Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Monday, April 29, 2019

14 comments


#speaknoevil

BOOK REVIEW: Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Release Date: March 6, 2018
Genre: Fiction / LGBT / Contemporary
215 Pages
Published by Harper
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating


BOOK BLURB:

In the long-anticipated novel from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation, a revelation shared between two privileged teenagers from very different backgrounds sets off a chain of events with devastating consequences.

On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.

When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.

In the tradition of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, Speak No Evil explores what it means to be different in a fundamentally conformist society and how that difference plays out in our inner and outer struggles. It is a novel about the power of words and self-identification, about who gets to speak and who has the power to speak for other people. As heart-wrenching and timely as his breakout debut, Beasts of No Nation, Uzodinma Iweala’s second novel cuts to the core of our humanity and leaves us reeling in its wake.


MY THOUGHTS:

Some book reviews are really easy to write...others, not so much.
Why is that? You might ask.
Because every now and then you encounter a book so extraordinary, with such a powerful message, that all of a sudden you lose the ability to form words.
Speak No Evil is one of these books.

When I finished reading it, I wanted to shout, or maybe go out for a walk, or get drunk, but instead, I just sobbed on the couch.  How can such a short novel (215 pages) pack such an emotional punch?
This book covers so many different issues (race, sexuality, religion, culture tradition, privilege), that I'm certain I won't be able to even give all the kudos it deserves.

“On the bad days, there is no color. I know there are colors. I can see the colors, but the world looks gray. The sounds are muffled by a crackling web of static that sits behind my eyes and buzzes in my ears.” 

Through this heartbreaking story about coming of age in a conservative immigrant family, Iweala takes us on a journey of self-discovery with Niru, who is torn between the guilt of not being the son his parents expect him to be and the freedom to accept (and love) who he truly is.  His brother OJ, advises him to not pick fights he can't win, when it comes to their parents, but Niru finds it hard to believe his brother would suffer the same judgement from their father.     

“I'm late, the kind of late that suggest I have no regard for the emotional health of my Nigerian parents who probably think I've been kidnapped by the enemies of progress.”

The story was beautifully written, with a natural flow and page-turning effect.  The characters felt realistic, specially with the recent prejudice events we watch on the news.  As we follow Niru and his friend Meredith through the differences in family values and culture, we see how easy it is for the human race to hate one another simply because of being different.

“I'm still me, I want to say to him, your son, but that would hardly help if I am currently everything wrong with the world.”

My final take is that this book should be a requirement in high school.
All teenagers should read it.
All parents should read it.
Everyone. Should. Read. This. Book.







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The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Thursday, April 25, 2019

15 comments

AudioBook Review


AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: The Music Shop 

by Rachel Joyce (Steven Hartley, Narrator)
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018
Genre: Fiction / Music / Romance 
8 hrs 30 mins
Published by Penguin Random House Audio
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️My Goodreads Rating 

BOOK BLURB:

1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need.
Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann.
Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind ...

MY THOUGHTS:

The Music Shop is a nostalgic homage not just to vinyl lovers in general, but to a time when record stores were a place where one could go and talk about their love of music…

The year is 1988 in England.  Frank owns a neighborhood record store that only sells vinyl.  He refuses to sell tapes and/or CDs, but the record Reps keep telling him companies will stop making vinyl.  Production costs are too high and CD sounds are much cleaner.  Frank’s few clients love him.  Frank is like the music-guru-therapist, who can find you the exact music you need to listen in order to ease your troubles.  Together with his only employee, Kit, and the surrounding shop keepers, Frank is part of a community that accepted and welcomed him, and life is good.

“Music is about silence… the silence at the beginning of a piece of music is always different from the silence at the end… Because if you listen, the world changes. It’s like falling in love. Only no one gets hurt.”

Everything changed the day that Ilse Brauchmann fainted in front of his store.  Much to Frank’s surprise, Ilse confesses that she doesn’t listen to music…and so their journey begins.  They meet every week from then on, so that Frank can teach Ilse about music.  He teaches her about Vivaldi, Miles Davis, Sex Pistols, Joni Mitchell.  He talks about what he hears and feels when he listens to certain songs, and he tells Ilse to just listen…

“For Frank, music was like a garden – it sowed seeds in far-flung places. People would miss out on so many wonderful things if they only stuck with what they knew.” 
 
