Reading wrap-up #88: dead moms, a ghost wife and budding insanity

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 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar eBook by Sylvia Plath - EPUB | Rakuten Kobo IrelandRating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, classics

GoodReads rating: 4.04 / 5 (760,600 ratings)

Medium used: Paperback (purchased from Eagle Harbor Books in Poulsbo, WA)

Summary: The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies.”

Warning: This book contains mention of sexual assault/rape, suicide and self-harm and domestic violence.

Thoughts: I thought this book was okay. Obviously, it has stunning writing but I struggled to pick it up. The first half was not engaging to me whatsoever, but it did pick up a bit in the second half. I don’t have any “real” critiques, I just don’t think this book was my thing, personally. One of the parts I really loved was the parallels drawn in Plath’s real life, so if you’re considering this book I recommend looking into Plath’s life or buying a book with an intro/small biography like mine did. Regarding something similar, I prefer  the movie adaptation of Girl, Interrupted, I feel the directing choices and the brilliant acting of Winona Ryder really brought the story to life.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Rebecca: 9780380730407: Daphne Du Maurier: BooksRating: ★★★★★

Genre: Fiction, romance, suspense

GoodReads rating: 4.24 / 5 (555,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook and paperback (gifted from Antigone Books in Tucson, AZ)

PopSugar prompt: A book featuring a party.

Summary: “Ancient, beautiful Manderley, between the rose garden and the sea, is the county’s showpiece. Rebecca made it so – even a year after her death, Rebecca’s influence still rules there. How can Maxim de Winter’s shy new bride ever fill her place or escape her vital shadow? A shadow that grows longer and darker as the brief summer fades, until, in a moment of climatic revelations, it threatens to eclipse Manderley and its inhabitants completely…”

Warning: This book contains mention of suicide, domestic violence and incest.

Thoughts: Holy hell, this book was incredible. If it’s been on your list for ages like it has been on mine, run to read it. The first half is a tingling new romance set on the French Rivera and the second half is a suspense/mystery set in a large yet claustrophobic mansion by the sea in the English countryside. This book checked so many boxes, the writing was some of the best I’ve read this year, the audiobook was also a great experience and I felt the twists to my core. Incredible.

Other adaptations: There is a 1940 movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which wasn’t as big of a success as The Birds, which is also by du Maurier. There is also a 2020 movie on Netflix featuring Armie Hammer, who has been recently accused of various sexually deviant acts. Recently, there has been a documentary House of Hammer about the whole family and their alleged crimes.

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy I'm Glad My Mom Died: 9781797147963: Jennette McCurdy: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir

GoodReads rating: 4.68 / 5 (82,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

Summary: “Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day… These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.”

Warning: This book contains heavy themes throughout of eating disorders, alcohol abuse, rape/sexual assault.

Thoughts: Like every other person, I love this cover and the title of the book. Even more, I love Jenette’s answer when questioned about her controversial title, something along the lines of: “It’s true, people who understand parental abuse and dark humor will get it or at least appreciate it, and if you don’t then the whole book is not for you.” I tried to buy this book hardcover but it was on backorder from the publisher, meaning they didn’t expect such success and needed to print more copies. It’s incredible that she’s probably making a killing from this book and can have a viable career in a field she chose. I grew up with iCarly so I’m familiar with the show and it was chilling to think of her life when the cameras stopped rolling. Returning to a mom that showered her, a hoarded home and fundamental Mormon teachings and later during Sam & Cat: alcohol abuse, precarious romantic relationships and her mom’s illness. Her first kiss in the iCarly show was with the character Freddie Benson was also her first kiss in real life. What does that do to a person? She also touched on “The Creator’s” (if you know, you know) abusive behaviors such as providing children with alcohol and insisting on bikini scenes in his shows. The only reason this book didn’t get five-stars is because although her journey was incredible to read about, the writing was quite matter-of-fact, but I know she is still honing her craft and look forward to supporting her in the future.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart eBook by Michelle Zauner - EPUB | Rakuten Kobo United StatesRating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir

GoodReads rating: 4.30 / 5 (192,800 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

Summary: “In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.”

Warning: This book contains themes of cancer ailments throughout and mention of alcohol abuse, rape, domestic abuse and suicide.

Thoughts: This book has been on my to-read list for ages now and when I saw Japanese Breakfast live last month, Michelle accompanied one of their songs with a touching slideshow picture of her mom. I know her mom had passed so the performance brought me to tears and this book did the same. It’s so beautifully written with mouth-watering descriptions of food and the various places she’s lived and visited. I’ve spent a bit of time in Oregon so I felt like I was right there in Eugene. Although she is a musician, I really loved how she focused on her personal journey with her family in this book, it was so touching and devastating. I really love this passage: “I squinted when the light hit my face. It felt like I was on drugs. None of these people could know what just happened, but still I wondered if they could see it on my face. When I realized they clearly couldn’t, it somehow felt wrong. It felt wrong to talk to anyone, to smile or laugh or eat again knowing she was dead.”

Have you read any of these?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.


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