Book Review: Verity

Verity: Hoover, Colleen: 9781791392796: Books - Amazon.ca

Title: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Romantic Thriller, Adult Fiction

Pages: 324 pages

Level of difficulty: 2/5 Dictionaries

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Lowen Ashleigh is a writer who gets a big break when the husband of a severely injured author, Verity Crawford, seeks her to help continue the author’s beloved thriller book series. Lowen who is struggling financially accepts the opportunity and goes to their house with the husband, Jeremy, to read over Verity’s manuscripts. However, she ends up stumbling upon an unfinished autobiography that paints Verity in very bad light. As Lowen begins to realise that Verity is evil and grows suspicious of the author’s current medical condition, all while developing feelings for Jeremy, she battles with what to do.

Favourite Quote:

N/A

Review:

Unfortunately, this was a thriller that had so much potential but failed to deliver.

At the very beginning of the novel, Lowen and Jeremy meet in a traumatic manner but the weight of that incident is brushed upon, which seemed very unrealistic (despite the impression that since they both have had worst traumatic experiences they could look past the one that had happened in the beginning scene). This situation is very concerning since it’s a romance that grows on the foundation of (unresolved) trauma.

Furthermore, the romance that brewed between Lowen and Jeremy seemed very instant-love. There wasn’t any significant reason why Lowen liked Jeremy so much, apart from the fact that he was nice to her (which I would argue is a low standard). Considering the situation that Jeremy was in, and the other issues in his family, I was surprised that Lowen was not even a bit concerned about how a relationship with Jeremy could develop in a healthy manner (until towards the end of the novel), and thus began questioning if her feelings were just lust or infatuation.

Regarding the thriller aspect of the novel, it felt like Hoover tried hard to add every element that is stereotypical for a thriller novel without truly exploring them. There were many deaths, toxic relationships and mental health issues that could have been better analysed. Sadly, the medical condition that Verity was in and Lowen’s suspicion of it was badly tackled.

In addition, the lack of first-person narration by Jeremy made him quite an unrealistic character. There were many questions left unanswered about him, especially how he was dealing and dealt with all the heartbreaking events that had been happening to him and his family.

Worst more, Hoover added a chapter that turned the whole novel/storyline on its head. While, there is nothing wrong with such an element in a novel, for the nature of the story and the issues in it, it left a bad taste in my mouth. It felt solely for shock value and thus very unnecessary.

Nevertheless, Colleen Hoover is a beloved romance writer and while I might not pick up another thriller by her, I would definitely give one of her romance novels a chance.

Academic Book Review- Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era by Ashley D. Farmer

Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era: Farmer, Ashley D.:  9781469634371: Books - Amazon.ca

            In the revolutionary book Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era by the Historian Ashley Farmer, the political, social, and economic impacts, and significance of Black women to the formation and development of the Black Power Movement was documented, accounting for the perspective of Black women who usually get silenced in history. The author does so by arguing that formations of womanhood by Black women were crucial sites of Black Power expression and investigates how they portray Black women’s intentional efforts to reformat racial, and gender hierarchies not only within the movement but in society at large (Farmer, 2017).  Farmer achieves this intervention by using the gendered imaginary to study Black Power and centering the research on the “theoretical, textual, and visual representations of black women’s ideas” (Farmer 2017, 2).  

Farmer defines the concept of “gendered imaginary” as “activists’ idealized, public projections of black manhood and womanhood” (Famer 2017, 2). This concept considered Black women activists to be independent intellectuals, and thus the diverse yet overlapping works of literature and artwork they created to broaden public opinion of Black womanhood became a window to their notion of liberation (2). By using different resources and data from those that originally claimed Black Power as a male-dominated era, Farmer was able to move the conversation of the Black Power movement and create a different conclusion about the era. As such, Remaking Black Power is a significant contribution to Black history, Black feminism, and intellectual history.

Remaking Black Power was a timely work with the increased rise of the Black Lives Matter movement after its three female co-founder activists were vocal during the 2016 United States presidential election and illustrated the influence of Black feminism in political organizing. Farmer’s brief introduction of Black nationalism, ideologies, and organisations along with a brief history of Black Power and discussion of key figures during the movement, and a brief history of Black feminism in the book was a good foundation of her research for the audience, especially those who found her book by exploring ideas regarding Black feminism after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the introduction chapter of the book, Farmer acknowledged that there are limitations in her research is addressing all the nuances of identity politics, and in the sources chosen considering it biases the book towards recognized organizations and print media. Chapter 1 focused on how the gendered redefinition of Black women was the development and evolution of the Black Power era, and thus much more than a response to the sexism of male activists in the 1960s. This was followed by a clear portrayal that the writing of Black womanhood was crucial sites through which Black women created inclusive application of political theory in chapter 2.

