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The Hearing Test by Eliza Barry Callahan: book review

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The Hearing Test  by Eliza Barry Callahan Overview: The unnamed protagonist suffers sudden hearing loss right as she's preparing to leave for her friend's wedding in Venice. She'd built a life as a freelance composer creating scores for film and TV and had just moved apartments when suddenly the auditory world around her becomes augmented. This short novel follows the protagonist through a year of her life in the aftermath. From seeing doctors on both coasts to a trip to Italy with her mother to navigating feelings for an ex, she has to redefine the contours of her new life. Overall: 4  Characters: 4 The protagonist of the novel is likable enough. We don't get to know her on a particularly substantial or deep level, but I enjoyed probing through her random thoughts and various entanglements as she confronted a major life change. Because the book is only 163 pages, there's a sense that the novel really only skims the surface on a number of fronts, but I didn't mi

The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality by Amanda Montell: nonfiction review

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The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality  by Amanda Montell Overview: "Magical thinking" is the belief that particular words, thoughts, emotions, or beliefs can have a material difference on the outcome of our actual lives–that our thoughts have particular influence on the world around us. It's a common trait among kids, and, more detrimentally, goes hand in hand with mental illnesses like OCD. It is also, as Montell points out, largely promoted by the internet. While not solely focused on magical thinking, that is a solid starting point to explain this book which uses both linguistic and sociological frameworks to capture the weird ways that internet culture messes with our brains and influences our worldview. If you are hyper-online, you'll probably find this to be a real gem. Overall: 4 Notes: Instead of a comprehensive overview of the book, for this review, I wanted to discuss a couple chapters that stood out to me.  The book opens with a dis

Worry by Alexandra Tanner: book review

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Worry  by Alexandra Tanner  Overview:  Jules and Poppy are not the kind of sisters that are best friends, but they are inextricably linked as the only two people who understand their messy family and are thus deeply bonded to one another. While Jules has managed to survive for almost a decade in Brooklyn doing an MFA and then working various at-home writing jobs, Poppy has never found her footing out in the world as she battles severe anxiety. When Poppy shows up on Jules's doorstep, they have to figure out how to navigate life with each other even when neither are sure that's what they really want. Overall: 3.5 Characters: 3  You better like Poppy and Jules if you're going to enjoy this book because they're all you got. This is a very interior book, and the two sisters are the only characters that really have much dimension. Everyone outside their pair is a characteture that exists to make a point more than truly illustrate a person. Jules and Poppy both battle anxiety

After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell: book review

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After You'd Gone  by Maggie O'Farrell Overview: Alice falls into a coma in the first few chapters of the book, but that's only the beginning of her story. Tracing many decades and threads of lives, After You'd Gone  probes the family secrets and intimate realities of Alice and her family. The book jumps around to reveal her parents as young adults, the reality of her grandmother's marriage, Alice's childhood, and her twenties falling in love with a man, always fearing a tragedy. While we get to know Alice's life better than she does, there's the looming question of whether our protagonist will wake up to continue her story. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 There's a pretty oil painting on the library copy that I read, and I feel like that accurately represents how these characters are drawn. Alice and her family members are revealed slowly, seeming fuzzy and then gaining a certain clarity if you're quiet and patient enough. Alice, more than having a stro

The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor: book review

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The Late Americans  by Brandon Taylor Overview: At the University of Iowa, a number of grad students across a variety of prestigious programs have their lives casually intersect and drift apart. From the tensions within an MFA poetry workshop to a painter that keeps surfacing between dancers and writers to the politics of which dancers were set up to chase their dreams, there are deep feelings and messy connections between these students reaching the end of their grad school journeys as well as those who inhabit the university town to build their permanent life. Aimlessly drifting, we follow glimpses of a broad cast's individual, quiet lives.  Overall: 3.5  Characters: 3 This book has an absolutely massive cast, which I'm not opposed to. It's a critique I see a lot for Kiley Reid's new book Come and Get It  as well. I thought it was interesting that this trait in Reid's book didn't bother me, but in The Late Americans , I felt unable to keep track of all the pla

Green Dot by Madeleine Gray: book review

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Green Dot  by Madeleine Gray Overview: Hera is the other woman. Not on purpose. It was an accident, but it happened, and she didn't end it. Instead, she starts living a half-life – turning down her friends and her father's invitations for connection on the off chance he'll be able to meet up, on the off chance he'll leave his wife for her. She knows it's futile, but he becomes an obsession she must rationalize her way through, even in the lowest moments. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I like Hera a lot. I relate to her on a number of fronts. She sticks with the guy even when she finds out he's married because she was never popular in elementary and middle school. No one has ever really seen her, but Arthur sees her. Even though she has a good group of friends now and knows how to work a room, that sad, lonely inner child thrives on the shreds of attention she earns from Arthur. I understand all too well how she fell in so hard. She's also in hear early twenties an

March 2024 Reading Wrap Up

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March has been a major reading month for me because, right in the middle, I had Spring Break, which offered a ton of time to read and access to my hometown library. I honestly thought I'd get more reading done over Spring  Break, but alas, the end of the week turned into a lot of fun social plans, so I guess I can't be mad at that. Still, in that week alone, I read 3 books which offered my usual total boost. I also read a ton of nonfiction through audiobooks that I got really invested in and, therefore, spent more listening hours reading. Looking over the list of what I read, I'm realizing that March truly has been the world's longest month.  I'm heading into a super stressful 5 weeks that include finishing my senior year of college, taking finals, wrapping up one job and starting another, and moving out of LA in a very compressed period of time. This will either  lead to a ton of reading to escape the chaos or almost no reading as my attention has to be everywhere

Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzales: book review

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Anita de Monte Laughs Last  by Xochitl Gonzales Overview: Anita de Monte was shoved out the window by her husband and fellow artist Jack Martin. But he got acquitted and scrubbed the story and Anita from the legacy of his work. Though dead, Anita will not sit quietly by and let that happen. While Anita dies in 1985, it isn't until 1998 that Anita truly gets an opening to correct her legacy when Raquel starts working on her thesis on Jack Martin in junior year at university. While Brown doesn't teach Raquel about de Monte, she eventually learns about the artist whose life mirrors her own more than any she's been presented in class. Overall: 3 Characters: 2 The ideas here are good. The concept of the book is incredible, but the execution leaves so much to be desired. Anita and Raquel are positioned as direct foils for one another. Anita was an artist who fell in love with another famous, rich artist with tons of cultural capital. She was abused by him and ultimately died beca

ReRead Review: Beautiful World Where Are You by Sally Rooney (2024)

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Beautiful World Where Are You  by Sally Rooney Overall: 5 This is going to be an unconventional review because this is not only a re-review but a re-review of a re-review. I first read the book shortly after it was published in 2021 when I was 18. Then, I read it again when I re-read all the Sally Rooney books in 2022 for an English paper. Somewhat famously, this paper and re-reading the books caused a seismic shift in how I viewed Rooney's writing for the better. But, apparently, my 19 year old self wasn't particularly impressed with Beautiful World Where Are You, either, since the first re-review moved my estimation of the book from a 3 star to a 3.5 star.  Now, we've made a massive leap from calling the book mediocre to it being among one of my favorites as I near 21 and my college graduation. Perhaps it makes sense that I've slowly grown into Rooney's novels, first understanding her college novels in a new light and taking longer for this late twenties story to