!

If you liked Songs to get over you by Jay E. Tria and Just for the record or Feels like summer by Six de los Reyes, then you should definitely check out Summer Crush, as you will meet those characters again. However, having read those is not necessary to love Summer Crush!

Also check out:
More info about the book
Writing advice from all three authors

Anything You Can Do: My Review

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Finally, a book review. Considering I read this one back in February, it was long due… Like so many others I will maybe write and post at some point this month. Since I’m in a kind of book slum now, I figured it left me time to actually write reviews for all the books I read in the past two or three months which I hadn’t reviewed yet.

Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Trope: Enemies to lovers
Release: February 2017
Author: R.S. Grey
My rating: ★★★✩✩

Anything You Can Do

The story:

Lucas and Daisy have been neighbours for their entire life – until they moved to college. They have been rivals for their entire life, born a few hours apart, both excellent at school… Until they moved away, to study medicine. Now both of them are coming back to work side by side as doctors, both competing for the same job.

But the situation has changed in ways that Daisy did not expect. Especially when Lucas starts kissing her…

My opinion:

I picked up this book because I have been following the author on instagram for quite some time without actually reading anything of hers. So when I saw this was going to be released, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to pick it up and I did. It’s available on Kindle if you want to read it as well.

However, I was to say I was a bit disappointed. Overall, I did enjoy it, I just wanted more, expected more of it. Maybe it’s my fault for setting up my expectations too high. Maybe I was not in the right mood when I read it. I don’t know.

I really love the enemies to lover trope, it is honestly something I don’t think I will ever grow tired of. It’s my guilty pleasure I guess. So I did really enjoy this aspect of the novel.

But I often felt it was too slow, and I found the main character, Daisy, extremely frustrating. She failed to notice so many obvious things, damnit… I don’t want to say anymore because this is a spoilerfree review, but come on. She was a strong character in her own way, but she could also really be frustrating.

That being said, I really liked Lucas’ character. I thought he was much more likeable and patient than Daisy, though he too could be frustrating at some point.

Overall, the story was a bit predictable, but hey, it was obvious from the beginning. When you go into this kind of books, you know more or less how it will turn out in the end, and I will not complain about this. Anything you can do is a quick read and a no-brainer, so if that’s what you’re looking for, and if you like hate to love relationships, then this is definitely something you will enjoy.

Similar novels I can recommend:
* Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling, you can check out my review here.
The 100 by Kass Morgan also has a hate to love relationship though in a very different context.

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Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments, and maybe point out things I didn’t notice, I would love to discuss in the comments!