The next chapter explored how cultural nationalism in political organising created a push to redefine Black womanhood and re-understand gender roles. Chapter 4 on the other hand, situated Black power as a movement that had global scope by discussing the intersection of Pan-Africanism and Black womanhood, and thus highlighted the significance of gendered imaginary as Black women’s intellectual activism. The final chapter widened the scope of Black feminism in political and cultural work and countered the notion that Black nationalism and Black feminism were in oppositional theoretically and in terms of their activist pursuit.

            Farmer’s research illustrated that any future works on the history of the Black Power era that do not include Black women’s gendered experience are incomplete. This illustration has the power to influence other works of Black history and other areas of history by pushing Historians to ask themselves whether women were missing from the narrative because they did not play any role, or simply because they were not included.

Bibliography

Farmer, Ashley D. 2017. Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Book Review: Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Title: Such a Fun Age

Author: Kiley Reid

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction

Pages: 301 pages

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Emira is a twenty-five year old who isn’t sure of what she wants to do in life nor is she fond of the fact that she is depending on babysitting to pay her bills. Nevertheless, she loves spending time with Briar, the four year white girl who she babysits. Unfortunately, an emergency babysitting session one night in a nearby grocery store leads to questioning by a security guard and a kidnapping accusation. This incident leads to a chain of events that has Emira questioning what used to be.

Favourite Quote:

N/A

Review:

Such a Fun Age is a beautiful piece of work that accurately portrays how racism creeps into the everyday lives of Black women in the United States in direct, indirect and unknowing manners. It also touches on themes such as purpose and belonging. It is a short yet gripping read, I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Ghost Bride

Title: Ghost Bride

Author: Yangsze Choo

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal

Pages: 361

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Li Lan, the daughter of a once reputable but now bankrupt family gets a marriage proposal from the Lim family, a highly respectable and rich family. However, it is a marriage proposal for their recently deceased son, Lim Tian Ching. Despite Li Lan’s refusal to being a ghost bride, she finds herself haunted by Lim Tian Ching and losing her health at the same time.

Favourite Quote:

N/A

Review:

It was a really interesting idea and had so much potential but the execution was sadly disappointing in my opinion. I think the first problem was that the intended audience was not clear. Was it for Malaysian or other Asian readers? A non-Chinese audience? Teenagers or adults? As someone who is very familiar with Malaya and Singapore history and Malay and Chinese culture, there was a bit too much explaining of certain concepts, names, food and places in the novel. While I understand that the explanation might have been primarily for non-Malaysian readers to follow the storyline better, the way the explanations were woven into the story felt forced instead of a ‘show not tell’ manner. In addition, I don’t think there is a huge problem with readers doing their ‘Googles’ and actively learning more about a culture if they happen to be reading a book based on an unfamiliar culture to them.

The second problem I had was that the plot twists in the books were all very predictable, and a lot of aspects in the novel felt too convenient. The love interest that the main character had in the novel was not believable. As a reader, I could understand the infatuation with the first love interest however, they barely had any interactions to portray the deep love between them that was implied. In addition, with the second love interest, there were even fewer interactions to understand why the main character would so easily choose them over the first love interest. In addition, the motivations for certain characters’ betrayal, help, and the reasoning behind the talents of certain characters were all weak too. ( I am trying to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers).

The third problem was the execution of Chinese culture and its beliefs of the afterlife as the basis of the fantasy/paranormal elements in the book. I was quite disappointed because that was a huge motivation for why I picked the book up. I was actually a little nonplussed when one character in the novel turned into a mystical creature. I thought to myself, why them and why all of a sudden and why this creature? In addition, the mystical creature chosen felt a little bit cliché. Due to the fact that there was not much effort to give a justification for the world-building and certain fantasy elements (despite the fact that it was based on cultural beliefs and not just make-believe), they fell flat and as a reader a bit unbelievable especially when there were some inconsistencies.

Nevertheless, I still think it was a worthwhile read as I was really intrigued to find out how the story would play out and end (though quite conveniently) and I greatly appreciated the representation showcased in the novel.

Other

The book was recently turned into a Netflix show, however the trailer for the show hints that the series is a little bit different from the book. Here it is:

Book Review: Pachinko

Title: Pachinko

Author: Min Jin Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literature

Pages: 453

Level of difficulty: 4/5 Dictionaries

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Sunja, the daughter in a loving family falls for a stranger often seen near the market in her hometown in Korea as a teenager. Their interaction leads to her pregnancy but unfortunately, she soon realises that she cannot marry him. She instead accepts a marriage proposal from a gentle, sickly minister and moves with him to Japan. This decision further unfolds in a breathtaking way through the generations.

