Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
I wasn’t sure if I could handle reading this book, having been in the dating trenches for long enough to induce some of the insanity Ansari references, but I finally felt ready to take the plunge. I wasn’t surprised at anything I read, or how I felt while reading: I knew that Ansari’s observations would make me feel crazy and hopeless, while also being so relatable that I’d feel less alone and maybe a little less crazy; I also figured I’d laugh, at least a little bit.
If you haven’t used online means to meet potential partners: congratulations, and I envy you. Any of the stories from women recounted in this book could have been mine, or any other number of women’s (or men’s) who have been on the dating circuit for more than a day. If you have used an online dating app, the stories from the field that Ansari shares are almost boring, because you’ve experienced/heard them so many times before. If this is your first time encountering these stories of what it’s like to be ghosted/ghost, be stood up/catfished/humiliated/demeaned/questioned about why you’re single/etc. etc., then buckle up, because reading about what dating is like in today’s age is pretty horrifying and unbelievable (not to mention disheartening), though it is all true. Ansari shares case studies, experiments, and numbers to back up the abysmal future he paints of the dating wasteland (kidding, kidding, but it seems that humans are having a harder and harder time communicating with one another.)
I think this is a worthwhile read for both single and partnered people alike, but the experience will be very different, depending on your dating experience (and when it occurred). The way we treat people over computer/phone screens is a universal commentary, and one we would all do well to consider. If nothing else, it will, hopefully, make you laugh, as I did.
La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1) by Philip Pullman
I was hesitant to read this prequel to His Dark Materials, which is a trilogy from my childhood that is near and dear to my heart. That said, this book does it justice: I’m sorry for ever worrying, Mr. Pullman. I should have known you would give us nothing less than a Lyra-worthy prequel.
I won’t say too much about the content, lest I spoil anything, but I will say that Pullman has given us new characters to root for, and some favorites make an appearance. If you loved His Dark Materials, this is a must-read; a wonderful chance to revisit a world we came to love. I had the same tingles that I had when I first read Pullman’s masterpiece, and that is something that cannot be understated. I’m anxiously awaiting the next two installments.
But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
John Green really knows how to get inside the mind of the teenager; I’d wager it’s because he remembers well what it was like to be one (some of us probably always will, myself included.) This is his first book that explicitly tackles mental illness, which makes it a standout from his other work, and is important for that reason. I’m sure this story will resonate with a lot of readers.
While it’s no The Fault in Our Stars (my personal favorite), it’s on par with Green’s other novels, so if you enjoy his writing style–as I do–then you will enjoy this read.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
I received this book as a birthday gift from a friend last year; she thought it was a thriller, based on the cover art and the first few pages that reference a missing person. I thought the same upon starting it, but we were both mistaken.
Elmet is a work of fiction about a young boy and his sister growing up with his father, who’s a boxer, in a remote area in England. This read wasn’t for me, unfortunately. It was well-written, but I didn’t feel satisfied upon finishing the story, and it contained too much violence for my liking. (The violence seemed excessive, even though I read a lot of fantasy and thrillers that contain some pretty graphic scenes.)
I won’t be recommending this read to friends, although that’s just because it wasn’t a book I would have picked up for myself, which is not the fault of the book, so I feel a bit bad saying so.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I’m a bad feminist for having waited so long to read Gay’s insightful, funny, provocative, true-to-life, and sad essays (especially in light of our current political times). So many things that Gay writes were predictions of a future all of us hoped would never come, and it’s depressing to read her commentary so many years later, when some of her comments along the lines of “we’re past that now” have become outdated. Highly recommend this read for all, be they feminists, aspiring feminists, or just wanting to know what a feminist has to say.
A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I thought I was a bit Sherlock Holmesed-out on all of the “new takes” on the old story, but this was a unique way of getting at the story, and it is delightful. Cavallaro has incorporated the mythology of Holmes and made it into something new; the mystery itself is strong, but the same quick wit and smart sleuthing you’d expect from Holmes is found here, too, in a way that readers of both YA and mystery will find appealing. The friendship between Charlotte and Jaime is finely tuned, with relatable feelings and frustrations included.
I’m excited to see where this trilogy goes, and I look forward to the next installment.
A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin
Surprisingly, I’d missed A Wizard of Earthsea in my fantasy-addled youth. It’s a straightforward adventure quest, notable because it was one of the first written for YA (if not *the* first, if memory serves), and it is clear that it was the blueprint on which so many YA fantasy stories built upon. As a fantasy and YA lover, I appreciated seeing the birthplace of so many of my favorite books. I’ll be seeking out the rest of the series, which I am more than sure holds up to all of the praise.
The Silver Gate by Kristin Bailey
I was not blown away by The Silver Gate, although I did like that one of the main characters has a disability, which prompts the action of the story. If not for that, I feel that this is a YA fantasy story that would be at the bottom of the pile of some more compelling YA reads.
Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney
This book is a fun YA read, focusing on two sisters who are fairly different, but love one another fiercely, and what happens when they attend school with the Prince of England. I liked that Courtney kept the perspective limited to one character, and to the character I thought I wouldn’t jive with, as I identified more with the other sister, but that speaks to the story that I found myself rooting for this sister. If you’re a fan of YA with a bit of humor and a romantic tilt, you’ll enjoy this read.