There are a few books that you know are going to be great. They are going to be
everything you wanted and an utterly transformative experience.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden was one of those books. A book that when I saw
it in the book store something instantly resonated. So much so that when I finally got my hands on a used copy it took me maybe three years to finally read it. The already worn and well thumbed through novel sat on my shelf collecting dust at the very end of the book shelf, then it sat in a box when I moved out for college. Then one winter break while I was looking for something to read during a long trip across the country I stumbled upon it again at the bottom of a tub in the garage. a It had taken a few years before I could finally get around to it before I was in need of such a novel. Really glad to have waited.
If I had just devoured it the second I got all the details, I would have missed the intricacies and full beauty of this wonderful story. You know how when you love a story you try to push back the end? Either by not reading the last chapter, watching that last episode or pausing every single moment to take it in and make it last for as long as possible? That’s what I did with this book but not by not finishing it but by rereading passages. Whenever there was a particular moment or word that caught my eye it would be flagged either with a post-it or scrap of paper or pencil mark or folded page. Sometimes when there was a call back I could go back to that moment and bask in how Chiyo -the narrator- grew from then or how she excellently set up the reader for the twist or piece of irony. Totally recommended as a new way to lengthen your new reading experience!
Now, without further ado here are a few reasons why Memoirs of a Geisha is such a lovely and heartfelt book:
Aside from Chiyo the truly incredible narrator and protagonist who is one of the single greatest literary characters ever written, she is the only one who can tell her story. That is why you should read this novel, to hear this story from her. Chiyo was representing a culmination of experiences, traditions and characteristics of real Geisha life while still being her own unique person and not some caricature. Before reading this book I thought that it was simply translated
by Arthur Golden but discovered towards the end that this novel is a result of countless hours of research, admiration and respect for Geisha and Japanese culture. Chiyo is so real and sounds not only like a real Geisha but a real woman. a woman who has lived a full life. Hers was a life and a journey reflecting on human experience that is so moving and so provocative.
With just over 350 pages a whole life is shared with the reader. While Chiyo was looking back on her life there was still this sense that she was reliving these moments rather then just recounting them. This allowed for bits of dramatic irony to unfold or for more fine details to be planted early on for reveals later.
Now, historical fictions with an element of romance are a personal favorite and an unguilty pleasure, so that made this novel capture my heart even more. Chiyo begins her journey with discovering what love is and how many types of love there is!
Well, who is this novel for? Luckily a fairly large audience. Memoirs of a Geisha is a piece of historical fiction, a timeless romance, tragedy, success story, and an insight into the world of Geisha. So if you have any interest in learning about pre and post World War II in Japan, and how someone becomes a geisha, or another take on what love is, then you should read this classic.
Among modern children’s classics, few books ring as true or hit as hard as Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. In leu of Bridge of Clay’s release (his first children’s novel since The Book Thief) I thought it would be a good idea to have his first book as our Throwback Thursday review. The Book Thief is a gem in the world of historical fiction, and a timeless tale that will entrance generations to come.
When Liesel picks up a bedraggled book left by accident on her brothers grave, she has no idea what will happen. She has no idea that her mother— a communist in Nazi Germany— is taking her to live in safety with a foster family. She has no idea she will make friends with a boy with yellow hair and learn to read with her father, no idea she will steal books from a bonfire and a mayor’s library. She has no idea what she will learn and love and lose in the brief span of her fleeting childhood.
Have you ever read a book with such vivid imagery that when you close your eyes you can almost imagine you are inside its world? My favorite of those books is An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. Enchantment is set in a lush world of magic and monsters that— in tandem with sweeping world building and compelling characters— makes for a brilliant book. I am not usually a fan of romance stories, but An Enchantment of Ravens drew me in and held on until the very last page.
At seventeen, Isobel is the best portrait artist in generations, and her reputation grows with every passing year. Since childhood, Isobel has painted for the Fair Folk, a powerful race that lusts after human craft.
Isobel is used to having creatures that could murder her in an instant sipping tea in her living room. But when she hears from one of her clients that the Autumn Prince— a powerful Fair One not seen in Whimsy for centuries— is coming to meet her, she’s shaken. But Rook (the Autumn Prince) is not what she expects from a Fair One, and certainly not what she’d expect from one of their princes. He’s nearly human. But just as they grows comfortable towards one another— fond, even, she makes a terrible mistake. Isobel paints human sorrow in his eyes, an unforgivable weakness among his kind. Furious, Rook spirits her off to the Autumn court to stand trial, setting off a whirlwind of adventures and a forbidden romance that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Born a Crime. From first glance you might assume that Trevor Noah grew up with a “normal childhood” taking place in The United States; however, by looking a little closer, you will quickly find that his childhood was anything but ordinary. Growing up as a mixed child during the apartheid, Trevor Noah was burdened from birth with the challenge of trying to fit in, even when nobody wanted to accept him.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read, especially if you are struggling to find your place in the world. Through this book, Trevor shares his story not only encouraging others to share theirs, but to prove that just because you don’t feel like you fit in now doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful.
