Category Archives: 4 stars

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

My professor introduced this novel by saying “Tess will change your life… but not in a good way.” Without a doubt, it has made me question the universe and all who inhabit it. My hatred of the patriarchy (aka Alec D’Urberville and Angel Clare) still shines like the sun in the middle of a hot summer day, but Tess of the D’Urbervilles has filled me with a cold, dark despair over the injustice of existence. As if a college English major didn’t already have to dwell on that.

One day Tess Durbeyfield learns that she actually descends from the noble D’Urberville family. Continue reading

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A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

At this point I’ve learned that George R.R. Martin writes in waves. Even though this probably isn’t how real science works, I visualize his plot structure as a giant tsunami: he adds little oscillatory currents that contribute to a huge tidal wave, which eventually crashes down and drowns us all in the most beautiful and devastating way. Though this might sound like how all books function – with a rising action leading up to a climax – Martin spends so much time developing and honing the rising action of his story that the inevitable climax calls for a great deal of praise.

Like A Clash of Kings, A Feast for Crows serves as the buildup of the tsunami. Continue reading

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Here’s a secret: when I was 13, I wrote Naruto fanfiction. Even though it was pretty bad – and mildly inappropriate – one of my stories garnered over 600 reviews and hundreds of thousands of hits. Reading Fangirl flew me to my past life as an avid fanfic writer while reminding me of my present position as a college student.

Cath writes, reads, and breathes Simon Snow. Continue reading

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Cover via amazon.com.

Cover via amazon.com.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn revolves around Francie Nolan, a young girl growing up in a poor neighborhood in New York. The plot of this novel does not drift from event to event, at least not in a way that fits standard plot summary – rather, it flows like fine water, split into five sections that match the stages of Francie’s coming of age. With warm prose Betty Smith addresses themes such as poverty, loss of innocence, and gender roles in a book she claims to have written without any intended message for society.

I loved two aspects of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of which was experiencing Francie mature from a tiny girl to a mature woman. Continue reading

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The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten by Julian Baggini

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Here’s a question for vegetarians: if a pig were raised in a comfortable and humane slaughterhouse, would you eat it? What if that pig were also genetically modified to want to be eaten – if being eaten was indeed its life’s ambition? How about a genetically modified chicken that had lost its sense of self, environment, pain, pleasure etc.? It’d be like plucking a potato from the ground.

Another one, for everyone: let’s say you’re a doctor, and you have a patient who falls unconscious while on life-support. Beforehand she asked over and over again to be taken off the machine, but to your chagrin, an ethics committee forbids you from doing so. One day a random passerby – a janitor, perhaps – accidentally knocks out the plug and disconnects the patient from the machine. You let it go and the patient fades away: after all, you took no measure in shortening the her life, you just failed to prolong it. Are you justified? Continue reading

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Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

If books could reproduce – don’t ask me for visuals – Speechless by Hannah Harrington would be the child of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. All three are YA, contemporary books I would love to just shove at my future students and force them to read.

Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret. She’s one of those girls. If you’ve read any young-adult realistic fiction or if you’ve watched Mean Girls, you know the archetype I’m talking about. The totally selfish, totally conceited, totally all-I-care-about-is-my-popularity girl who gossips about everyone and cares about no one. In this case our protagonist Chelsea is second-in-command to her best friend and utter b-word Kristen. But when Chelsea blabs at a party and almost ends someone’s life, her sheltered existence comes crashing down. She decides to take a vow of silence – but even with that, can she bring herself to forgive, to face the truth, and finally, to somehow speak up for herself? Continue reading

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The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Queen Dessen, Empress Dessen, and Rock Star of YA Realistic Fiction Dessen – all titles I whispered while reading this book, usually after the words “bow down to…” After ten previously published novels, Sarah Dessen still has that signature prose style of hers – just enough telling and showing to suck you in while establishing back story, a setting that sits in the back of your mind when you close your eyes, and characters that you can believe in. Continue reading

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son. Continue reading

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Shine by Lauren Myracle

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Guys, I survived reading my first young-adult book as an adult! No English teachers or professors pelted me with stones and no one called me out in the middle of the street! Whew.

Anyway, Shine details the story of sixteen-year-old Cat and the hate crime against her former best friend Patrick. Cat stopped talking to Patrick – along with everyone else at her high school – after an incident involving another boy two years ago. But when Patrick is found brutally beaten to the point of comatose and the police blame it on out-of-town college students, Cat sets out to uncover the truth. On her journey she confronts small town gossip, dangerous drugs, a college boy named Jason, and a startling discovery concerning Patrick’s near-fatal encounter.

Lauren Myracle writes a mystery with Shine. Continue reading

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And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Cover via Goodreads. ARC provided by Goodreads and Riverhead Books.

Cover via Goodreads. ARC provided by Goodreads and Riverhead Books.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

A brother torn from his sister by a cruel twist of fate at only seven years of age. A caretaker drawn into the life of his enigmatic employer, a recluse with a large amount of riches. A repressed daughter who dates her mother’s old flame, setting inevitable consequences into motion. In his new 400-page novel, And The Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini does not tell the story one of character, of two characters, or of three – he delves into several generations. He takes apart the threads that tie us together and examines each string, sifting through the tapestry to find our souls.

Family. Hosseini’s narrative travels around the world in And the Mountains Echoed, from Afghanistan to France to the United States to the Greek island Tinos. Despite the broad scope of the story, there’s one theme that brings it all together: family. Continue reading

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