The Secret History – Book Review

The Secret History by Donna TarttIn The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a debut literary thriller novel, we follow Richard, who transfers to Hampden college from another college in California, where he’s from. He becomes interested in a small group of students compromised of Henry, Francis, Charles, Camilla and Bunny, who are Greek majors like Richard himself. Their small group is headed by Julian, the professor, whom Richard convinces to be part of the Greek program.

As with all of Tartt’s books, we are taken on a journey and fully immersed into the world that the book is set in. The book is slow paced and detailed, which I don’t mind because it is so well written and the language flows so well that you don’t realize how much you’ve read until you come up for air.

Another one of Tartt’s strong suits is characters. She creates characters I love to hate as well as believable ones and ones we can relate to. Richard is one of the main characters but I don’t believe he is that important to most of the events that take place in the book. I feel that he is just there as a unreliable narrator. Even though he was accepted into their exclusive Greek program, he is still treated like an outside looking in. We learn of important developments after the fact and through one of the five other main characters, Henry, Francis, Charles, Camilla or Bunny. Except, of course, when they kill Bunny (not a spoiler, it’s in the first line of the book), which Richard has a hand in. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading about this world and these characters. I’ve read the other two books by Donna Tartt, The Little Friend and The Goldfinch and I was not disappointed in this one. If you like slow paced novels with a rich world and characters, you should definitely read this one.

Thanks for reading,
Nora

Leave The World Behind – Book Review

Leave The World Behind Book CoverThis week I read Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. It is a very slow burn novel about a family, Clay, Amanda, Archie and Rose, and the events of their family vacation. They have rented a beautiful Airbnb house and they soon meet the owners when they come to the house and ask to stay. The owners of the house bring with them ominous news that something’s wrong. Slowly, unusual things happen that sets both families on edge.

I thought this book was effortlessly well written and easy to read, kept the page turning. I appreciated that it is a short book but not in the least unimpactful. The writing is efficient and moves the story along. Most likely this book was written in 2019 but it reflected so much of what is happening now in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, social and political unrest globally. An impending doom that no one can really say what that entails. The characters in the novel know that something is not quite right but can’t seem to figure out exactly what is going on, which is even more frightening.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started to read this book. The summary I read didn’t suggest what really unfolded in the book. If I knew, I probably would’ve been hesitant as it hits to close to home at the moment. But in the end, I’m glad I read it. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy was one of the characters seemed to have a script and would only say the same things but in different ways, especially if something unexpected happened. That annoyed me.

Nonetheless, it is a book I would recommend to anything one that likes slow burn psychological thriller novels. Thank you for reading!

-Nora

W.I.S.H. Revelations – Book Review

W.I.S.H. Revelations book cover by Kayla GrosseLast week, I read W.I.S.H. Revelations by Kayla Grosse. It is a fantasy debut novel about Sophia Black, who lives in a small town in Wisconsin. She soon realizes that what she wishes for comes true and at the same time meets new townie, Ethan Moore, that she can’t help but be attracted to. Sophia soon learns the truth about the unexplained events that have been happening.

For a first novel, it definitely made me keep turning the page and it was easy to read. I thought the idea of the magic system, getting what you wish for, is definitely interesting and unique. But, unfortunately, that’s where my list of pros end. Fantasy is a hit and miss for me. In W.I.S.H. Revelations, there were too many misses.

Some of the things I didn’t enjoy reading is the characters, the character interactions and the “instalove” between Sophia and Ethan. Instalove is when two characters fall in love instantly at their first meeting.

Other relationships didn’t feel real to me. The relationship between the different characters were underdeveloped or seemed awkward. For example, Sophia’s relationship with her best friend, Ana. I understand they are best friends but I felt like Ana was acting more like a mom rather than a friend.

At times, Sophia would be sarcastic or tease but it came off as mean or rude. I couldn’t relate to Sophia, even a little. In the beginning, she seemed like a typical girl living in a small town with an affinity for Superman and Chucks. That I could relate to. In the last half of the book, it seemed like she did a total 180 in the personality department. She was telling us that she wanted to help people but the way she acted and talked, I didn’t believe her.

I appreciate the effort and the general idea for W.I.S.H. Revelations but there were too many things that I didn’t enjoy. This book wasn’t for me.

Assassin’s Apprentice – Book Review

Assassin's Apprentice book by Robin HobbI’m very picky about my fantasy books since I don’t tend to be drawn to them often. What drew me to this one was most likely a review on YoutTube. I purchased the book and it sat in my closet for some time. I read a few pages and put it down again, not piquing my interest at that time. I decided to give it another try this week so I started it from the beginning. What kept me reading were the well developed characters, slow burn plot, a fully realized world with a sprinkling of fantasy and magic to whet the appetite. If one were to take out the fantasy aspects of the novel, it would read like a historical fiction, which I particularly like to read.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb is a fantasy novel about a young boy name Fitz and the fate he was dealt being born a bastard of a prince. The first of a trilogy, this books starts out when he is abandoned by his grandfather at the age of six and taken to the king to care of.

