Thanks for the Memories

  • What: Warlight
  • Who: Michael Ondaatje
  • Pages: 285, hard cover
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Everybody loves a good plot twist, myself included. In my review of Rich People Problems, in fact, I praised author Kevin Kwan for his ability to keep you guessing with one curveball after the next, which ensured the book was never dull (among other wonderful qualities). In retrospect, clues had been leading up to these revelations since book one, and nothing felt out of place.

I can’t quite say the same thing about Michael Ondaatje’s 2018 hit, Warlight. What saddens me about this conclusion is that I loved this book up to the ending. Ondaatje’s writing is beautiful and poetic, and it evokes the exact sadness and curiosity the characters feel. Ondaatje paints a mystery yearning to be told. But when he finally reveals the secrets, he does so with a twist too far out of left field that leaves you with a bad impression. Warlight, though exquisite, couldn’t quite close the deal, which is why I can’t quite give it more than three flames.

Warlight

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Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

  • What: Forest Dark
  • Who: Nicole Krauss
  • Pages: 290, hard cover
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2017
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Sometimes flipping the last page of a book leaves us absolutely befuddled.

“What exactly happened here in these few hundred pages to which I devoted significant time, energy, and brain power?”

Fortunately, only a few books spur this thought. Nicole Krauss’ 2017 hit was one of them. For a novel that garnered much attention and praise and made many best-of lists, I was ready to be blown away. Forest Dark, however, left me lost and grasping for more clarity and purpose … not unlike the main characters.

Forest Dark

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Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Every so often I come across a book that I just can.not.put.down.

Kevin Kwan had already given me one of those masterpieces in the first book of his showstopping series, Crazy Rich Asians. After feeling slightly disappointed with the sequel, Kwan lifted me back up in a triumph that completely took over one weekend.

You’re batting .667, Kwan, which is not too shabby.

Rich People Problems is a culmination of everything great about its predecessors: crazy characters, hilarious encounters, jaw-dropping money, exquisite details, twisting plots, and did I say jaw-dropping money? It’s almost as if Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend were the opening acts for this grand finale that possesses all the signs of a classic.

Rich People Problems

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Go Your Own Way

  • What: The Wife
  • Who: Meg Wolitzer
  • Pages: 219, soft cover
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2003
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

You’d think it would be hard to find humor in a 50-year relationship coming to a close. Meg Wolitzer makes it look easy though. As someone who is known for having little emotion, I fully appreciate that skill and enjoy seeing it at work. The ability to laugh at a divorce and the messed-up flaws of a relationship that’s become way too comfortable is not only refreshing, but it’s a necessary change in literature. That’s why you need to read The Wife.

Giggles aside, Wolitzer’s 2003 novel further demonstrates an interesting conundrum and one that so many couples are familiar with: Leaving is never easy when being together is all you’ve ever known. She flawlessly presents this internal struggle in a witty drama, which details the unpleasant feelings that can develop after being with someone for half of a century. It’s the perfect combination of humor and reality, and literature could certainly use more of it.

*PSA: No disrespect to Glenn Close because I have not seen the 2017 movie adaptation of The Wife, but do not skip the book for the movie. Writing like this needs to be experienced on its own, away from the dramatics and artistry of the silver screen.*

The Wife

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Storied: My Cooled Desire

  • What: Fahrenheit 451
  • Who: Ray Bradbury
  • Pages: 158, soft cover
  • Genres: Classic literature and science fiction
  • Published: 1953
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

You know that feeling when one of your favorite singers comes out with an album that you so desperately want to love, but you’re just like … no … ? You keep listening in the hope that it’ll spark some kind of desire, make the head bop just a smidgen to the left, but after five tries, still … no … ? That’s how I felt about Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods (I fought with myself over it!), and that same feeling emerged with Fahrenheit 451.

I’ve been immensely disappointed in myself for never reading it in my 26 years. It’s not just a classic, but it says so much about literature and society. I had convinced myself (and the world had convinced me) that I would fall in love with this remarkable book when I finally got around to it.

Until I didn’t fall in love. I fooled myself into thinking my enjoyment would commence once I started understanding it a bit more. The truth is it took far too long to really be “in the know,” and even after that happened, I realized this book did very little for me. Bradbury’s classic sci-fi novel earned an extra flame for its message, but ooh ooh I was not on fire with this one.

Fahrenheit 451

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You’ve Got Me Feeling Emotions

  • What: My Dear Hamilton
  • Who: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
  • Pages: 621, soft cover (637 if you count the must-read “Note from the Authors” section)
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Remember my post about July 4th reads? It’s time to add one more.

What can I say about this book besides it was a roller coaster of emotions? Oy vey. I actually think my body and mind morphed into Eliza Hamilton’s. At one moment, I was praising Alexander Hamilton as the greatest American who ever lived — oh how we should bow down.

The next, he was the scum of the earth.

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Then, he was OK. A typical man. Nobody’s perfect after all.

Then came the existential depression.

And just as Monroe was ushering in the Era of Good Feelings to our country, I was starting to balance out again too.

The capricious emotions this book evoked are nothing new; in fact, they symbolize America’s complicated relationship with Hamilton. We want to love him, but his many faults don’t always make it easy. I’m sure the Mrs. would testify to that.

My Dear Hamilton

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Storied: (Un)Fortunate Son

  • What: The Forever War
  • Who: Joe Haldeman
  • Pages: 365, soft cover
  • Genres: Science fiction; classic literature
  • Published: 1974
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

I’ve always said sci-fi wasn’t really my “thing.” I don’t gravitate toward it at the library. I don’t look for the best sci-fi lists. I just click with other genres better. Enter the picture: Kyle, my partner of three years (whaaat?) and a huge sci-fi nerd. When we started dating, he was reading a gargantuan from Stephen King about a virus that wipes out the world.

Yeah. Not quite my thing.

But it is Kyle’s. Apocalyptic warfare? Intense technological enhancements? Human-erasing bugs? That’s him. I’ve read exactly one sci-fi novel in our time together (Station Eleven1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px). So it was only natural that when I closed the cover on Eleanor Oliphant a few weeks ago while sitting next to BF that he suggested I read one of his favorite sci-fi novels: The Forever War. I relented, but he reminded me how I always say I’m going to read one of his books and don’t (truth) and convinced me that the story’s undertones of the Vietnam War, in which the author served, would captivate me.

Ugh he knows me so well.

Fine. For BF, I will read sci-fi. The things you do for love.

The Forever War

Amid Kyle’s massive sci-fi collection.

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