Summer Book Reviews

So I had some big amazing goal of “reading as much as I could” during the past summer. And while all goals have merit to them, my completed reading list only consisted of four books. I’d like to think I branched out a bit from what I usually read, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed most of the books I had a chance to devour during my “summer vacation.”

IMG_3064_edited-2The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides – I had been wanting to read Eugenides’ work for a while now, and after picking up this gorgeous edition of The Marriage Plot, I was not disappointed. The book surrounds three main characters – Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell – and their journeys through college and past graduation. What’s amazing about Eugenides’ writing is his ability to get inside each character in a way that feels completely authentic. The characters you may dislike from one person’s perspective, you end up sympathizing with their struggles, and vice versa. I think I read this book at a very critical time in my life, being in the exact same life period as these characters, and I just completely fell in love with it. I did find a connection with myself and the “main” character of Madeleine, as we are both English majors and shared many of the same sentiments. But even though I felt that connection, the art of this book is that each character is so uniquely portrayed and developed, with such a rich story, it stands apart from any formulaic representation of college life that I’ve ever read. 5 out of 5 stars

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Yes, I picked this book up in anticipation for the movie adaptation that is being released later this year, but I also had heard great things about the story. The story centers on Nick Dunne and his wife Amy, the disastrous consequences that come from her disappearance (and possible murder) and the past relationship troubles the two had. The book switches between Nick’s perspective and Amy’s diary entries from when they first started dating, so it immediately sets up a mystery between which spouse to trust and which character with which to sympathize. This is one messed up mystery novel. At the end, I have to admit I didn’t really like any of the characters, and I’m not entire settled with the feeling the ending left with me. The first two-thirds of the book is exhilarating and a real page-turner, but it started to bore me near the end of the book. Although I have mixed feelings about it, I applaud Flynn’s ability to confound the reader and take them for a ride through what’s definitely not the representation of a perfect marriage, and I’m excited to see the movie version! 3.5 out of 5 stars 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – This book tells the coming-of-age story of Francie Nolan, who grows up in the early 20th century in Brooklyn, New York. This book isn’t necessarily lined with a straight-forward plot, but explores the changing mind and knowledge of a young girl at the turn of the century. What I found most intriguing was that this story was entirely told from the point of view of a girl, which I find is less common in coming-of-age labeled stories, and that it was written by a woman writer. It’s Francie’s experiences that color the story and make it an interesting read, from her relationship to her mother (who favors her brother, Neeley) to her relationship with her alcoholic father, who is the music in Francie’s life. There are no clichés you can find in this book, which is refreshing. This isn’t a rags-to-riches tale but just an honest depiction of the thoughts, challenges, and joys of growing up. 4.5 out of 5 stars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – I picked up this book just after it debuted on the bookshelves since I had heard so much hype from book reviewers and even from John Green, whose quote is on the cover. This is a young adult fiction about a teenager named Cadence Sinclair and her rich family’s island, who her and her aunts and cousins visit every summer. There’s all the typical YA tropes – the summer romance, the opaque rich family who may not be as happy as they appear to be, the secrets between the adults and the adolescents. The writing is average and the main character is a bit bland and definitely does not stand out in my mind as being a significant female figure in either YA or literature in general. Yes, there is a big OHMYGOD twist at the end, but it felt more like a gimmick than an actual twist, and didn’t convince me to like the story any more. Overall, I was disappointed by this book, and although I’ve read worse, it remains in my mind amongst the average ho-hum teenage tales I’ve read over the years. 2.5 out of 5 stars

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