Trigger warnings : Assault, Addiction and Suicide

Favourite Quote:

“Sunja had heard this sentiment from other women, that they must suffer—suffer as a girl, suffer as a wife, suffer as a mother—die suffering. Gosaeng—the word made her sick.”

Pg. 373

Review:

Pachinko follows the lives of several individuals in a family tree from before the Japanese occupation of Korea to way after the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We are told the story from a bird’s eye view, where we see each character and learn about them from a third person’s perspective. However, the story was not difficult to follow at all. It was not only well written but highly moving too. I actually cried less than 50 pages into the novel.

On a whole, the story is about life, more specifically the lives of Korean immigrants in Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea and long after the Cold War, and thus encompasses many themes. The author did a good job of highlighting how racism and discrimination limit people’s options and changes their lives drastically. Something that is sadly still prominent in today’s time. She was also brutally honest yet compassionate while portraying the lives of women throughout the history of which the story plays out.

However, something I was disappointed about was the lack of explanation for certain characters death. Then again, it might have been intentional to represent life and how we rarely get answers to a lot of painful experiences.

Despite the story’s slow pace, it was a page-turner!

The Effect of Rhetoric on Representation as Argued in Signifying Bodies and Showcased in Cockeyed

Summary; 2018

In G. Thomas Couser’s chapter, “Rhetoric and Self-Representation in Disability Memoir” in Signifying Bodies, he argues that autobiographies from marginalized groups such as disabled people have the power to remove the social, economic and political domination in their lives. This is because they are given the power to represent themselves. In the chapter, Couser focuses on “rhetoric” (i.e. the way the narrator tells their story), illustrating with real disability memoirs how the various types of rhetoric – “triumph, horror, spiritual compensation, and nostalgia”, enforces the stigma and marginalization of disabled people (33). In the end, Couser introduces the rhetoric of emancipation in the memoir I Raise My Eyes to Say Yes by Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer and Steven B. Kaplan. Couser explains that Sienkiewicz-Mercer illustrates disability as something that can be accommodated if society removes the ‘physical, social and cultural obstacles’ (44) that it has created, as opposed to something that requires fixing. These types of social accommodations contribute to the positive representation of disabled people.

One rhetoric that was present in the disability memoir Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton, was “rhetoric of nostalgia” (Couser 38). Couser exemplifies with the memoir The Driving Bell and the Butterfly by Dominque Bauby, that this rhetoric is when the narrator tells his story reminiscing in when they were not disabled. The consequence of the rhetoric is it enforces the perception that disability makes someone less of a person. In Cockeyed, this rhetoric was present in Ryan denying his blindness by refusing to get a cane and enduring relentless injuries from bumping into things. This creates great sympathy for Ryan especially when he fell into “oncoming traffic” (Knighton 60) because it emphasised that his deteriorating vision puts him in constant danger. This subconsciously created the impression that he was less of a person than he was before losing his vision, which is in line with the consequence of “rhetoric of nostalgia” (Couser 38).

However, in Cockeyed, “rhetoric of nostalgia” (38) was then replaced with “rhetoric of emancipation” (44), as Ryan learned to accept his disability, and that it does not define him. Couser illustrates with the memoir I Raise My Eyes to Say Yes that this rhetoric is when the narrator reveals that what causes the discrimination of disabled people, is society’s perception of disability and not the actual physical or mental disability. This was present in Knighton’s memoir when he had a “shift in perspective” (71). Ryan realised that people have multiple reactions to him using a cane, because of their perception of disability and feelings towards those who have disabilities (72).

In conclusion, Couser’s chapter has highlighted the lost potential of some disability memoirs for challenging stigmas because of their rhetoric. In addition, Cockeyed has illustrated that different types of rhetoric can be present in a single disability memoir. This could have been because like understanding disability, for those who are disabled, accepting it can also be a process. Hence, it is crucial that when people read memoirs from marginalized groups, they understand that it represents the individual first and foremost but are critical about how those personal narratives represent the collective.

Work Cited

Couser, G. T. Signifying Bodies: Disability in Contemporary Life Writing. University of Michigan Press, 2009.

Knighton, Ryan. Cockeyed: a Memoir. PublicAffairs, 2006.

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 389

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Evelyn Hugo, is a big time Hollywood actress who has not been in the spotlight for a long time. Now that she is older, she is about to do a tell-all (especially about her 7 marriages) alongside an auction of 7 of her most famous gowns to charity. However, she has chosen an unknown journalist Monique Grant to do the interview.

