Category Archives: Reviews

Quick Takes: Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

29906980At the very least, you have to give Saunders mad props for his originality–I’ve never seen a book like this before. Weaving in dozens of narrators and dozens of historical sources (some real, some not), readers spend a mystical night at Oak Hill Cemetery with characters in the Bardo. It is a sort of equivalent of purgatory in Tibetan Buddhism, a space between death and rebirth. It is the night after Willie Lincoln’s burial, and the president comes back to visit.

If you like creativity and some mysticism in your reading, you’re bound to enjoy this book. If, however, you tend to roll your eyes at the stuff and suspend zero disbelief, I would pass this on. Even I would pause at times and the wild or crude manifestations of some of the individuals we find in the Bardo. But I for one and still happy to have experienced this delightfully original story, and am interested in checking out more of Saunders’ work!

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Quick Takes: Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

27161156Let me start by saying that the largest reason for my rating is because, for the most part, I’m just not a fan of memoirs. I wasn’t particularly engaged and thought that topic could be better presented. I think that’s what my problem usually is with memoirs–you’re telling me what happened instead of painting me a picture like novels usually do.

I also slightly resent the fact that his story was used to push certain notions and philosophies upon the reader. Providing research to back up what you experience is one thing, concluding that “therefore, this should happen,” is something else entirely. Trust that you have presented the information well and that I am competent enough to come to my own conclusion because the truth of the matter is, I may see the solution residing somewhere completely different.

I do think it’s an important story, and I think it brings up very important issues that we as a nation need to address. I just wish it would have done so in a different manner.

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Quick Take: Every Heart A Doorway

Every Heart A Doorway (#1) by Seanan McGuire

every heart a doorwayThis was a definitely highly anticipated read of mine as I have heard nothing but rave reviews among the bookish community. I thought it would be a great thing to read during the Spook-A-Thon, but alas, I didn’t finish it in time to count.

All I knew about this book was that it’s about the children who have gone into fantastical worlds and have come back into our reality. The kids are sent to a children’s home in order to help them “acclimate” back into our reality as no one in their original lives believe their adventures. What I didn’t realize about this book was that it ended up being a murder mystery, which definitely made it the perfect read for October.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it! It was super creepy and eerie, way creepier than I expected the book to be. I was super intrigued with the storyline and I thought it such a creative twist on your typical portal fantasy story. What I loved most about this book was the extremely diverse representation of LGBTQA+ characters. I loved seeing a protagonist who identified as an asexual and that wasn’t the only thing that defined her character. It was definitely her most salient identity, but it wasn’t the only thing that we focused on.

I am definitely intrigued to the rest of the books in this series. I am particularly interested because of the way that this book ended! Slight cliffhanger…or…was it? I don’t know! If you’re looking for a spookier, eerie read, then this is the book for you!!

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Spook-A-Thon 2017!!

I participated in yet another read-a-thon in October, the Spook-A-Thon, which took place from October 16th-22nd. I recognize that we are well past that, but…not only did I want to share my reading experience, but I also thought that this would be a great concise way to share a few of my recent reads.

This was a great read-a-thon and I had a lot of fun with it! 🙂 The read-a-thon consisted of 5 different challenges:
1. A thriller
2. A book with orange on the cover
3. Spooky setting
4. Spooky word in the title
5. A book based on a childhood fear

My TBR for the Spook-A-Thon based on the above challenges was:

  • The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

I ended up completing 3 of the 4 books that I had on my original TBR, which I really think was pretty good!! I’ve had a streak of bad reading luck when it has come to read-a-thons this year, so this was a great change of pace! The only book I ended up not completing was “Every Heart a Doorway”, which I ended up completing later in the month.

I’m going to go ahead and get into two mini-reviews for the books that I’ve read! I will not be doing a mini-review of “The Wolves of Winter” by Tyrell Johnson, as it was an ARC so you’ll be getting a full review next month!

Continue reading

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Modern American Epic Mountain Cowboy

Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Keseyfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

It’s June. I’m a few days away from my trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I’m looking up books that take place in these gorgeous states. Scrolling past Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray, I land on Sometimes a Great Notion. And there is just nothing about it that should interest me…650 pages detailing a union strike that sweeps across a small logging town? An easy pass, were it not for the rave reviews calling it a masterpiece and one of the Great American Novels™. So, I pick it up.

