What I Read – May 2018

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This was the book I chose for our book club to read in May, and I really loved it. It was a great book for a book club because there was a lot to discuss, a lot of mystery that left me guessing, and it was written incredibly well. The pacing and tone were perfect; not too serious, with some lighthearted moments and humor peppered in between the intense emotions and an edge-of-your-seat plot. Overall it was an engaging read, and everyone in the book club I run enjoyed it.

My book club is a mix of men and women, aged 30-60+, some parents and some not, and this book had something for everyone. It was written by an Asian-American author, which was interesting to read with Korean-born English speakers, and the book hit on topics of race, class, family, and loss. Families collide, teenagers mature, children rebel. I could have read this in a day or two, had I not been pacing myself each week for the book club. Both character-driven and plot-driven, this book perfectly combines character development and an interesting plot. I was never bored reading this and it gave everyone a lot to think about.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

I was really skeptical about this book, a travel memoir, based on the title. I thought the premise might be that the author was staunchly against having kids in favor of travel, but it turns out that’s not the case. I saw this book everywhere in the travel community, and I was on a travel-memoir high, so I decided to go for it. Before reading this book, I had no idea who Kristin Newman was, and I’d never watched much of any of the shows she’d written/produced (How I Met Your Mother, Chuck, etc.) but I could tell right away by her writing style that she was a professional in writing comedy. Her memoir skips most of her boring, writer life and cuts right to the chase each time she went on vacation during the TV off-season.

For the most part, I really enjoyed her honest writing style and the tales of her falling in love with strangers on beaches in South America, Australia, etc. Some parts were a little too over-the-top for my taste, and I’m very non-judgemental for the most part as a reader. The book is mostly about how all of her friends got married and started having kids while she was still struggling with ex-boyfriends who she still felt an attachment to, and how her vacation self was very different from her normal, at-home self. She went on a major vacation at least once a year, to Argentina, Patagonia, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Paris, Amsterdam, etc. and it’s very clear that she’s well-off. She goes to extravagant New Year’s Eve parties and ends up alone at most of them, and she has on-again off-again relationships with people via e-mail. Her life simultaneously seemed like a fantasy and a nightmare. It was a very entertaining book, though, and the ending was very sweet.

Brida by Paulo Coelho

I saw a quote from this book recently online and it resonated with me so much that I wanted to read the book immediately. It was a very short read, and I needed something short to catch me up on my reading goal. I’d heard of the Alchemist before, but had never read it, so I knew of this author but didn’t care to look much up about him until I was almost done with the book. The story is about an Irish girl named Brida who is searching for a teacher. She wants to learn magic and she finds an old bookstore and the owner tells her about a man who lives in the woods. She goes to see him and he tries to teach her one of the two paths; The Tradition of the Sun. After a night of conquering her fears of the night, she leaves and finds another teacher, a woman who teachers her about The Tradition of the Moon.

I love Harry Potter and magic and old bookstores, so I really loved the beginning of this book and I wanted to love the rest of it, but after a certain point it just seemed like a strange thesis written by a college student with an overactive imagination. The plot is strange and the ending is unsatisfying and there isn’t much character development, despite this being a character-driven book. It felt empty and the plot went by too fast. I didn’t feel much emotion for the characters after a certain point, even though I knew the author wanted me to. It was a bad book per se, but it wasn’t as awe-inspiring and inspirational as it was trying to be. It was also heavily based in Christianity, which is strange for a book about magic. I never felt fully immersed into the world (and the world-building was terrible) because I felt like it was more of a lecture than a novel.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book has been on my TBR list for months, and I’m so glad I finally read it. I had no idea what it was about, which is how I prefer to approach books most of the time – without any preconceived notions. I bought a hardback copy when I was in the U.S. in October, knowing I’d probably like it and knowing that I’d want to have a hard copy of it. The cover is clever but I didn’t understand it until I got into the book and understood the meaning of the title. I won’t go into the plot because it’s best to go into it knowing nothing in order to avoid spoilers.

I’d never read a YA book (or any book for that matter) where the narrator is a young African-American girl who uses ebonics. It was very refreshing to read a book that’s written in a way that many young people can identify with. It had slang and references to TV shows, dances, and memes, and I actually really appreciated the fact that it was so now-centered. The issues in the book are also issues that many American students are facing right now. I was immediately captured by how well the author put me into the shoes of the main character, Starr. I felt every emotion she went through and I dreaded the outcome as if it were happening to me. This book is so well-written and it covers topics that everyone should be aware of. I hope it starts more meaningful conversations about race and violence in the U.S., but for now I’m just glad a book like this exists.

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