Favourite Quote:

“When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things.”

Pg. 41

Review:

Why this journalist? Why did she get married 7 times? Did she love all her husbands? These are all the burning questions that push readers to pick up the book. The author does a good job of explaining the dynamics between Hugo and her husband: why she felt compelled to get married and how the marriages came to their end. Yet at the same time, while we are learning all of these and trying to understand the complex individual that Hugo is, the author ignites our curiosity on why Monique Grant is the reporter for the interview. Furthermore, there were many interesting twists and turns in the book (even though I was able to guess most of them).

Book Review: All About Love

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Title: All About Love

Author: bell hooks

Genre: Non-Fiction (Love, Modern Society, Psychology & Philosophy)

Pages: 237

Level of difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

In today’s age, love is portrayed as this fluffy feminine thing that is unproductive, and that we could do without. bell hooks challenges that narrative going as far as to argue that love is irreplaceable (something we inherently crave for and need, especially to create a more inclusive world), a skill to be learned, and a value to be defined. The author goes on to prove so by using personal experience, and psychological and philosophical work by others on similar topics.

Favourite Quote:

“The wounded heart learns self-love by first overcoming low self-esteem.”

Pg. 55

Reasons To Read It:

1.It’s packed with moral lessons.

The novel is only 237 pages, however, there is a lesson, if not lessons in each chapter. There were many times I had to put the book down after reading a chapter to process and ponder on what I had just read. To think critically about what was read and ask questions. Nevertheless, the book was not placed down for too long as its beautiful writing and full-packed insights were enchanting.

2. It is a timeless novel.

Despite the book’s publication being 2001, it is still relevant 20 years later. This is a book that needs to be read at different stages of one’s life and at different ages too, not only because of its prominent reminder of the power of love but also because there shall be a different takeaway each time it is read.

Book Review: Wonder

wonder-2.jpg

Title: Wonder
Author: Raquel J. Palacio
Genre: Children
Recommended Reading Age: Everyone
Pages: 315
Level of difficulty: 2/5 Dictionaries

Brief Introduction

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things – eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside. But ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren’t stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?

Favourite Quote

“Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed
Disbelieving what they’re seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer no explanation”

~ Natalie Merchant, “Wonder”

Reasons for Recommendation

With the recent craze of social media, youngsters are highly focused on their facial features and have become more and more materialistic. The book gives insight to what truly is important in this fast-developing World – to be grateful and accept ourselves as who we are. Hence, the book is a great lesson for all.

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The book teaches us that the we should never judge a book by its cover, a person by his or her face. There is always more to meets the eye. The book shall make you more appreciative of the things you have, and resilient when hard times come. Wonder is one of the many books that has left a great impression on me, while changing my attitude towards society. I strongly recommend you read it!

Movie Trailer

The book has its own movie! Here’s its trailer!

photocredit: Google images

Book Review – The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics

Name: The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics
Author: Barton Swaim
ISBN: 978-1-4767-6992-9
Genre: Politics, Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 204
Difficulty: 3/5 Dictionaries

Brief Introduction:

Barton Swaim is new to the world of politics, but he is now a speechwriter for a local governor, and is willing to learn. Indeed, he learns a lot. Through the eyes of Barton Swaim, we get an honest insight into the ins and outs of the world of politics.

Favourite Quote:

“Stella, I wish you had said that.”

She had tears in her eyes.

Reasons Why You Too Should Read It:

  1. What is politics?

Swaim is still trying to figure it out, and you probably are too, so pick up this book! Swaim brings you on a range experiences, from his miniscule tasks to the emotion every staff felt after the governor’s scandal had destroyed their hard work.

  1. It is raw and honest.

Yes, Swaim is neutral in his writing. He ‘wrote [the book] because he had to ” and for you to enjoy. In addition, he is not afraid to tell you how he felt when his writing was sent back by the governor, or what he did to try to keep his job. This allows us readers to trust the book, thus giving us reliable insight into the world of politics.

  1. How is language used?

Of course, with the job of a speechwriter, Swaim’s experience revolves around writing. In fact, there are a few chapters that focus solely on writing and the use of language. For example, Swaim teaches us the importance of nuance when he begins transcribing his letters to understand “the reason for [the governor’s] choice of words”. In addition, I realised that we all have a unique set of writing style, and it speaks volume* about us.

*You’ll understand the reason for the phrase if you read the book 🙂

A long overdue book review, my apologies. I would love to hear what you guys think and know what book(s) you are reading now. Do leave a comment!
Love, Temidayo