Hi everyone! I hope your Octobers were full of all the best things fall has to offer and ended in a spooky and safe Halloween!
October was one of my best reading months in a while, so I decided to do a wrap up. Hope you all enjoy!
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
The Chosen is about two American Jewish boys, Danny and Reuven, during the second world war. It follows the unlikely friendship as the boys struggle to reconcile two very different faith communities, and seek to establish their identities amidst their father’s expectations.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. The story was engaging, despite a lack of complicated plot; the characters were strong; and the prose was absolutely beautiful. I also appreciated, not only the musings on faith and identity, but also the perspective of how genocide affects the population on a whole. Most World War Two books focus on European Jews, but The Chosen‘s emphasis on the American Jew was profound and critically important. I read this because I had to for a theology class, but I’m glad I did. I don’t think I would have picked this up otherwise and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 4 stars.
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Hansberry’s classic play focuses on the Youngers, a multi-generational black family living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the late 1950’s. Mama, a grandmotherly matriarch, is coming into a large sum of money following her husband’s death. Desperate to escape the poverty around them, each Younger family member has an idea about how best to use the money, and the systemic racism that surrounds them seeks to prevent the Youngers from ever reaching their goal.
It is always tricky to review plays in their written form, because they were written to be seen, not read. That said, I did enjoy this, and I thought the play had a lot of readability. The characters are some of the finest theatre has to offer, and the plot is swift and climactic. Another work I had to read for class, I’d strongly recommend picking this up! 4 stars.
Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1) by Sylvain Neuvel
My first pleasure read of October, Sleeping Giants is an epistolary science-fiction novel about a little girl named Rose who stumbles (quite literally) into a giant metallic hand buried deep beneath the Earth. Seventeen years later, Rose leads a secret team to solve one of Earth’s most groundbreaking mysteries, and deal with the fallout of any implications the mystery brings.
Sleeping Giants was one of Summer’s biggest reads, and I was excited that, after a decent wait at the library, I was able to download a copy. Many compared Neuvel’s debut to Andy Weir’s The Martian, but this comparison is quite oversimplified. While the two texts share similar formats and genres, the basic premise of both books couldn’t be more different. Conceptually, Sleeping Giants was breathtakingly fresh and I was really excited to dive into it. Unfortunately, Neuvel’s debut was full of too many issues for me to call it a success. The one good thing I have to say about it is that it truly was a page turner. I’m not generally one to actually get caught up in compelling stories, but caught I was in this. However, the characters and plot couldn’t have been more stock or predicitable. If you’ve seen or read any sci-fi before, you’ve encountered everything and everyone in Sleeping Giants. For such an amazing premise, I couldn’t have been more disappointed in its execution. However, I’m willing to give the series one more shot before abandoning. 2.5 stars. (Full Review)
The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics by John Hickenlooper
For you non-Coloradans out there, John Hickenlooper is our governor (currently in his second term) and a really interesting fellow. He went from studying geology, to owning one of the most successful pubs in Colorado history, to being a wildly popular mayor of Denver and eventual Governor of Colorado.
While I enjoyed reading his memoir, and love him as a person and politician, this was a DNF for me. I’ve never really been a political memoir reader, and I was hoping that being interested in him would help, but it didn’t. Hickenlooper has a clear knack for storytelling, but the overall memoir just wasn’t for me. 3 stars.
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Oliva Laing
Having just moved out to Seattle, I was thrilled to have picked this up to read during my first few weeks of, as one of my friends put it “sleep away college” (as opposed to “day camp” community college I attended last year). Laing explores the social and psychological concept of loneliness, specifically as it applied to famous artists and their work.
Unfortunately, this was a DNF for me as well. Similar to Hickenlooper’s, The Lonely City:.. wasn’t bad. I stopped reading it only because it never quite pulled me in, and with too much to read and do, and too little time to do it all in, something had to give. While her prose was beautiful, and her topic was interesting, Laing droned on. It didn’t help that much of her writing required in depth knowledge of artists and their work prior to reading. Under normal circumstances, I think I would have really enjoed this, but with too much going on, I simply couldn’t continue. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again soon. 3 stars.
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman (Translated by Alice Menzies)
From one of my favorite authors, a brand new story of family and aging emerges, this time in the form of a novella. Grandpa and Noah (or as Grandpa calls him, NoahNoah) are sitting in a square that keeps shrinking, remembering and musing about their favorite times together and their mutual love of mathematics. Ted, Grandpa’s son, soon joins Grandpa and NoahNoah on a heart wrenching journey of slow acceptance.
More raw than anything he’s published before, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, is Backman’s attempt to make sense of his own life through a sort of fictional lens. Easily one of the most beautifully written and haunting reads of 2016, Backman’s publishing team crafts and even more beautiful product. Alan Dingman’s jacket design, coupled with Ella Laytham’s illustrations, make this novella pack a full-length bite. I urge all of you to pick this up immediately. 4.5 stars. (Full Review)
Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
Another play read for school, Sarah Ruhl’s absurdist theatre piece is a whimsical retelling of the Greek love story between Orpheus and Eurydice. After her tragic wedding day death, Eurydice finds herself with her late father amidst a host of crazy characters and illogical happenings in a modern-day hell.
With the previously stated disclaimer that plays should not be reviewed as they are written, I hated Eurydice. While I can appreciate certain, original, theatrical elements that would be exciting to see executed, there’s nothing in the text of Eurydice that feels new or exciting. Chock full of cliches, hollow characters, and a disappointing plot, I really can’t think of too much I enjoyed about this.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
One of the most timely reads of the year, Hillbilly Elegy is the memoir of a boy trapped in a systemic cycle of poverty. Born to an unkown father and drug-addicted mother, J.D. Vance was raised mainly by his Mawma and Pawpa. At once intimate and broadly detached, Hillbilly Elegy is a breathtaking attempt to make sense of the situations we find ourselves in.
Coupling incredible personal honesty with broad sociological research, Vance presents one of the most memorable memoirs of the year, and attempts to explain the deep discontentment felt within the “hillbilly” communities of the rust belt. His work stands as a testament to the power of a determined human being, and the even stronger empowerment of telling ones story in all of its ugly honesty. 4.5 Stars. (Full Review)
Thanks for reading! Hope you all are able to check these out!!! Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter and Tumblr, and read along with me on Goodreads. This November I’m hoping to finish reading: A Manual for Cleaning Women, The Social Life of DNA, and A Mother’s Reckoning, as well as to start: The Girls and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry.