Book review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

michelle obama becoming review.png

I was never hugely into audiobooks, but I have finally found a kind that I like: autobiographies narrated by the person the book is about. ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama is exactly what I was looking for.

This story, told in chronological order, starts when Michelle is just a kid. Of course, I knew a little bit about the former first lady before I listened to this, but not a whole lot. I loved the portrayal of the south side of Chicago, and learning how Michelle dealt with a world that was – and is – divided in so many ways. I loved hearing about her father and how his disability was handled in the family.

I was hoping to also learn about how Michelle handled law school, as I’m currently in law school myself. Unfortunately, she kind of skipped over this part. It’s funny, because Michelle never wanted to be a lawyer. It was super interesting to hear how her career went as she steered away from law as someone with a law degree. In that way, I still got something out of that portion of the book. Continue reading

Advertisements

The 6 most disappointing books I (attempted to) read in 2018

Schermafbeelding 2018-12-23 om 17.05.02.png

As of right now, I have read 42 books this year. I was on track to break 50, but then law school happened and it all went downhill from there. But hey, 42 books is still great! And many of those books were wonderful. Others, not so much.. Today I want to share the books that disappointed me this year.

‘Disappointing’ doesn’t mean they were the worst books that I came across this year, it simply means I had just such high hopes for them and ended up not loving them nearly as much as I had hoped.

Schermafbeelding 2018-04-30 om 15.03.46The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
In 2018 I finally tried to get into Maggie Stiefvater and it did not go well. I always say that I need to understand the motive of the characters to care about the story and that’s where this book completely fell flat for me. Some rich spoiled private school kids search for a Welsh King and somehow it has to do with psychic energy but like, why? I made it halfway through and it’s still not clear. Which made me not excited to pick this back up again.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodSchermafbeelding 2018-12-23 om 16.49.08
I wanted to be blown away by this book SO BAD. But I just wasn’t. A story set in a theonomic military dictatorship formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. But I just felt so MEH about the execution. The first 100 pages or so are kind of slow, and we don’t really learn about much at all. I just felt like I was groping around in the dark, trying to figure out what was going on and how we got there. Continue reading

Revisiting Old Favorites: Matilda by Roald Dahl

matilda roald dahl

2018 is the year I started giving my local library more love. And it’s been amazing. One of the greatest things about the library is that they allow me to revisit my old favorites more easily: books that I once read but (no longer) have in my possession. I don’t always want to spend money on these books because I know the story so well, but I would like to reread them. The library is the perfect solution.

Matilda by Roald Dahl is such a book. Just like so many other children, I loved this book when I was younger. I think Matilda might be one of the first characters I related to. I was also a child that loved reading, did incredibly well in school compared to my peers and thus stood out. Although my classmates weren’t as nice to me as they were too Matilda, it was comforting to know that characters like hers existed and I wasn’t the odd one out. (It’s funny how back then being ‘different’ meant something negative, but now I  love it).

There is another reason why I love Matilda so much. It is one of the very few children’s books I’ve read that deals with abuse well. I’ve read some negative reviews from people saying that kids shouldn’t read about this, and that this book makes it sound like almost all adults are terrible. I disagree. I think Matilda is a great introduction into the tough and often unfair world of adulthood. Although the adults in this book – like Matilda’s parents and Ms. Trunchbull – are completely unrealistic and over the top, the problems that Matilda has to deal with are very real. Emotional neglect and adults that enjoy bullying very much exist, and this book shows us that Matilda is much stronger than them.

Above all, this book values kindness more than anything. Matilda and Miss Honey end up together in the end, which is heartwarming. It’s just one of those books that always puts a smile on my face. And even now, about fifteen years after I first read it, I still love Matilda.

Book Review: The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick

Reason youre alive book review matthew Quick

There’s this ongoing debate about unlikeable characters: Should you rate a book lower if it has an unlikeable or problematic character? Even if that was actually the point of the book in the first place?

This is something I still struggle with myself. The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick is a book with an unlikeable character like that. And while I don’t want to rate a book lower only because the MC isn’t a perfect person, his words an actions did have an affect on my enjoyment of the book. And if I enjoyed a book less, that means I should give it a lower rating, right? Otherwise I’m just giving a book a rating that doesn’t make sense for me.

