Happy Birthday, Pride & Prejudice!

Originally published on January 28th, 1813 our beloved Pride and Prejudice is now 203 years old — that means there have been 203 years of ladies and gentlemen fawning over the handsome, mysterious and ever-brooding Mr. Darcy.

Let’s celebrate in style — cover art, style!

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We Should All Be Feminists

 Title: We Should All Be Feminists
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publisher: Vintage
Release Date: 2014
Source: Chapters
Rating: 5/5
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What does “feminism” mean today?  That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay — adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name — by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.  With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century — one rooted in inclusion and awareness. (Goodreads)

I’ve been wanting to read this little book for quite some time now, and although I had never gotten around to watching her Tedx talk, I have heard of how much this essay has inspired gender equality and feminism in communities around the world.  For example, the Swedish Women’s Lobby is working to distribute the essay to every high school student. (You can read more about it here.)

From having male friends as a child and forgoing femininity to fit in, to being undermined for trying to do your job in a professional workplace environment, to the ways gender roles affect your home life, Adichie explores the hardships and injustices of being a woman.  With insight and eloquence, she opens the dialogue on feminist issues — whether it’s education on the issue itself (ie. What does feminism mean?) or detailing how sexism impacts both women and men in everyday life, she chooses to discuss feminism in a positive and educational way that excites and inspires the senses.

We Should All Be Feminists is a quick read and can easily be finished within an hour.  I would honestly recommend it to everyone — male, female, non-binary, old, young, whatever — everyone NEEDS to read this essay at least once in their lives.

Feminism is an issue that affects everyone, so educate yourself and your friends.  I can guarantee that Adichie’s essay will change someone’s life.  It changed mine.

If you don’t feel like buying the book, you can find Adichie’s 30-minute TEDxEuston talk here.

Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale

 Title: Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale
Author: Gigi Levangie
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Release Date: 2013
Source: Chapters
Rating: 3/5
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Perry Gonzalez is not like the other kids in her Beverly Hills high school — a full-blooded Latina on a scholarship, living in a tiny apartment with her mother, she doesn’t have much in common with the spoiled, privileged kids who are chauffered to school every morning.  But Perry is a budding young writer with her sights set on Bennington — and her seven deadly stories are her ticket to the Ivory Tower.  To pay her way, Perry’s been babysitting (correction: teenage-sitting) and tutoring the neighbourhood kids, and she has seen the dark side of adolescence: lust for the “Judas Brothers” that leads to electrocution at a private birthday party concert; wrath that inspires new and perverse family bonds; and greed, in a young Bernie Madoff acolyte who conceives of a copycat Ponzi scheme involving his own grandmother. (Goodreads)

 Written in the style of a university application, Levangie’s novel tells the story of a young Latina named Perry.  She doesn’t quite fit in at her high school populated by rich white kids, but makes the most of it by becoming the go-to tutor, babysitter, therapist, etc… for many of her classmates.  These classmates are the subject of her application letter.

An aspiring English major and writer, Perry Gonzalez is quite the relatable character.  As many English majors and writers might tell you, we were the underdogs of high school, but Perry manages to become the school’s unsung hero.

As the title suggests, Seven Deadlies, shows Perry’s battle with the seven deadly sins — lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.  Each sin is represented by a classmate or “friend,” and Perry must learn to navigate these hardships and ultimately learn to distinguish right from wrong.  Although the situations Perry deals with are extremely exaggerated and entertaining, it is difficult to not self-identify with the children she works with.  My favourite moment in the novel is most likely the most pivotal moment in the story, when Perry gets a major wake-up call and realizes that she is an embodiment of one of the seven deadly sins herself.  It is at this point that she is able to make a difference and help someone in need, find love and manage to feel normal.

The book would have ended perfectly with the arrival of Perry’s rejection letter, as she’s technically only in her first year of high school and nowhere near graduation, however, the novel has a twist end, which in my opinion, ruined the end.   I found this quite unfortunate as, without giving away too much, it was still an extremely entertaining book up until this “afterwards” of sorts, undermined the entire novel.

Most Anticipated Reads of 2016 – I

I know I’m a little late, but like any book-lover, I’m a sucker for a good book.  As you might have seen from Goodreads and other fantastic websites, 2016 looks to be a promising year for literature.  Here’s a shortlisted pick of my six most anticipated novels from January until June 2016 — and if you think I missed out on a great piece of literature, let me know in the comments.

* * *

January

25817032Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson

In the roiling summer of 1977, eleven-year-old Mira is an aspring ballerina in the romantic, highly competitive world of New York City ballet.  Enduring the mess of her parent’s divorce, she finds escape in dance — the rigorous hours of practice, the exquisite beauty, the precision of movement, the obsessive perfectionism.  Ballet offers her control, power, and the promise of glory.  It also introduces her to forty-seven-year-old Maurice DuPont, a reclusive, charismatic balletomane who becomes her mentor.

(from HarperCollins)

On sale: January 26, 2016

Also anticipated for January: The Stargazer’s Sister by Carrie Brown, Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivak, What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, The Unfinished World by Amber Sparks, and And Again by Jessica Ciarella.

