BOOK REVIEW: Born a Crime

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RATING: ★★★★★

Author: Trevor Noah

Pages: 224

Published: November 15, 2016

 

When it was announced that Trevor Noah would replaced John Stewart as host of The Daily Show in 2015 many people were like, “who?” The South African comedian was relatively unknown to North American audiences. But it has been a little over a year with Noah behind the desk, with him making The Daily Show his own. This one-year anniversary of his hosting gig is also marked with the release of his book Born a Crime.

This books serves as an opportunity to get to know a bit more about the man behind the hit Comedy Central show as well as provide some insight to a completely different culture. As the title points out, the birth of Trevor Noah was a crime. Born to a black South African woman and a white Swiss-German man during apartheid, his presence was evidence of an illegal act in his country.

And that’s just the launch pad for this book, with Noah choosing to highlight more about his life and upbringing in South Africa then how be became the host of The Daily Show. With the former being the more interesting by far, Noah describes his childhood during this apartheid making his childhood incredibly different than most. But the hardships that Noah experiences and explains to his audience is never told in a way that asks for sympathy from the reader, but rather told in a ‘matter of fact’ manner. Acknowledging that you never really know what your own experience is like until you start comparing yourself to others.

The real hero in this book is not Noah (which is shocking since it is about his own life) but his mother. She is his champion and the person who seems to have taught him everything and have the most impact on his life. Writing about his mother with a particular fondness and admiration but also not shying away from her flaws which makes everyone human. The relationship between Noah and his mother, which is told from the very first sentence of the book, is the heart his story. She is the source of most of the laugh, tears, and lessons this book provides.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

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BOOK REVIEW: Scrappy Little Nobody

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RATING: ★★★★★

 

Author: Anna Kendrick

Pages: 275 pages

Published: November 15, 2016

 

I normally am not interested in “celebrity-memoirs,” partially because 1) they’re mostly by celebrities from shows and/or movies that were before my time or 2) these stars don’t seem all that relatable to me (sorry Rob Lowe and Brooke Shields, but it’s hard for me to see us as being from the same species you handsome aliens!!!). But if I’m being honest, I was super excited for Anna Kendrick’s “memoir” Scrappy Little Nobody because in typical millennial fashion, she’s just so #relatable.

The book takes us back to the times of a young Kendrick making her debut on Broadway (and getting a Tony nomination in the process), being a part of the “Twilight” franchise, and her experiences on “Pitch Perfect.” As well as the whirlwind of being nominated for an Oscar for “Up in the Air” despite being flat-broke. Now not many people would find themselves in these experiences, how this young woman was dealing with these events is what makes readers want to be this girl’s best friend.

Because before she was the darling that makes great late-night segments that garners millions of YouTube views, she was this girl from Portland, Maine. Who was always the littlest in the class, bought the cheapest IKEA furniture when she moved out of her parents house (same girl), and who had a tendency to like boys who had no interest in her (again, relatable).

If Twitter ever needs proof of why they should increase their character allowance from 140 characters per tweet, they should read this book.

 

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“I lost a Tony award to Broadway legend Audra McDonald when I was twelve so I’ve been a bitter bitch since before my first period.”

– Anna Kendrick

BOOK REVIEW: The Best Kind of People

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RATING: ★★★☆☆

Author: Zoe Whittall

Pages: 424

Published: August 27, 2016

George Woodbury is know as Teacher of Year at the prestigious school he works for, in fact, he’s been given the award every year for as long as anyone can remember. But what happens when the man with the best reputation is accused with doing the most unspeakable act?

The Best Kind of People tackles the topic or rape-culture but focuses not on the victims nor the attacker, but rather the people that are closest to them, their family.

George’s wife Joan is left confused and angry. Grappling with the fact that she may not fully know the man that she had called her husband for the better part of her life. Their over accomplished daughter Sadie, has to deal with the backlash from the school she attends, the same one her father taught at, as she’s faced with the victims of her father’s actions. Their son Andrew, who left the town as soon as he could, is forced to return. Having to confront the town that shunned him and how what happened there has still affected him years later.

