J.K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is not an easy novel to read. It’s depressing, melodramatic, and populated with a variety of flawed characters, from the self-absorbed to the self-righteously malicious. Although Rowling is arguably one of the most beloved and popular authors of the 21st century, her first non-Potter novel drew mixed reviews from critics, with some praising it for being ambitious, and others decrying it for being too grim. After reading this book for the 4th time, the grimness loses its shock value, and the more incisive elements of the book start to stand out, the most important being the novel’s razor sharp glimpse into class struggles in a modern Western country. The Casual Vacancy can be preachy and a tad on-the-nose, but it also highlights the inability of the upper class to empathize with those below them, or even to appreciate their humanity. While The Casual Vacancy can seem like it’s tackling mundane issues, Rowling’s story shows us that the same small-fry squabbles that divide English parishes can be found on global political stages, including in many of the United States’ current domestic policy crises.
Hello, everyone! Short post today but I wanted to catch you guys up on what’s been on my bookshelf this month. I’ll be writing a long review/critique of the news Star Wars film later, so if you’ve been missing my snark, you won’t have to wait very long. So, let’s get to it. Here’s what’s been on my shelf this month:
Hello, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying the fine spring weather. I’m on Spring Break now, so I checked out about ten books from the library and have been devouring them. Today’s review covers Eva Ibbotson’s The Reluctant Heiress. I went through an Ibbotson phase years ago and read all of her children’s books, but I completely missed her Young Adult reads. The Reluctant Heiress is rich with Ibbotson’s elaborate prose, but suffers from an enormous dose of that horrid 4 letter word called “love.” Why does it have to ruin every YA book? I promise I am not a bitter spinster, I’m just sick of plot being swept away in the face of heart-stopping, coup de foudre love. As a romantic novel, The Reluctant Heiress is enjoyable, but as just a novel, it lacks the same magic as Ibbotson’s other works.
Hello, everyone! Time for another Month in Books post. This month was a mix of teen reads and historical fiction. I read 4 books in total and started one book that I didn’t finish. Overall, it was a good month for satisfaction, though I did stumble back into an old habit of re-reading. My power was out, can you really blame me? Let’s take a look at what was on my bookshelf this month.
Hello, everyone! As you know if you’ve read my blog, I’m a big fan of the author Lisa See and have reviewed a few of her books on the site. Recently I read her newest novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, and was disappointed at the drop in quality. Even though all of See’s tropes are present, Tea Girl lacks her other novels’ greatest asset: a compelling protagonist. See writes fantastic female characters who suffer from hardship, betrayal, and restrictive cultures, but in this novel, she gets caught up in a net of her own favorite gimmicks. After the brutality of the Taiping rebellion in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, the tragedy of the Manchu invasion in Peony in Love, and the horror of the Mao regime in the Shanghai Girls duology, the hardships of a girl in 1990s China pale in comparison. But See is a sucker for suffering, and her insistency on emphasizing the plight of protagonist Li-Yan just makes it that much more obvious how See has seem to run out of catastrophes.
Hello, everyone! I haven’t done a My Month in Books in basically a year and a half. So much has changed since my last Month in Books – I completed 1.5 years of college, I withdrew from that college, and now I’m in the midst of transferring to a different college to finish my studies. But even through all that tumult, my love of books remains the same. Here’s what’s been on my shelf the past month.
Hello, everyone! With the frenzy surrounding the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, I’d like to add my contribution to the discussion of under-appreciated female powerhouses by reviewing Anita Amirrezvani’s Equal of the Sun, a historical novel about Pari Khan Khanoom, a Safavid princess in 1500s Iran. In her debut novel The Blood of Flowers (my review here), Amirrezvani brought the world of 17th century Iran to life through her story of an anonymous female carpet maker who is forced to enter into a shameful temporary marriage. She explored the everyday powerlessness faced by Persian women, but also highlighted the craftsmanship of female artisans who to this day remain anonymous. In her second novel Equal of the Sun, Amirrezvani goes back in time to the rule of Shah Tahmasp I and the cut-throat power struggle that ensued after his death. Her novel takes the themes of her first book and probes them further, showing us the rise and fall of a princess who is destined to be a ruler, but prohibited by her sex. Exhilarating and penned with exquisite prose, Amirrezvani paints a novel of a royal court and a nation in turmoil, which upon further examination, isn’t so different from the political struggles Americans and other countries around the globe face today.
Hello, everyone! I write this book review from the safety of my bunker in the icy Siberia that was once the United States. Florida, rest in peace. Today, I’m reviewing another Tana French novel, The Secret Place. If you read my review of her other book, The Trespasser, you might think I’m just gonna bash this book. But never fear, a rare event occurred when I read this book: my opinion on an author actually changed. When it comes to directors, I am lenient, but with authors I tend to judge harshly. The Secret Place is not a murder mystery of unparalleled quality, but it’s a capital G good book. And that’s enough to change my mind. So what’s the difference between French’s work with The Trespasser and The Secret Place? The latter isn’t trash.
Hello, everyone! Another day, another book review, another book about people whose last name is Day. That book is Dark Places, Gillian Flynn’s second novel between Sharp Places and Gone Girl. I’m a big of fan of Flynn’s other two novels, but while Dark Places kept me entertained and contains some fantastic, insightful writing, it wasn’t as successful an effort as Flynn’s other works. So, what are the best parts of Dark Places and what are the worst?
Hello, everyone! Today I want to discuss one of my favorite novels, Lisa See’s Peony in Love. If you read my last review on The Blood of Flowers, you might think that I have a thing for historical fiction about female artists and I can’t say you’re wrong 🙂 I also wrote another review on Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls duology which you can read here. Peony in Love was the first Lisa See novel I ever read, and her insightful glimpse into the intersection between femininity and traditional Chinese culture led me to read and love many of her other novels. But while See’s other novels focus more on the realistic trials of women in China, Peony in Love dares to go beyond, diving into 16th century Chinese opera and the Chinese afterlife. She also challenges the traditional role and value of women in traditional China without rendering judgment. With so many ideas to balance, See’s novel might have become unwieldy, but she manages to write a thoughtful novel with delicate prose.