Four months later, after wrestling to get into it, struggling through 70-page chapters and paragraphs chock-full of points of view that switch mid-sentence(!), I can add my voice and say that anyone who appreciates literature needs to read this book. This, this is the book I needed to read in my Literature classes, because there’s so much going on here, and it does it all so, so well. Because like any poignant novel, what makes it so great is never just about the plot. Continue reading

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Dear John Green…

Turtles All The Way Down by John Greenfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

I wanted to do something really special for this review as this was a special book for me. So, I decided to write this review in the form a thank-you letter to John Green. I hope you all enjoy! 

Dear John Green, 

35504431Let me begin by introducing myself! 🙂 My name is Christina and I have been a longtime fan of both your books, your VlogBrothers YouTube channel and your “Dear Hank & John” podcast. I have always appreciated your candor and your willingness to be vulnerable with your own mental health journey.

I, myself, have been diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD and…Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In my work with my previous therapist, my OCD really is the foundation of my mental health struggles, as this was something that I could trace back to my childhood. I’ve always been an anxious individual and it wasn’t until I started working with a therapist that I realized my anxiety really stems from my obsessive thought spirals. Thankfully, I have gotten to a point where I have graduated from therapy and have been living my life using the coping skills that I learned in therapy.

When I heard that this book was coming out…I can’t begin to tell you, I was filled with both anxiety and excitement. Anxiety, because (to be quite honest), I was nervous about how the character with OCD was going to be portrayed in this book. Excitement, because I hardly ever see OCD represented accurately or respectfully in books.

Now…I’ve read the book and you’re probably where I fall on the scale of anxiety to excitement. Honestly, I don’t think I actually fell anywhere on the scale. This book wrecked me emotionally. I couldn’t even properly cry because the amount of emotions I was experiencing was quite overwhelming. In the beginning of the book, when we were getting acquainted with Aza’s thought spirals and how her OCD manifested, I had to keep putting the book down because it just hit me square in my heart. It felt like someone transplanted my own thought spirals and put them in book form, and I had a really hard time reading through it – which to me, showed how accurate the thought spirals felt to me. This tends to be the part of OCD that is overlooked in books – the “O”, the “obsessive” thoughts. It’s paralyzing. It’s invalidating. It’s hurtful. And it really doesn’t feel like my thoughts.

The relationship between Aza and Daisy also really hit too close to home. Particularly when we start to see how Aza’s OCD impacts Daisy…this has always been my own lifelong fear. I know I’ve lost friendships due to my mental health disabilities. And this is, quite frankly, the hardest part of carrying my mental health disabilities. It is the constant fear that I am a burden to those that I deeply care about around me. In the deepest parts of my OCD and anxiety, I know that I cannot think of my impact on others because I am already so deep in my own thought spiral well. It feels so isolating. It literally makes me feel crazy.

The last thing that I would like to say…is thank you. Thank you, John Green. Thank you for writing this book that is gritty, painful, ugly and hard. Thank you for not shying away from how ugly and hard mental health disabilities can be. But, thank you for also showing the hope that exists at the end of the dark tunnel of mental health disabilities. More and more books targeted to a younger audience need to read like this one. They need to be honest and they need to provide hope, because hope always exists. Even when we can’t see it ourselves.

So, thank you, John Green. I cannot express in words how thankful I am for this book and how much this book has impacted my soul.

Thank you.

Christina Choi


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Quick Take: Girl in the Blue Coat

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

I have been on an audiobook binge recently and this was my most recent listen! 🙂 I 29910523definitely enjoyed this and surprisingly enough, this was a great read for October! This story follows a young Dutch girl named Hanneke during the German occupation in WWII. Hanneke trades goods on the black market for people who are willing to pay. In the midst of one of her black market trading with one of her regular customers, she gets asked to do another favor. A favor that is incredibly risky. A favor that could cost Hanneke her life. Her customer had been hiding a young Jewish girl who has gone missing. At first, Hanneke is hesitant to help her as she understands the implications of the task at hand. However, as more and more pieces of the puzzle come together, Hanneke realizes that there is more to the story than expected.

This story was wonderful and beautifully haunting. The narration was done wonderfully! The story ended up feeling more like a mystery, which is what made it an excellent read for October. It was eerie, haunting and heartbreaking. This story touched on family, friendships, betrayal, love and war…and how all of these things are impacted by war. The biggest take-away for me was reading about the way war changes people and what it makes people do.

Anytime I read a story set during this time, it’s always heartbreaking and I’m always amazed by the different POV’s that these stories could be told from. I am always amazed and grateful for the diversity of stories during this time, but also the different angles that these stories take.

This was heartbreaking, eerie and beautiful. I highly recommend it and I highly recommend listening to this on audiobook. The audiobook definitely adds another element to the story making it even more heartbreaking and beautiful.

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