ARC, Books

Book 508: Chemistry – Weike Wang

I first heard of this book through a friend, who also happens to be friends with the author. After reading the blurb I reached out to the publisher for a copy and here I am.* It of course didn’t hurt that the book was set here in Boston at an unnamed University and I’ve started to see it everywhere around the city either!

Chemistry is the tale of an unnamed narrator and her exit from the academic world that has ruled her life and her various reactions to things going on in her world. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s what I boiled it down to. I’m still mulling over many parts of the book, particularly the “conclusion,” but in general I found this to be a wonderfully engaging read.

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ARC, Books

Book 332: Male Sex Work and Society – Victor Minichiello and John Scott (eds.)

Minichiello, Victor and John Scott - Male Sex Work and Society

This book simultaneously highlights what is good and what is bad about the white tower of academia. It explores a specific topic (Amazon Afiliate link) in depth, while establishing absolutely nothing, other than the need for more research. I received a copy of this book from the publisher and received no compensation for my honest opinion.

I’m going to start with my frustrations with the book (or academia/academics in a broader context) first and then move to what they did well. What frustrated me most about the entire collection were the isolationist tendencies of the authors. In a move to over-compensate for any sort of collective or global identity (and not Western-wash everything) every single paper started out within the first few paragraphs by using the almost exact phrase of, “due to cultural circumstances, male sex workers (MSWs) circumstances in this country cannot be compared to those in any other country.” The reason this was so infuriating is that there were clearly overarching themes, sexual identity (or lack thereof), technology and public health, to name a few, that Manichiello and Scott picked out and even acknowledged. However, rather than encouraging the authors to use them to tie everything together within the papers across borders and identities, they were used to bridge each of the papers between the papers in editorial asides. Seriously, if they would’ve just taken this as a given, at least 50 pages could’ve been cut out of the book due to repetitiveness.

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ARC, Books, Reading Events

Book 225: Two Short Stories

So I felt really guilty about reviewing either one of these short stories/novellas on their own so I squished them together and counted them as one book. Total they are barely 50 pages, but I’m including them anyway. The first, In Another Life, is an ARC from the publisher and I received nothing for my honest opinion; the second, Karma is the 2013 Boston Book Festival 1 City 1 Story selection.

Montgomery, E. E. - In Another LifeI would’ve read this ages ago if I would only have realized that it was a novella/short story. For some reason I assumed this was a standard 150-200 page love story type novel. Regardless I am glad that I read it, even if it was only 28 pages.

They say that the hardest thing to write of all forms of writing is a short story. Now I don’t know who they are or whether this is true, but I can say I have read really bad short stories and amazing short stories. I think a lot of authors struggle with the finite amount of space and telling a complete story within the short story structure. And although E. E. Montgomery does a great job with this as a short story (or novella as the publisher says), this story would only have been better if it had more meat to it. I will say there were golden passages that made my breath catch and made me want the love the two characters had such as
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2012 Challenges, Books, Quotes, The Classics Club

Book 114: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

Let’s start this review on a high note. It is rare that a book makes me fall in love with a character, and Francie is one of those few characters. The character was perfectly written and there was something about her that just made me fall in love. From her book obsession to her fierce pride and quick wit – Francie captured my heart and imagination. Even at the end when she started into her teen years and came across as somewhat hostile she kept her innocence and I just wanted to give her a hug.

There is a quote by the Federico Fellini that I believe Francie embodies, “Put yourself into life and never lose your openness, your childish enthusiasm throughout the journey that life is and things will come your way.” (Full disclosure – I found this quote via the film Under the Tuscan Sun.) Definitely check out the quotes at the end to get an idea of her character.

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Book 69: The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri

A friend in undergrad recommended I read this novel and I’m sad it took me this long to read it. The Namesake is one of the most beautifully and eloquently written novels I have read this year, if not ever.

There is something so simple and yet strikingly intricate in Lahiri’s prose. I can only compare her to the lyrical like prose I’ve read from many Irish authors. I found myself repeating sentences in my head because of their artful construction. The foreign names, foods, and customs interwoven with the familiar places and customs created a story I couldn’t put down. I’ve compared Jhumpa Lahiri to Jane Austen, in the ordinariness of what she writes and her style, and I stand by this, but it is the lives and deaths—the full picture, rather than the snapshot—at which Lahiri excels.

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Book 68: Waiting for Snow in Havana – Carlos Eire

This book was both brilliant and boring. There were times when I couldn’t stop reading and times when all I wanted to do was abandon the book for another. Mostly I’m glad I finished it and hopefully it is one of those books that in a few weeks/months I’ll appreciate having read it.

I was excited about seeing Eire speak at the upcoming Boston Book Festival and I still plan on going to the panel, but I’m not as excited as I was. This isn’t the first book I’ve read that let me down. Leaving it on my list for so long without reading it, removed a lot of the luster and excitement from when I first found it and wanted to read it. Either way I can’t get my copy signed as Tom accidentally spilled water all over it and I had to check out a new version from the library to finish reading it (the main impetus in actually finishing it).

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