In the current state of the world, Assassin’s Apprentice was able to take me away for sometime to another world without overwhelming with too much fantastical details. The pacing is slow compared to other fantasy novels I’ve read in the past but I didn’t mind it. Most of the chapters, especially in the beginning, were wrapped up neatly like little short stories but as the story progressed, the action flowed nicely between each chapter.

I did find one con, which wasn’t that big of a deal and soon got used to it, was that in the beginning of each chapter there is a few paragraphs from the point of view of the main character narrating from the future. I’ve seen this done in other fantasy novels and I don’t much care for it. But in this book, I was okay with it because it explained crucial points and by the end I was glad for them. Sometimes it takes away from the main story but here, it was well done.

“Don’t do what you can’t undo, until you’ve considered what you can’t do once you’ve done it.” – Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Apprentice

I read reviews that the other two books get deeper into magic system but I don’t mind one bit. This book is for anyone who wants to try fantasy with a coming of age journey of a young boy. I will be reading a couple other books but I will continue on to the second book of this series.

Thank for reading,
Nora

Steal Like An Artist – Book Review

Steal Like An Artist Book Cover by Austin KleonThis isn’t a coffee table book. This book is for your desk, where it’s within hands reach for a boost of creative inspiration. Unfortunately for me, after having purchased it, I had kept it in my closet and missed out on it for a time.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon is a nonfiction book filled with inspiring quotes and illustrations for any creative endeavor you aspire to.

Steal Like An Artist made me realize that what most people say about creativity, the opposite is true. It was particularly helpful to me because of my perfection driven mind and I thought I couldn’t make art because it wouldn’t be unique. All those preconceived notions are turned upside down.

While thinking of what quote to put in this post, I had a hard time because the whole book is quotable, so I highly recommend a read. It doesn’t matter if you’re not in a creative profession.

“The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like. Write the kind of story you like best—write the story you want to read. The same principle applies to your life and your career:”
― Austin Kleon

There are two more follow ups to Steal Like An Artist. Show Your Work! and Keep Going, both of which I plan to read back to back.

Thank you for reading,
Nora

Heartburn – Book Review

Heartburn by Nora Ephron Book CoverShe’s a foodie. He’s a journalist. She’s 7 months pregnant. He cheats on her. A book about a somewhat typical married couple, splitting their time between New York and Washington D.C. Hilariously written and with simple recipes sporadically thrown in, Heartburn is a well thought out and well-written first novel by Nora Ephron. Yes, we share a name. Yes, one of the reasons I chose to read this book is for the fact that we share a name. Another reason is that it’s Nora Ephron, who wrote the screenplay to Sleepless in Seattle (have yet to watch it), You’ve Got Mail (I probably should get around to watching this), When Harry Met Sally…, and Julie & Julia.

Rachel, the main character, was someone I instantly could relate to by just her love of food and cooking. Even though she makes some questionable decisions, one can’t help but root for her and hope that things will work out for her in the end. Mark was instantly unlikable for the sheer fact that he would cheat on Rachel while she was 7 months pregnant and his actions there after.

“Sometimes I believe that love is essential, and sometimes I believe that the only reason love is essential is that otherwise you spend all your time looking for it.” – Nora Ephron, Heartburn

The only con in this book for me was the pacing. There are flashbacks and segues interjected throughout the narrative, which I don’t particularly like in books. I feel like I have to keep track of a bunch of things. This is most likely why it took me some time to get through. I didn’t want to pick it up that much and ultimately just forced myself to go through because I did want to know what would happen in the end.

You definitely need to pay attention to read the cleverly written Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Even though it took me some time to get through it, I do recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind the flashbacks and segues.

The Lottery – Book Review

The Lottery by D. K. WallThe Lottery is a fiction novel written by D. K. Wall, about Nathan Thomas and the small town drama that upends his otherwise humdrum life.

To be honest, I didn’t like reading this book, mostly for the fact that it was so plot heavy. I like reading books with fleshed out characters that I can relate to or at the very least care for. This was not the case for this book. From the first chapter, there are no less than 10 characters that are introduced. I actually listed all the characters in a notebook to keep track of who’s who. I don’t think any of the characters grew or changed throughout the course of the book in any way, especially Nathan, the main character.

Meanwhile, the plot was predictable, packed with long descriptions of Millerton. I felt like it dragged on and I found myself scanning through to the dialogue. The pacing was not successful as it kept going up and down. There would be a little bit of action then all of a sudden it slams into a description about an area of Millerton.

I believe this book would’ve benefitted from being a short story. I felt like at some point it might’ve been a short story but then filled with description to make it long enough for a book, hence the choppiness of the pacing. 

Books are very subjective in my opinion. The same is true in any creative endeavor. So I don’t like giving a star rating or any rating. I am not an author, though I aspire to be one some day and writing book reviews helps me with my writing skills. I truly admire anyone who is disciplined enough to write a book and have it published.

Thank you,
Nora