January In Books

I’m back, dear bookworms!

It has been one wild month of January. Exams, trips, last minute stress from administrative messes – I feel like we’re about to start 2020, not February! Luckily I still had a bit of time to read (mainly on buses, trains, and waiting in offices for paperwork) and made it through a nice stack of books. While I haven’t had time to review every single one, I thought I might walk you through some of them and tell you a bit of what I think.

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. 

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

What a beautiful, bittersweet book. 

Exit West explored our rapidly globalizing world through the lens of a blossoming relationship, with a dash of magical realism. It is at its heart a migrant story, a human story, as migration has been essential to our history just as much as falling in love has been. 

What if, almost overnight, the barriers that kept people in place simply disappeared? If suddenly planes didn’t matter and borders couldn’t keep people out – or in? As the doors linking the world slowly go from rumor to reality, the planet becomes instantly smaller, and migration patterns shift forever. 

And in the middle of it, a couple. Two pot-loving students who were just beginning to fall in love when their city was falling to war. Trying to explore what it means to be linked with someone, all while having to escape the only home they’ve ever known. 

How do relationships change as the world changes? Exit West explores, well, everything. We follow the relationship beginning to end as Nadia and Saeed fall in love, cross the planet, and drift apart. It’s a quiet book, as beautiful and slow moving as a sunset. It’s gentle – but powerful. I loved it.

★★★★★/★★★★★

We Were Liars
by E.Lockart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE. 

I think if I had read We Were Liars when it first came out, I would have been at the perfect age to enjoy it. Now that I’ve grown a bit, reading the novel didn’t feel really shocking: it was a sweet story with not much of a plot until it got to the twist, which was a bit predictable? I hate to say it, but the clues were pretty evident from the beginning. If I hadn’t ‘solved’ it I would have probably enjoyed the reveal a lot more. But I didn’t care much for the love story, and while the family drama was really entertaining – and painful, cringe-worthy at times – I couldn’t fully enjoy it. That and the style of writing that kept shifting was… weird.

★★★☆☆/★★★★★

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful
By Arwen Elys Dayton

For fans of television shows Black Mirror and Westworld, this compelling, mind-bending novel is a twisted look into the future, exploring how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimen and what it means to be human at all.

Set in our world, spanning the near to distant futures, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a novel made up of six interconnected stories that ask how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimens, and how hard that will push the definition of “human.”

This extraordinary work explores the amazing possibilities of genetic manipulation and life extension, as well as the ethical quandaries that will arise with these advances. The results range from the heavenly to the monstrous. Deeply thoughtful, poignant, horrifying, and action-packed, Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is groundbreaking in both form and substance.

I literally could not put this book down: I started it at 9 pm and ended up sitting with it until 2 am, just full-on engrossed in each and every story. Even weeks after reading it, it’s still fresh in my mind.

The novel explored what it means to be human, slowly transitioning from stories of healing to stories of extravagance so that the evolution of mankind doesn’t seem abrupt, but almost natural – even when it’s mankind playing with unnatural selection and augmentation. 

I really can’t write a review because I feel like there is no way of telling the story of this book while giving it justice. You just have to read it for yourself.

★★★★★/★★★★★

With a total of 12 books this year so far, I’m right on target to hit my reading goal! I’m really excited to share with you some of the new books coming my way. You’re going to love them.

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