Whittall makes the story less of a “did he didn’t he story,” but rather focuses on the fact that whether the man did or not, the relationships with his family will never be the same. Also acknowledging that we as a society will devour another family’s suffering as a entertainment without a second thought.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“When someone is your husband or father, that’s simply who they are. You don’t stop to question much about them, unless you’re given reason to, and they’d never been given reason to.”

BOOK REVIEW: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

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RATING: ★★★☆☆

Author: Ben Fountain

Pages: 307

Published: May 1, 2012

“It is sort of weird for being honoured for the worst day of your life.”

That is the situation that Billy and his fellow Bravo soldiers are dealing with when they return stateside for their victory tour. The novel is told through the perspective of Billy, the youngest of the squad and the ‘hero’ of the unexpected attack that now makes them national heroes. The final event of their victory tour has the members of the Bravo team getting to perform in the halftime show with Destiny’s Child during the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving game.

While the story is leading up to the big event of the halftime show, the readers get a glimpse of the events that Billy has gone through to get to this point. Flashing back to the Thanksgiving diner he had with his family days before, conversations he had with his fallen Bravo solider that they lost during the attack, to the event that made him enlist in the army in the first place. This tied in with the exchanges he has with the owner of the Cowboys, his fellow Bravo members that all went through the same event together, and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader he falls head over heels for, Billy is clearly struggling.

Fountain tells his story by combining two things that are quintessentially American, football and the US armed forces. Having these two side by side makes the reader question why they value these two different entities almost equal in one another. The spectators of the game want the Cowboys to win the game equally as much as they want the Bravos to win overseas. Throughout the novel Billy is still struggling with what happened to him and his Bravo team at the same time has he is being thrown into this over-the-top spectacle that is the halftime show for the pure entertainment of other Americans.

Although the halftime show might seem like it is the novel’s climatic moment, it kind of falls flat if that is the intention of the scene. The story is more linear then that, telling the story of a young mans internal journey over several days in a more hills and valleys sort of way rather than him climbing a factious mountain to get to his moment of clarity.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“But a lot of the time that’s how it works, life gets so dark until we think all the light’s gone out of us. But it’s there, it’s always there. If we open the door a crack the light comes pouring in.”

MOVIE ADAPTATION:

Two-time Academy Award winner Ang Lee directs this book to movie adaptation. Starring Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk comes to theatres November 11, 2016.

BOOK REVIEW: Everything, Everything

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RATING: ★★★★☆

Author: Nicola Yoon

Pages: 310

Published: September 1, 2015

Madeline seems like your typical teenage girl; she loves reading and watching movies, spending time with her mother, and hanging out with her best friend Carla. The only difference between Madeline and other eighteen-year-old girls is that she is allergic to everything, the world essentially. So her best friend Carla is also her nurse, her mother plays double duty has her doctor, and the books and movies are her only knowledge of the world that lies outside her quarantined home.

When we meet Madeline she is quite content with her bubble-life, that it until a new family moves in next door and with them their teenaged son Olly. What beings with a fascination in the boy next door soon becomes a full-fledge romance between the two. Their love story has the possibility of seeming ‘insta-lovey,’ but it’s the presence of Olly as the inciting incident in Madeline’s life to wonder more about the world she knows nothing about for the story to get away with it.

The novel’s strengths lie in the character of Madeline. Someone, who when we are first introduced to her, is so content with her sheltered life she then transforms into someone who refuses to let her illness keep her from getting to know everything about the world. The novel also thrives in being more than a love story with the strong relationship being portrayed between Madeline and her mother, as well as her nurse Carla.

Included in the novel is beautiful illustrations created by Yoon’s husband, that aids to the storytelling of a young girl who beings to discover the world and her place in it.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference.”

SIDENOTE:

In August 2015, was optioned by MGM for a film adaptation. Starring Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) has Madeline, and Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) as Olly.

