A few of these reviews are going to be quite long, so this wrap-up will only have three books and I’ll post another one before the end of the month!
As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:
- (★★★★★): Loved it, won’t shut up about it for the foreseeable future
- (★★★★): Really liked it, enjoyable experience
- (★★★): Liked it enough, no strong opinions
- (★★): Didn’t care for it, would actively discourage people reading it
Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
Genre: Non-fiction, essays, memoir
GoodReads rating: 4.29 / 5 (1,700 ratings)
Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)
Summary: “An urgent collection of essays by first and second-generation immigrants, exploring what it’s like to be othered in an increasingly divided America. From Trump’s proposed border wall and travel ban to the marching of White Supremacists in Charlottesville, America is consumed by tensions over immigration and the question of which bodies are welcome. In this much-anticipated follow-up to the bestselling UK edition, hailed by Zadie Smith as “lively and vital,” editors Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman hand the microphone to an incredible range of writers whose humanity and right to be here is under attack.”
Warning: This book contains mention of rape, racism and eating disorders.
Thoughts: “The title was in response to the narrative that immigrants are “bad” by default until they prove themselves otherwise. They are job stealers, benefit scroungers, girlfriend thieves and criminals. Only when they win you an Olympic medal, treat you at your local hospital, or rescue a child from the side of the building do they become good.” This was absolutely incredible. What a diverse range of experiences with almost all the stories being from different countries. And for the audiobook, the authors narrate their own stories. Granted, not everyone is a born voice actor, but you can really hear the conviction in their voices.
I loved it so much I bought the British version, in fact a lot of these authors also had experiences in the UK that I could connect with. Being white and coming from a similar culture as the UK did grant me certain privileges, but an author pointed out that although British people are very polite, they’re always first to ask what are you doing here and when are you going back. Coming back was difficult because I saw myself in the UK forever, now I struggle to maintain the identity of an “American Who Chose to Leave.” Another great story was about some immigrants identifying as being a Londoner, not British. “Londoner” “transcends national connotations for me. it’s a vibe, attitude, swag, banter and it doesn’t have a flag, passport or past atrocities attached to it in the same way.”
My favorite quote was: “The more specific a moment is, the more if becomes relatable to a wide range of people.” This is a must-read.
Submarine by Joe Dunthorne
Genre: Fiction, coming of age
GoodReads rating: 3.75 / 5 (10,000 ratings)
Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)
Summary: “The dryly precocious, soon-to-be-fifteen-year-old hero of this engagingly offbeat debut novel, Oliver Tate lives in the seaside town of Swansea, Wales. At once a self-styled social scientist, a spy in the baffling adult world surrounding him, and a budding, hormone-driven emotional explorer, Oliver is stealthily (and perhaps a bit more nervously than he’d ever admit) nosing his way forward through the murky and uniquely perilous waters of adolescence.” Oliver has to navigate his parents crumbling marriage, his own anxious self-awareness and his budding relationship with classmate Jordana.
Warning: This book contains mention of rape, pedophilia, animal death and abortion.
Thoughts: First of all, the GoodReads reviews and summary does this book no favors. I also think this book is better for older young-adults as actual young adults might not get the point that Oliver is meant to be a little prick. This book was funny but at the same time disturbing, I guess that’s British humor for you! I can best compare this to a more light-hearted British version of Perks of Being a Wallflower. Stories like these I can see my anxious, young self and reading well done stories like these provide a kind of retroactive comfort for teenage me, I might have too much of an emotional connection to objectively review this book. Sue me.
“I love you more than words. And I’m a big fan of words.”
“I am suddenly aware of the separation between my-actual-self and myself-seen-by-others. Who would win in an arm wrestle? Who is better-looking? Who has the higher IQ?”
“Perspective is for astronauts.”
“There are plenty more fish in the sea. There are fish but also whales and crustaceans and shipwrecks and a dozen or so submersible military vehicles.”
Jodrana getting a dog at the end is such a simple, beautiful way to wrap up this book and is somehow done even better in the film.
Other adaptations: I love the 2010 movie starring Craig Roberts and with the soundtrack done by Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys fame. Yasmin Paige and Sally Hawkins are also amazing. Upon rewatching it for the first time in a decade, I realized one of the most impactful parts of the book is left out of the movie: early in both the film and book, Oliver and Jordana bully a girl called Zoe, and after that in the film she’s forgotten about. However at the end of the book, Oliver returns to Zoe’s new school where she has reinvented herself and they hook up. His internal monologue proves how little he’s changed, thinking about how he preferred her when she was less bold, how he sees himself as a figure of immense power and explains her “wanting” him, and as they’re getting undressed thinking how “she may be attractive,” but his erection remains “sad” as she’ll always be the fat girl to him. In a twist of fate, Zoe is actually just using Oliver to make someone else jealous: a taste of his own asshole medicine.
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
Genre: Fiction, thriller, mystery
GoodReads rating: 4.04 / 5 (19,800 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)
PopSugar prompt: A book with cutlery on the cover
Summary: “A college reunion turns dark and deadly in this chilling and propulsive suspense novel about six friends, one unsolved murder, and the dark secrets they’ve been hiding from each other—and themselves—for a decade. Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent—not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year.”
Warning: This book contains mention of drugs and sexual assault.
Thoughts: I expected more from this as a lot of Booktubers I like enjoyed this book, but I was let down. The college setting really interested me, but the dialogue felt like a stage play or soap opera, it was hard to take it seriously. There was literally a point where the antagonist gives a long, expositional monologue. Don’t tell me, show me. I also didn’t really care about the characters, they were so cartoonish-ly written at times it took me out of the story. The characters being in love/obsessed with each other and more or less the whole conflict being hinged on Greek life didn’t work for me either, I didn’t care. There were some good twists and the stories came together well, but it wasn’t enough for me.
Have you read any of these?
Photo by Radu Marcusu.