Joyce gave us a cast of characters that is funny and peculiar in their own ways.  In between music lessons, a lot of things happen, and just like real life, people move on, little shops close and music becomes digital.  You’ll need to read this beautiful book to find out what happens…   

“Because life goes on, the music told her, even when you think it can’t. Yes, there is fear. There is real cruelty. Not knowing what the fuck. Those things are there. But listen because there is this too—this beauty. The human adventure is worth it, after all.”

The Music Shop is an irresistible love story about two very different people and the music that brings them together.  A treasure to be cherished by all music and book lovers! 

The audiobook narrator, British actor  Steven Hartley, did a fantastic job!  I will be looking for other audiobooks narrated by him ♥
And, because this book touched me so much, I just couldn't resist ordering a copy of the physical book for my own collection.


”There was once a music shop. From the outside it looked like any shop, in any backstreet. It had no name above the door. No record display in the window. There was just a homemade poster stuck to the glass. FOR THE MUSIC YOU NEED!! EVERYONE WELCOME!! WE ONLY SELL VINYL!!”

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The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Monday, April 22, 2019

13 comments

BOOK REVIEW: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Release Date: May 7th, 2019
Genre: Romance 
320 Pages, Paperback
Published by Berkley 
⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2  My Goodreads Rating 


BOOK BLURB:

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

MY THOUGHTS:

The Bride Test is a cute and quick romance. It’s the perfect beach read!

Just like in The Kiss Quotient, one of the main characters, Khai is autistic and needs help understanding what is love. He's actually pretty sure that he is unable to love. 
Esme, on the other hand, feels that Khai won’t love her for who she is - she believes she's not good enough - so she tries to be someone else.

I enjoyed the story but the main characters didn’t pull me into it.  I didn't feel the chemistry between them. The romance didn’t capture me as much as the previous book did.  Even Khai’s older brother, Quan, felt like a much stronger character whenever he would show up in the story.   

Without getting into spoilers, I also felt that the ending was overdone and a bit unrealistic (I know it's fiction, but it felt too 'soap-operish' for my taste).

Of course I knew it would be hard to top the romantic, game-changer that was The Kiss Quotient, so definitely give The Bride Test a try, which by the way, you can read it as a stand-alone book.  And feel free to drop me a note once you read it.

"She got you a mail-order bride from Vietnam, Khai."

"Why do you say it so it sounds so bad? She's not a 'mail-order bride'. I met her in person."


Note: I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 


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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Thursday, April 11, 2019

6 comments

Book Review #neverletmego

BOOK REVIEW: Never Let Me Go

Release Date: April 5th, 2005
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
288 Pages, Paperback
Published by Vintage Books
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating

BOOK BLURB:

Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Never Let Me Go breaks through the boundaries of the literary novel. It is a gripping mystery, a beautiful love story, and also a scathing critique of human arrogance and a moral examination of how we treat the vulnerable and different in our society. In exploring the themes of memory and the impact of the past, Ishiguro takes on the idea of a possible future to create his most moving and powerful book to date.


MY THOUGHTS:

“We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. 
Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all.”

I had to wait a couple of days before writing this review, because I needed to actually evaluate how this book made me feel (all the feelings)... I enjoyed reading it and was really interested in the whole plot and mystery behind it. But then the whole mystery is revealed and I was angry, but I wasn’t angry at the author. I was angry at the human race. At how history can so easily repeat itself and become acceptable by all. Justified by the necessity to save a few lives...

The beauty of the book is how the author approaches the subject of what makes us humans? How can we define being human? Is it because we have memories? Express emotions? Feel Love? Maybe it is the ability to differentiate right from wrong, but that can get all twisted when the world you live in is unethical, by removing the ability to choose one’s own purpose.

I can’t wait for my book club to discuss this book later on this year!

“All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.”

I know the book was made into a movie but I'm not even sure if I want to watch it, because I have a feeling it will be nearly impossible for the story to translate well into the screen...

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