* * *

February

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The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

Haunted by a failed love affair and the darkest of family secrets, Waldemar ‘Waldy’ Tolliver wakes one morning to discover that he has been exiled from the flow of time. The world continues to turn, and Waldy is desperate to find his way back-a journey that forces him to reckon not only with the betrayal at the heart of his doomed romance but also the legacy of his great-grandfather’s fatal pursuit of the hidden nature of time itself.

(from Macmillan)

On sale: February 9, 2016

Also anticipated for February: Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee, Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore, She Weeps Each Time You’re Born by Quan Barry, and Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney.

* * *

March

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The Jazz Palace by Mary Morris

One night he is asked to sit in with a group. His playing is first-rate. The trumpeter, a black man named Napoleon, becomes Benny’s friend and musical collaborator. A saloon owner, Pearl Chimbrova, hires the duo to play at her saloon, which Napoleon christens The Jazz Palace. But Napoleon’s main gig is at a mob establishment, which doesn’t take kindly to their musicians freelancing . . . As Benny, Napoleon, and Pearl navigate the highs and the lows of the Jazz Age, a bond is forged among them that is as memorable as it is lasting.

(from Knopf Doubleday)

On sale: March 8, 2016

Also anticipated for March: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, Hold Still by Lynn Steger Strong, and Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton.

* * *

April

710160Z+dZL.jpgHystopia by David Means

At the bitter end of the 1960s, after surviving multiple assassination attempts, President John F. Kennedy has created a vast federal agency, the Psych Corps, dedicated to maintaining the nation’s mental hygiene by any means necessary. Soldiers returning from Vietnam have their battlefield traumas “enfolded”–wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy–while veterans too damaged to be enfolded roam at will in Michigan, evading the Psych Corps and reenacting atrocities on civilians.

(from Macmillian)

On sale: April 19, 2016

Also anticipated for April: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, Now and Again by Charlotte Rogan, and Letters to Kevin by Stephen Dixon.

* * *

May

9781101875773Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe

Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after years of absence, Lucas is a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera’s life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother’s homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel who escaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth? Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love, and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a wildly accomplished, stunningly emotional book.

(from Penguin Random House)

On sale: May 24, 2016)

Also anticipated for May: The Fox was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller, Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, and Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett.

* * *

June

51vC4CP0F3L.jpgThe Girls by Emma Cline

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

(from Penguin Random House)

Also anticipated for June: Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, and They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine.

Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Title: Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Author: Gregory Maguire
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 1996
Source: Chapters
Rating: 4/5
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When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale we heard only her side of the story.  But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil? (Goodreads)
Have you ever wondered what life would be like over the rainbow? Way up high in the lands of Oz?  Have you ever wanted to know the real Wicked Witch of the West?  Well then, you’re in for a treat.
Set in the mystical world of Oz, the story begins in Rush Margins, the small town where the Wicked Witch of the West, or Elphaba, was born.  Elphaba is born with skin a “scandalous shade of pale emerald,” razor sharp teeth and oddly angular features, and despite these flaws, we see that Elphaba undergoes major character development and growth throughout the novel.  As she learns about the world and experiences it for herself, she learns to come to terms with herself — from birth, she is treated as a curse to her parents, but she is a smart girl who excels in school and pursues a revolutionary role in the Animal Rights Movement.  However, despite her intentions, Elphaba remains an outsider from society until her death.
 
Wicked is a re-telling of Baum’s classic tale, however there are many obvious distinctions between the two novels.  The greatest are narrative points of view, Elphaba’s in Wicked and Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz, allowing for a greater and more well-rounded story on Baum’s characters and world, as well as the intended audience.  While The Wizard of Oz is a fairy tale for children where the heroine overcomes the evil Wicked Witch of the West that torments every living being in Oz, Wicked is about a woman killed for her political views.
 

I would personally recommend Wicked to anybody ready to face a literary challenge.  Though Maguire writes with some complexity, and sophistication, as well as deals with mature themes, making it a novel geared for adults, it is a novel well worth-reading just for the story itself.  Wicked is also part of Maguire’s The Wicked Years tetralogy, which continue Elphaba’s story through the eyes of her son, the Cowardly Lion and her grand-daughter, and although I have not yet read the final instalment of the series, I highly recommend to read each one and they individually bring new life to Elphaba’s story.

New year. New blog.

As an English major, literature plays an important role in my life.  I’m constantly reading and writing, and often write about my readings, but it gets tiring after a while to read and write for academic purposes.  That’s why I’ve created this blog.

2015 was a bad year for me in terms of reading.  In fact, it was so bad that I hardly did any of my required readings for my courses. I’m not sure what happened, but I lost all interest and motivation to read and write — the fact that Frankenstein had been assigned for 5 different classes might have; played part in this — and I want to change that.

As we ring into the new year, I’ve decided to push myself to try new things — one of them being this blog.  I hope that maintaining a book review blog will not only help me get back into the swing of reading and writing and help me renew my love of reading and writing.

Wish me luck!

Stephanie Meloche