BOOK REVIEW: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

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RATING: ★★★☆☆

Author: Susannah Cahalan

Pages: 250

Published: November 13, 2012

At the age of 24 Susannah Cahalan had the seemingly perfect life, a great job as a writer for the New York Post, a wonderful boyfriend, a great apartment in the city. But it all falls apart for her when she suddenly starts to have psychotic episodes and hallucinations. When she is admitted into the hospital there begins her month journey to a diagnosis and a lifetime journey to recovery. Written by Cahalan herself, she does not remember this month in the hospital due to her illness. In order to accurately write about what happened to her she relies on her medical records, journal entries from her parents and herself, and interviews with doctors and loved ones.

Brain on Fire allows Cahalan expand on the article she wrote about her illness and time in the hospital. As interesting and scary the journey to a diagnosis was what is even more heart wrenching is her recollection during her recovery. Due to the fact that her memory of that time is present compared to her time in hospital, she is able to really explain and confess her emotions. You get her insight on not only what this illness was doing to her, but to those who were around her. As much as this book tells her journey, it’s also about her family’s journey as well.

There is a fair bit of medical jargon used in the book, but Cahalan is able to explain it in laymen terms and not make readers feel overwhelmed. This book illuminates how intricate the brain can be, and how it can get compromised in multiple different ways. Reading this book will give readers a (hopefully) greater compassion and understanding to those with a variety of brain illnesses.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“Sometimes, just when we need them, life wraps metaphors up in little bows for us. When you think all is lost, the things you need the most return unexpectedly.”

Sidenote: This memoir is being adapted into a movie staring Chloe Grace Moretz, Jenny Slate, Thomas Mann, Tyler Perry, Navid Negahban

BOOK REVIEW: Asking For It

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RATING: ★★★★☆

Author: Louise O’Neill

Pages: 346

Published: September 3, 2015

***WARNING THIS NOVEL MAY BE A TRIGGER FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT***

At 18 years old, Emma O’Donovan is considered the prettiest girl in her class. A title she has carried around with her since she could remember, and not shying away from it. But at a party something happens that changes the way people see her forever.

Emma is raped at the party, and the novel is divided between the events leading up to the assault and events that occur a year after it. Through these two time lines you see a complete (obvious) change in Emma. You see how the people around her are dealing with the assault as well, and how it affects everyone. Set in present day, the story includes teens interaction with social media and how it can play into incidents like this.

She was seen as something physical before the event, and even after she is known for her body. But the difference is that before the rape, she was control of her image, she controlled her body. But after, she is left powerless. The continuous objectification of her body, using it against her, to the point where she feels it is no longer her own.

The characters in this novel, Emma included, are not the best of people. The girls group that Emma surrounds herself with simply are not nice to one another. With constant gossiping behind each other’s backs, the female competition with boys, and the complete lack of consideration for one another. And Emma is seen as the ringleader of this group, probably the meanest, arrogant, most selfish one. But all of that is irrelevant in cases like this. It does not matter the kind of person, no one deserves to be in that situation. She was not asking for it.

O’Neill writes with unsettling realism. There is no lie in saying that this book is a difficult one to read. You can image the events playing out every similarly in real life because they have. She questioning of female allegations are not an uncommon occurrence. It’s hard to say that the novel was good or bad because the topic it covers is so important and one that needs to be talked about.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“‘No.’ The word comes automatic. No. No. No. It’s all I say these days. It is as if I am making up for the time when I couldn’t say it. When I wasn’t given the chance to say it. No.”

Phone Numbers:

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: (US and Canada)  1-888-407-4747 (Overseas) +1 202-501-4444

Rape Crisis Centre for Children and Adults: (US) 210-349-7273

Kids Help Phone Canada: 1-800-668-6868

BOOK REVIEW: This Is Where It Ends

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RATING: ★★★☆☆

Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Pages: 292 pages

Published: January 5, 2016

Attending the same high school for four years, each day can blend into the next. But a single event has the potential to change make sure that nothing is the same again. When a lone gunman enters Opportunity High School (clever name) and locks everyone with him in the auditorium lives are changed forever

Told through the perspectives of four students; Autumn, Claire, Sylv, and Tomas, their stories although separate overlap onto each other. The relationships between the characters begin to be known as the novel progresses. How the characters interact and know each other before the shooting occurs and while they are in the school shape the outcome of the events.

