May + June 2020 Book Review

The Greats

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This was one of the most interesting and unique novels I have read, for it seemed to be a soapy drama mixed with serial killings, and philosophical revelations. A very intriguing mixture. The main character, Korede, has a sister who is a serial dater and a serial killer, always calling Korede for help to clean up her murderous messes. But once Korede’s sister begins to date the man the she loves, jealousy, fear, and anger that has been buried for years rises up, resulting in a sisterly fight. Korede must choose between familial loyalty or personal ethics. Braithwaite was once a slam poet, so the unique angles and powerful diction is very apparent in her prose. This is an excellent book. I read it in a couple hours, because I could not put it down.

“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.” 

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

In the Distance is a Western, historical fiction packed with adventure that is on par with Jack Kerouac and Jack London. Hernán Diaz is a writer, professor, and finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and for the Pulitzer Prize. Diaz claims this novel took six years to write. With a focus on imagery and beautiful language, this novel depicts a Swedish immigrant, Hakan, voyaging to American in the mid-1800s. Without giving away too many details, I will say that Hakan meets many different types of people on this journey, showing him the good and bad in the world and shattering his innocence. The ending is sort of a somber decline in the story that showcases how humans imagine various people, experiences, and places to be better than they are. Shakespeare put it best: “Striving to be better, oft we mar what’s well.”

“A year and an instant are equivalent in a monotonous life.” 

In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

Good

The Stand by Stephen King

This is an extremely long read. I recommend you read this on a vacation or during summer break, because it is taxing, and it is not a book that can be put down for a while and then retrieved again. That is what I did, unfortunately. I took long breaks in between and found myself confused from forgetting specific details and character names and relationships. I both loved and disliked this book. I adored the thrill, the imagery, and the ending especially. I did not care for the multitude of characters, for I felt it hard to form a bond with them. I also recommend that Stephen King hire another editor, because there are so many portions of this novel that are digressions I think could be taken out. Rather than being 1200 pages approximately, it could have packed a powerful punch at 800 pages. The last thing I will say is that Stephen King seems to write without the end in mind, which leads to messy plots and digressions. Do not get me wrong, he is a fantastic writer when it comes to character development and thrilling details. However, the plot sequence seems to be lost at times. Nevertheless, The Stand is still an intriguing book!

“No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side.”

The Stand by Stephen King

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Okay. I have heard so much about this novel being one of the first prominent pieces of mystery literature. I am really captivated by mystery books. While this novel was charming and interesting, I found the plot to be rather flat and the ending merely continued the plateau. I will not say any spoilers, but I thought the ending to be rather strange… Not predictable or too far fetched, but it just did not sit comfortably with me. I will not elaborate further, out of fear of saying too much. But, I will end this blurb by acknowledging its power to propel mystery literature into what it is today and to appreciate the read for simply entertainment.

“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.” 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Acevedo writes another amazing YA novel! I read my first Elizabeth Acevedo piece in 2018, a verse novel called Poet X. Actually, I believe that to be my favorite YA fiction piece. There is so much raw emotion, relativity to the young adult, and self-empowerment in her words. With the Fire on High holds the same exact principles. The story focuses on a high school senior living with her grandmother (her legal guardian) and her daughter. She became pregnant in the beginning of high school, but she is not ashamed of it. She does not think of her life as a failure but has grown from this experience and is happy with herself. The story follows her as she navigates the last year in high school as a teenager and a mother, trying to find the balance between work and pleasure, as well as, discovering what she wants to do with her future. I am very impressed with this YA novel, for it has so many powerful lessons to teach young women about confidence, self-worth, and courage. Elizabeth Acevedo has done it again! Please, go read Poet X ASAP.

“And I know the past isn’t a mirror image of the future, but it’s a reflection of what can be.”

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This is an existential memoir about a neurological surgeon that was diagnosed with cancer. Kalanithi is a degree collector who has immersed himself equally in the world of literature and the world of medicine, earning a B.A. in Human Biology and B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from Stanford, a MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine from the University of Cambridge, and graduated cum laude from the Yale School of Medicine, where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha national medical honor society. He sought both in philosophy of thought and life science to answer the question: “What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?” The memoir follows this surgeon, as he attends medical school, grows in personal relationships, and deals with his diagnosis all while searching for the meaning of life amidst suffering, acknowledging that life is not about avoiding suffering. This memoir truly paints how one can choose to continue living in the midst of trouble, rather than surrender to suffering.

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.” 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

That is all for May’s and June’s Book Review List of 2020. Stay tuned for July 2020’s Book List and all the fun blog posts in between.

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