”Only the good die young, and I’ve lived nasty.” – David Granger, The Reason You’re Alive

Dilemma’s. Before I go off on an even longer tangent, let me tell you about the premise of book. In The Reason You’re Alive, we get to know David Granger. He’s a republican army veteran that loves guns and regularly craps on how ”politically correct” the current world is. I think most of us know someone like this, and most of us don’t really like spending time with them.

However, David has an eclectic group of friends who all tolerate him, including a gay couple and a Vietnamese woman. Reading this felt a little unrealistic to me. David has very liberal opinions at times, yet still votes against the interest of his diverse group of friends? How does that make sense? Continue reading

Book Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

The cheerleaders book review

I don’t know what it is about murder and cheerleading, but they are a surprisingly good combination. In her newest novel Kara Thomas managed to write one of the most compelling murder mysteries I’ve read so far this year.

Five cheerleaders in a small town die, in three separate incidents, within a month’s time. Is it a coincidence or is there something sinister going on in the town of Sunnybrook? Our protagonist is Monica Rayburn, the sister of one of the cheerleaders that died. When she finds her sister’s phone in the desk of her stepfather, she begins searching for clues about what might have led her sister, Jen, to commit suicide five years ago. 

The story is primarily told from Monica’s point of view, but occasionally shifts to Jen, showing us what happened in the weeks that lead up to her death. Monica’s character is dynamic and realistic. She is appropriately angsty for a sixteen year old, but also sincere while finding out who she really is.

What I loved most about this book was how intricate the mystery was, making me shift from one suspect to the next. You know those thrillers in which every single person could have done the crime? And you just don’t know? This is exactly one of those books. As the reader, you want to crack the case as much as the main character. And while Monica is flawed and not always likeable, that makes you want to root for her anyway.  Continue reading

Book Review: Mindhunter by John Douglas

Mindhunter book review

Title: Mindhunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit
Author: John Douglas & Mark Olshaker
Pages: 397
Genre: True crime, memoir
Publication date: August 1995

“Behavior reflects personality. The best indicator of future violence is past violence. To understand the “artist”, you must study his “art”. The crime must be evaluated in its totality. There is no substitute for experience, and if you want to understand the criminal mind, you must go directly to the source and learn to decipher what he tells you. And, above all: Why + How = Who.”

True crime is my thing. I do not shy away from murder, rape, and the details that go along with it. To some people that might seem weird and twisted, but there is something about the mind of a criminal – especially serial killers – that is inherently fascinating to me.

Let this book be exactly about that. Special Agent John Douglas helped pioneer behavioural science and criminal profiling in the FBI. For 25 years, he researched killers and their modus operandi. An important part of his research was conducted speaking directly to killers about their own crimes and analysing their behaviour in the interrogation room.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The Fact of A Body

Title: The Fact of a Body
Author: Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Pages: 326
Genre: True crime, memoir
Publication date: May 16th 2017 by Flatiron Books

The Fact of a Body is one of those books that is hard to categorize: it’s part memoir, part true crime book. A disturbing story about the murder of a young boy – but also much more than that.

It’s hard to say where this story starts and where it ends. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, and she thinks her decisions and opinions are clear. She is against the death penalty. She does not want anyone to die. As the daughter of a lawyer, this is an opinion she has lived by ever since she knew what it meant.

But then she dives into the case of Ricky Langley, a pedophile and child murderer convicted of the murder on six-year-old Jeremy Guillory. She hears his voice, sees his taped confession, reads his files. And the moment his faces flashes on the screen Alexandria knows: she wants Ricky Langley to die. She is shocked by her reaction, which only makes her dig into this case deeper.

We unravel the story of Ricky, which is written in a way that it feels like a novel. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich used all the files and documents she could get her hands on to reconstruct his life. And although no facts have been altered, the author – as she says it – ‘layered her own imagination on the bare-bones record of the past to bring it to life.’ 

And as we unravel the story of Ricky Langley, we also unravel the painful story of Alexandria herself. We get an exceptionally intimate account of her childhood, about the sexual abuse and loss she dealt with at a young age, and about how her family dealt with these dark secrets.

