Quarterly Book Reviews: January - March 2018
I hope your Wednesday is going great and if it's not, well you're halfway to Friday so there is hope! Today's post is a little update on one of my New Year's Resolutions (which you can read about here). I can happily say I have stuck with my resolution so far and I'm so glad to be back into reading, even if it's only been one book a month so far. If you're wondering about the 5k resolution I made well...I haven't laced up my running shoes yet, but I've still got 9 months so we're okay (lol). But back to the books...these past three months I have read Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, listened to Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi, and just finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. This is my first book review post so bare with me as I'm not quite sure how best to describe these without giving away the whole plot...I promise to get better as the year goes by.
January - Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
I'm a notorious "judge a book by its cover" shopper. If its got a fun cover with a great font I'll buy it, even more so if it's 20% off. Unfortunately this way of book shopping does not always work out in my favor. Modern Lovers takes place in present time Ditmas Park, Brooklyn and follows the lives of two 40-soemthing couples and their 17-year old only children. Three of the individuals were in a semi-successful band in college and have been best friends ever since. The two kids, Ruby and Henry, have grown up as neighbors and while taking summer school together Henry's long harbored crush on Ruby comes to fruition as they start a summer fling without their parent's knowledge. In the start of the book you meet the characters in great depth, as each chapter is read from the perspective of one of them, and unfortunately, that great depth mostly has nothing to do with moving the story along. Usually I love first person narratives, but because there were six characters to hear from, the story trudged along slowly and the further you got into the book the further you were confused on what the point of the plot was. This book took me all of January to read because I had to muster up the energy to open it and not fall asleep while reading it. As it continues one of the couples work through a passionless but cordgial marriage while the other tries to keep a part of their lives secret from the other. Now you might be thinking, "That doesn't sound boring at all!" But in my effort of not giving up too much of the plot (if you can even call it that) the secrets they keep are so small and insignificant that they do not create any sort of drama worth turning the page for. As January was ending and I was begrudgingly getting to those final chapters I was just shockingly confused at how anti-climatic a book could be and why on earth a publisher would publish it. When that last chapter came the "problems" tied up super quickly and everyone lived happily ever after. It felt like even the author Emma was bored of her own book and under deadlines had to finish it quickly to keep her editors happy. When I closed the book I immediately went out to our apartment's free library and dropped it into the bin (hence why it's not included in the above picture) and was so glad I never had to think of it again...well until now. I know this particular review wasn't stellar but it's because the book wasn't either. If you've read Modern Lovers or any of Emma Straub's other books (I heard The Vacationers is good), please let me know what you think, I really am curious to know.
February - Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by nabeel Qureshi
February was "moving" month so I opted for an audio book because I knew I'd be too busy and stressed to sit down and finish a book in time. I chose Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus on Audible after being recommended it by two good friends who specifically said it was best listened to instead of read, and after reading it I completely agree. SAFJ is read by Nabeel Qureshi himself as he walks you through his entire life as a devout Muslim and now Christian. He goes into great depth of the teachings and history of Islam that he had learned from birth, what his family life was like, what it was like being one of the few Muslims in his Virginia high school, how he came to know the Gospel and make Jesus His Lord and Savior in college, and how every aspect of his life dramatically changed after. In the start of his audio book Nabeel tells his listener that this book is not your typical autobiographical narrative, but more a retelling of facts and events. This is why I my friends told me that listening to it was way better than reading. Nabeel goes through so much history and in-depth study of Islam teachings that a reader would probably find it very difficult to stay alert and not check-out. Hearing him speak it with flexion and emphasis helped keep me engaged and I was able to track along better with what he was explaining. It also gave a much more personal feel to the whole book as though I was hearing him speak at a conference. Again, because I don't want to give away his whole story and trying to retell it would take hours, I'll just leave you with my takeaways. Being a Christian and growing up in church and at Christian schools, I have a small understanding of Islam, but listening to this book really expanded my knowledge and helped me understand the complex Muslim culture and religion, especially what it is like being a Muslim in modern day America. Due to history, Muslims automatically have a very extreme stereotype to live under, so hearing from a devout Muslim what it his everyday family life was like really helped break down those stereotypes and immediately made Muslims more approachable to me. I highly recommend this book to everyone! If you're a Christian this book will really help you learn more about Islam and teach you how to love Muslims and share the Gospel with them in an effective and loving way.
March - Little Fires EveryWhere by Celeste Ng
I said before that I'll buy anything with a cute cover and on sale, well I'll also buy anything Reese Witherspoon is planning to make into a movie/miniseries. Three days after Reese announced her new project I went out and bought the book. I have a lot of faith in Reese as she has turned two other books, Wild and Big Little Lies, into amazing and addictive movie/miniseries. Both Wild and Big Little Lies were books I read prior to their live action counterparts and I will say that they were as good and even better (Big Little Lies the show) than their books! I'm not sure when or where Little Fires Everywhere will be aired, but I know I will for sure be watching.
But anyways you're here for the actual book review, so let's get to that. LFE is centered around Mia Warren a nomadic photographer and single mother to 16 year old Pearl. After a decade plus of moving all around the country for Mia's photography projects, Mia decides it's time to create some stability in Pearl's life and settles in Shaker Heights, Ohio. They rent a small duplex from the Richardsons, a very wealthy family in town with whom Pearl befriends thee of the four children. After some odd encounters with Mia, Mrs. Richardson begins to wonder about her story and uses her experience as a reporter to find the answers to who Mia Warren really is. Pearl and the other Richardson children get into their own adolescent trouble and have to put the pieces of their lives back together under their parents' noses. In the end it seems you can only hide from your mistakes for so long, until you have no choice but to burn everything to the ground and start anew. That's all I can seem to say without spoiling too much, but my end reaction to the book was just "meh." The beginning of the book isn't incredibly gripping, but it does seem to get better as you start to dig into Mia's past. The ending is also a bit of a let down and wraps up quite quickly. This is Celeste Ng's second book after her super successful debut novel, Everything I Never Told You (still need to pick this one up), and it seems like it's another case of author being pushed by publisher to bring out their next book too fast. I'm still glad I read it and think it will make a better tv show than book. In fact, I didn't really love Big Little Lies the book. I found it to be quite boring, but the show was truly addictive, so like I said before, I still have faith in Reese to turn Little Fires Everywhere into something incredible! If you are on the fence about the book, I say go for it. It's not the best but it's certainly not the worst and I think it's always fun to see how a book changes on screen.
I hope you guys enjoyed these little book reviews. Leave me any questions about these books and recommendations of books to read in the comments! I'll continue to do these "Quarterly Book Reviews" and I promise I will get better at them. I'm aspiring to become like Carly The Prepster and Grace Atwood from The Stripe, as they devour books like air and leave reviews like pros. If you're looking for a new book to read I highly recommend looking at their sites!