Within the individual perspectives of the characters the novel is also divided into time, giving a minute-by-minute account of what is happening to each character although they may be in different parts of the school. Knowing the time frame of how long certain events happen makes the concept of time to feel simultaneously long and short. With single moments seemingly dragging on while others go by in an instant, unable to be undone.

School shootings are not an uncommon occurrence, so the variety of books dealing with the subject is reflective of that. This book deals with the topic with the serious tone that is appropriate and also with a very realistic outcome, almost too realistic. The harsh reality that this book portrays is very difficult to read and to accept.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “You can’t always keep your loved ones with you. You can’t always settle your life in one place. The world was made to change. But as long as you cherish the memories and make new ones along on the way, no matter where you are, you’ll always be at home.” – Sylv

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Thing About Jellyfish

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RATING★★★★★

Author: Ali Benjamin

Pages: 352 pages

Published: September 22, 2015

The loss of a friend is difficult to come to terms with at any age, but it is especially difficult when you are 12. Suzy knows that Franny is dead. But how it happened is a mystery, and Suzy intends to find out. It is the only way she feels Franny will forgive her.

Ali Benjamin creates this beautiful story of a young girl who tries to make some sort of understanding plausible as everything around her falls apart. Suzy is surrounded by a supporting family, which is more accurately representative of families now than read about before. But as she begins to discover a possible cause for Franny’s death, she pulls more and more away from them.

As a main character Suzy is a young girl who refuses to change who she is, even if she no longer has any friends because of it. Showing insight that is both older than her 12 years but in a way that still reminds readers of her youth. She truly is a girl on the verge of growing up.

The novel tells the story of Suzy and Franny’s friendship years before her death up until their final moment together. Illustrating that friendships change, and how it can break your heart. It tackles the difficult topic of death in a real way that makes readers of all ages able to relate to this young character.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “All this time, I’d thought that our story was just that, our story. But it turns out you had your own story, and I had mine. Our stories might have overlapped for a while – long enough that they even looked like the same story. But they were different.” – Suzy

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P.S. I found out about this novel through an Instagram post from Reese Witherspoon. After reading her little blurb about it I got very intrigued and decided to pick it up myself, and I’m very glad that I did. Some of her posts on Instagram allow me to be introduced to new books that I may not have known about before. Reese has a production company which in the past couple of years has turned books such as Gone Girl and Wild into fantastic movies. If you are interested in learning about novels that have the potential to be turned into films or just interested in expanding your reading genres, then I highly recommend following her!

https://www.instagram.com/reesewitherspoon/

 

BOOK REVIEW: Everything I Never Told You

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RATING★★★★★

Author: Celeste Ng

Pages: 297 pages

Published: June 24, 2014

A parent’s worst nightmare, a child is missing, and that’s all the Lee family knows when they wake up one morning. Lydia Lee, the middle and somewhat favourite daughter, is discovered missing from her bed and lives are changed forever. This novel tells the story of a mixed-raced family living in Ohio in the 1970s and what lies beneath the surface of a perfect family.

Behind a happily married couple; lies James who has always wanted to blend in after always being the outsider because of the colour of his skin, and his wife Marilyn who wanted to be extraordinary and stand out from her male-dominated surroundings. Both have different ideas for their daughter, James wants her to be social at school and make friends, while Marilyn shapes her daughter for a life as a doctor, something she had always wanted for herself.

Lying in the wings is an older brother Nath, knowing that he was the second favourite to his sister. He knows the best of the struggles they both have to face living in their household. And yet, he was forging his own path, leaving for school in the fall and in doing so leaving Lydia alone to deal with their parents. Tie that in with the youngest daughter Hannah, who goes unnoticed in Lydia’s shadow, struggling to be seen in her family.

The novel tells the events that lead up to and after the disappearance of Lydia, and ultimately what happened to her. Telling of the strains James and Marilyn faced in their relationship because of their different ethnic backgrounds, the sibling dynamic between Nath and Lydia, and how a family puts themselves back together after a piece is taken away. The narrator floats from family member to family member, telling of their consciousness and the secrets they each hold.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.” – Lydia Lee