Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Book Review – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why comprises seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a troubled high school student, and received by Clay Jensen, a classmate who has a crush on her. The cassette tapes tell the story of her suicide. These are sent and passed along a number of people whom Hannah thinks has a part in her decision to end her life. Each side of the tape is labeled with a number,…

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Weekend Book Review – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic and dystopian novel that traverses between the past and the future, which is set 20 years since the Georgia Flu wiped out the world’s population. Some readers label this as a sci-fi novel, but I don’t agree with them. The Georgia Flu, the only scientific part of the novel, is, I daresay, only a tool used by the author to put the characters in a…

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Weekend Book Review – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk follows one day in the life of 19-year-old Specialist Billy Lynn and the rest of the Bravo company. This one day is the last day of their Victory Tour, a national celebration for Bravo’s defeat of Iraqi insurgents, a feat filmed by a news channel and uploaded to YouTube. In this age, people can be YouTube sensations by recording themselves singing songs in the hopes that…

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Book Club Book Review – Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating Early is one of those books that I might not have bothered to read had it not been our book club’s first selection for this year. It’s a middle-grade novel about Jackie, a 13-year-old Kansas boy who moves to a boarding school in Maine, and Early, an eccentric classmate who lives at the school basement. One might have thought that the title is a descriptive action, such as Waking Up…

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Weekend Book Review – Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Rabbit, Run is the first novel in John Updike’s critically acclaimed Rabbit Angstrom series. In the 2006 survey conducted by the New York Times, which asked for the best American novel of the last 25 years, the Rabbit Angstrom novels emerged as one of the runners-up. I’m more interested in the last two installments of the series, but I figure that if I want to read them, I might as well…

Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams by Alexander McCall Smith

Weekend Book Review – Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams by Alexander McCall Smith

Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams is a retelling of the myth of the eponymous god. This is part of the Canongate Myth series, an ambitious project where many writers, such as Margaret Atwood, Ali Smith, Michel Faber, A. S. Byatt, and more, contribute their modern takes on various myths. Most of the entries are short novels. If you do not have any mythological background, in this case Angus’s, you…

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

Weekend Book Review – Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is a collection of essays that provides bookish conversations to bibliophiles. It’s also a literary memoir because Fadiman injects bookish anecdotes about her reading life, which includes her family. Some favorite topics include arranging books in one’s own library, classifying the kinds of readers, buying second-hand books, and growing up and still living in a world of books. In Marrying Libraries, Fadiman discusses the…

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

A Love Story Framed Within a House of Horror – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

It is a curious thing to have a chat with a book store manager who is ardently recommending a book to a customer. I was such a lucky customer, and upon browsing the book being recommended to me, I was amazed to see the text artfully laid out on the creamy pages. Mirrored text, inverted text, scattered text, text grouped in tight squares, text running at the bottom of the…

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

A Search for the Meaning of Life – To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse (1927) tells the vacation of the Ramsays and their guests at the family’s summer house. There is really not much of plot summary to offer. It is two days divided by a decade concluding in a trip to the lighthouse. The absence of a surface plot is accounted by the rich interior lives of its characters: Lily Briscoe, Mr. Ramsay, and Mrs. Ramsay, the central character who held everyone…

A Death in the Family by James Agee

A Child’s Perception of Death – A Death in the Family by James Agee

A Death in the Family (1957) explores the bliss of marital life and the tragedy of death through the points of view of the surviving wife and the little children. The author, James Agee, is a self-doubting alcoholic with three wives and four children. He died of a heart attack inside a cab before he finished this autobiographical novel. He had worked on it for seven years. After his death, editor…

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Comic Books Aren’t Trash – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a novel that is set during the golden age of comic books. The eponymous heroes Kavalier and Clay team up to create their own series of comic books that features The Escapist, a superhero that has powers of escape and liberation. These superpowers are drawn from the creators’ own desires and fantasies to escape their own chains: Joe Kavalier wants to free…

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan

Serial Mysteries – Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan

Smaller and Smaller Circles is a mystery novel that revolves around two Jesuit priests, Father Gus Saenz and Father Jerome Lucero, investigating a series of killings at the Payatas dumpsite, a popular one in the Philippines. Having a background in forensic anthropology, the two priests are tapped by the men of the National Bureau of Investigation to assist them in capturing the killer who cleanly rips off the faces and…

Ulverton by Adam Thorpe

Hear the Voice of the Dead – Ulverton by Adam Thorpe

Ulverton is a novel composed of a dozen short stories bound together by the history of the fictional village Ulverton. The stories are ordered chronologically, from 1650 to 1988, and these stories are told in different styles and different points of view. It’s a pastiche made of a traditional short story, a sermon, a journal, a series of literate letters, a series of illiterate letters, a bar story, a set…

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Sometimes, you just don’t get it – The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending is narrated by Tony Webster, a man who has been more or less successful: a steady career, an easy retirement, a friendly marriage followed by a friendlier divorce, an unproblematic daughter. In other words, life is not bothersome for Tony until he receives a letter from a solicitor stating that Adrian Finn, a friend from 40 years ago, left him a diary through the will…

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Not for the Impatient – The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

The English Patient is a novel set in World War II that tells the history of the English patient, a desert explorer who is burned to an unrecognizable toast by a plane crash. He is taken care of by a nurse named Hana. While these two quietly continue to survive, two more characters arrive, characters who would make a small family with the nurse and the patient and who would…

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

Friendship Over – A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

A Passage to India is a novel that explores the tension between the local Indians and the British colonizers. The novel begins with Adela Quested traveling to India to experience the culture of the country. Things go awry when Adela accuses Dr. Aziz, a young Indian doctor, of a crime that he didn’t even attempt to do. The doctor, who is already embittered by the treatment of the British towards…

Mysteries by Knut Hamsun

The Man in the Yellow Suit – Mysteries by Knut Hamsun

Mysteries is a novel about Johan Nagel, a man who suddenly lives in a small Norwegian town and who gets the townspeople going with his eccentric thoughts and impulsive acts. With no apparent reason for sojourning in the town and then leaving it just as soon as he arrived, Nagel probes into the deep recesses of the people’s souls, thereby disrupting the peace of the people and turning everyone against…