After months of waiting, the time has finally come to welcome into the world What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. The long awaited collaboration between two of the best authors of queer YA more than lives up to both author’s previous books. While Albertalli’s light and cheerful style gives the story a rom-comesque feeling (while still flipping the genres usual stereotypes), Silvera’s chapters ground the book, giving it a thoughtfulness and dimension needed to balance it.
When Arthur accompanied his parents to NYC for the summer he had three goals: make friends at his internship, explore the city, see Hamilton. But now his parents are fighting, one of his best friends won’t text him, and there has been no sign of Lin Manuel Miranda. To top it off he was too clueless to get the name of the cute guy he met at the post office.
Meanwhile, Ben has his own set of problems. His friend group splintered after a couple of breakups, his boyfriend cheated on him and his best friend has all but abandoned him for his latest romance. Oh, and he has to attend summer school. With his ex.
With the help of craigslist, their friends, and plenty of internet stalking via instagram they may find each other, but what then? Will they work together, and what happens when Arthur has to leave at the end of the summer?
Sharon M. Draper’s book, Out Of My Mind has been read by many an elementary student, along with other great reads like Wonder and The Report Card, but it was this book that stood out to me when we read it as a class. It was so well written and so smart and witty that I couldn’t help but read ahead in class. I had read a few books about physically disabled kids and even more about some exceptionally smart ones, but combining the two into a relateable and fabulous story really clicked with me.
Melody is a middle schooler with cerebral palsy and a photographic memory, who cannot walk or talk and doesn’t have much control over her own body. Though bits of the book are definitely about Melody’s smarts, a lot of it focuses on the social dynamics of being a person struggling with a physical disability. When she is placed in an integrated classroom, where she is one of the brightest students, many dismiss her as “mentally challenged” before giving her a chance to prove herself. Even teachers at her school dismissed this way, though not as cruelly as her fellow classmates. Though this book is targeted to kids in 5th-8th grade, if you are older, it is a worthwhile read.
Akemi Bowman’s new novel Summer Bird Blue is hard to describe. The entire book is filled with such raw, powerful emotion that it immerses you in the story so deeply it is difficult to take a step back and analyze it. It’s a bit like a wave, beautiful and powerful and able to effortlessly pull you under and pummel you until you reach the end. It’s an incredible book, but not one you want to read in public (you WILL ugly cry).
When her sister Lea is killed in a car crash Rumi feels like she is drowning. Not only has she lost her sister and best friend, but her mother has sent Rumi off to Hawaii to spend the summer with her aunt rather than deal with their shared grief. Lost and alone in a strange place Rumi clings to one thing: Summer Bird Blue. It’s the name of the song she and Lea had been writing when Lea died, and Rumi is determined to finish it for both of them.
But how can she when Rumi sees Lea every time she hears a song or strums a guitar? The only place music doesn’t hurt is at their neighbor Mr. Wantanabe’s house, and the only time Rumi feels remotely normal is when she is with her new friend Kai. With her Aunt and her new friend’s help Rumi slowly learns how to live her life without Lea at her side. Summer Bird Blue is a beautiful homeage to heartbreak, healing and the power of friendship.
Before I Fall follows the life of a senior girl in high school, Samantha Kingston. She and her three friends are some of the most popular girls in school. Samantha has it all, perfect boyfriend, three supporting best friends, everything any teenage girl could hope for. Everything was perfect until February 12th. Samantha and her three friends attend a party and make a drunken mistake, resulting in Samantha’s death. However, instead of going to heaven or hell or whatever, Samantha relives February 12th seven times. Through these seven repeats she uncovers secrets about her death She uncovers secrets about everything and everyone close to her. How much will she risk to save her own life?
The book started off rather slow and a little too cliche for my tastes. Oliver portrayed high school in a very stereotypical way and Samantha as a character was very unlikeable to start off. Her and her friends were catty and rude and I was sick and tired of hearing the character complain about trivial things such as spilt coffee. However, I am no quitter as a reader and so I pulled through. And boy, am I glad I did. The story started picking up, hitting its climax in the most amazing way. Samantha changed as a character and the reader could see clear as day the character development. She changed from a snotty teenage brat to a sophisticated human being who slowly uncovered the secret to life. The secret to really living life and not just gliding by it. Samantha began treating people differently and making new risks that popular Samantha Kingston would’ve never made in the first chapter.