Through her story, we learn how Alexandria’s past impacts her present. How the things she has been through affect her view of Ricky and the law in general. This impactful story rattled my insides, it made me feel sick and unsettled after I finished it. Yet it’s also one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.  Continue reading

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic book review

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Pages: 384
Genre: YA/Adult Fantasy, Adventure
Publication date: February 24th, 2015

Alternate Londons, dark magic, a crossdressing thief and lots of blood. V.E. Schwab completely sucked me into this novel.

A Darker Shade of Magic is one of those books that was incredibly hyped in the book community, and that’s why I was reluctant to pick it up initially. I have a history with not liking (over)hyped books, so I’ve been picking up less and less books based on the recommendation of people online and I try to go more with my gut feeling. However, I’m trying to diversify my reading this year, and since I don’t read a ton of fantasy, this seemed like the perfect book for me. 

In this peculiar novel we follow Kell, a rare magician with the exceptional ability to travel between the alternate Londons. There is Red London – Kell’s home – Grey London, White London, and Black London, the last one being completely cut off from the rest of them. Kell acts as an ambassador between the Londons, carrying messages between the royal families. In his spare time, Kell smuggles little magical trinkets to Grey London, which has no magic at all.

When Kell comes across Lila, things take a turn for the worse. When a mysterious relic from Black London – a relic that should have been destroyed – reappears, Kell and Lila must do what they can to protect it from all those who wish to claim it as their own.

V.E. Schwab is a very skilled writer, that’s for sure. I tend to like really flowery and poetic writing, but Schwab’s style is clear, concise and she never uses more words than necessary. She knows how to create a detailed fantasy world without dumping tons of info on you. Her characters are flawed, multidimensional and well-rounded.  Continue reading

7 Book Tropes We’re All Tired of Seeing (I Could Probably Predict The Ending of This Book by Page 50)

book tropes I'm tired of

Do you ever read a book and at a certain point in the plot, you realize the book has a trope and you know where it’s going. At that point, you could probably read the book with your eyes closed and you’ll still predict the ending.

Yeah, that’s the type of trope I’m talking about it. When you’ve read a lot of books, like most of us here, you’ll probably get tired of them. The following tropes usually, if not always, make me want to dnf a book, or it will at least lower my enjoyment of them.


I’m not like other girls..
Any book in which a female main character feels better than other girls because she’s not like them, or when a male love interest tells her ‘she’s not like other girls’ will be thrown across the room. I’m not here for that internalized misogyny. Luckily, this trope is slowly disappearing from modern fiction, because I can’t deal.


The Chosen One
Now, I’m not hating on all ‘chosen one’ books (Harry Potter is one..) but this is overdone. My problem with a lot of recent ‘chosen one’ books is that it feels like a cheap cop out and an excuse to not come up with a real, multi-layered plot. Why is it that completely unqualified characters find out they’re ‘chosen’ and suddenly master doing magic or battle fighting, and therefore never really face any issues. Lazy.


The let’s-pair-everyone-up-with-another-character trope
Okay, I’m realizing I’m giving all of these terrible names, but you get it. Since we’re on the subject of Harry Potter, I thought I’d expand on it. Why is it that books that are (usually) part of a series and feature a group of main characters, often in a dystopian or fantasy setting, at the end of the series they all end up in a hetereosexual relationships with each other, even if the relationships don’t make sense! It’s so unrealistic and unnecessary. You know, it’s cool to stay single for a whileThat doesn’t mean you can’t be happy.


The miscommunication trope
Whenever I see this, it just feels very ’80s movie. I’m talking about the no-wait-I-can-explain-it-trope, often used as a poor excuse for a plot. It’s the type of plot device used when the entire conflict of the book could be resolved with a simple conversation, but it just doesn’t happen because the main character just doesn’t want to talk. Reading about this is so frustrating!


The super attractive female character
She doesn’t sweat, she glistens in the sun. The shape of her breasts is clearly visible under her dress and her eyes have a vague shade of blueish green. You know the type of character I’m talking about, often written by male authors. I’m just so tired of it. How do you expect me to relate to your medieval peasant character if she looks like a supermodel?


Continue reading