The last two or so chapters kept me totally captivated, I was unable to set the book down. Flipping page after page new secrets were uncovered and Samantha turned into someone that the reader should aspire to be. Samantha was on a mission, a mission to not only save others but to also save herself. The ending to the story left me with a full feeling. I did feel like crying, if not more than just a tear or two.
Samantha Kingston was a one layered character that, personally, I did not connect to at all. She was unlikeable, and for good reason. However, Oliver used her writing skills to change the reader’s mind, and instead we fell in love with Samantha Kingston and her selflessness and her constant need to save herself. Because, in the end, Samantha really did save herself.
This was the first book I have ever read by Lauren Oliver and I think it was a good introduction into her writing. She uses a lot of metaphors and similes, which when you first start reading feels a little weird and out of place. However, adjusting yourself to her writing really helps you connect with Oliver’s characters and in turn makes you feel many new emotions. Personally, I really enjoyed her writing and I felt myself attracted to the way she described things in new ways, even trivial things.
Overall, as a fellow reader, I would say pull through. Pull through the first two or three chapters because it gets better. It gets much much better and if you start the book and don’t finish you will surely regret it. I promise.
If you enjoyed the following books I think you will enjoy Before I Fall:
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I’m sure you’ve at least heard of Victor Frankenstein, right? You know he creates a monster and brings it to life. With the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein being this year, Kiersten White has written a spinoff novel focusing on Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s childhood friend. With her new book, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Kiersten White brings a thrilling and twisted new perspective of the classic tale.
Elizabeth’s mother died in childbirth and she was left with an abusive caregiver who made it known that Elizabeth was a burden. Yearning for a better life, Elizabeth was happy to keep Victor calm and happy in exchange for the new home the Frankenstein’s offer in exchange for help in controlling Victor. Her youth is spent keeping him— and herself, safe, even when she doesn’t know the whole story. When Victor set off to pursue his studies he left Elizabeth behind, and she soon grew concerned about how secure her place in the Frankenstein household was with Victor gone. But when Elizabeth set out to find Victor and bring him home she had no idea what she was getting herself into.
Maybe you have seen the current buzz about Netflix’s latest movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. However, most people do not know that this movie was based on a book of the same name! To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is actually part of a trilogy written by the fantastic Jenny Han. This book is one of my all-time favorite because of its wonderful characters, great plot and writing, and representation.
This story’s fantastic plot had me finishing the book within the day I picked it up. The concept of the love letters is pure genius, and the originality of the idea pulled me in and kept me engaged. Han put a fun spin on the classic love triangle, and the deft writing allows the story to be fresh and interesting rather than clichéd. The story is wholesome without being boring, and endearing without being sickly sweet. Han’s writing has a general warm and homey mood to it, which in turn strengthens Lara Jean’s character.
As soon as I read the first page, I instantly fell in love with the protagonist, Lara Jean Song Covey. Lara Jean is one of the most kind, caring, and warm-hearted characters I have ever read about. I admire her sweet nature and her love for her family. She truly values those that are close to her, and will be there to support them. Peter Kavinsky was the next character that I enjoyed reading about. He has this almost childish air about him, and his charisma easily charms any reader. He is playful and easygoing when with his peers, and he enjoys living in the moment and appreciating the little things. With his confidence and big heart, it is no wonder that he is such a beloved character. Kitty Song Covey was the last character that I loved getting to know. Her humor provides an excellent source of comic relief among the drama, and she adds so much to her family and to the story. She always has something clever to say and makes the dynamic between the characters more fun and lighthearted.
Furthermore, this book is one of my absolute favorites because of its representation. The story is centered on a teenage Korean-American girl, whose sisters and mother are also Korean. Although I am not Korean myself, I am Chinese and therefore Asian. I rarely see stories (books, movies, television shows, or otherwise) that star Asian leads and Asian stories. Seeing an Asian girl on a book cover made me feel incredibly overjoyed because I was able to see myself in the book I was reading. Reading this book helped me understand why representation matters so much, and it is because representation tells people that their stories matter and do not hold less importance than others.
I highly recommend reading this book and seeing the adaptation on Netflix (this post is not sponsored; I just really enjoyed the movie). Not only would you be reading and watching a cute love story unfold, you would be supporting representation of thousands of people who are finally seeing themselves in books and movies. Please go support this amazing work of literature, as well as the equally amazing Asian representation!