Monday, August 1, 2016

Mini Reviews: Very Good Lives, Outrun the Moon, Kindred Spirits


I tend to avoid reviewing books right after I finish in case my immediate feelings affect my actual thoughts, but this often leads to never actually talking about my opinion because I'm also forgetful. I don't share too much on Twitter while I'm reading (spoiling someone is something I hope never to do), so here you go: A THREE FOR ONE DEAL! I'm actually just playing catch-up (I will probably never catch up, tbh) and sharing my recent reads: an inspirational speech and two stories — one that takes place during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the other about a passionate fan.


Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
Non-Fiction • 5 stars
In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, Very Good Lives presents J.K. Rowling's words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life. How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others?

Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world famous author addresses some of life's most important questions with acuity and emotional force.
"Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination
to succeed in the one arena where I believed I truly belonged." (32)

If you haven't heard Jo's speech or read this short piece yet, please drop everything you're doing and pick it up. I really wish I had this back when I was in high school — timid and afraid me would've benefitted greatly from it. While I can't say for sure that my life would be completely different had I heard this speech then, I'd like to think I would have tried more things and taken more steps outside my comfort zone. Very Good Lives was incredibly inspiring, and knowing that she has experienced failure before becoming successful brings a bit of hope as well as validity on why failing doesn't have to be a bad thing.

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously
that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default." (34)

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Young Adult // Historical Fiction • 4 stars
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty of Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare's School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare's is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong — until disaster strikes.
How can I say that this book was simple without diminishing its value? (I'm still trying to figure that out.) It's clear that this story takes place before/during/after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and while that is a big deal in and of itself, the characters and the way racism/prejudice is woven in is what makes Outrun the Moon shine. We follow a headstrong Chinese-American girl, Mercy Wong, who doesn't take "no" for an answer. She goes after what she wants, no matter what people say about her. But even when she's treated differently because of her ethnicity and status, she responds unlike most would. Outrun the Moon is simple in the way it's told — anyone reading this book will see how family is valued in Chinese culture, for example, and I am thankful that this is a good representation of where I come from. (For those of you who don't know, I am also Chinese-American!)

"... all cards return to the deck at some point — kings, queens, and even twos." (239)

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Young Adult // Contemporary • 3.25 stars
If you broke Elena's heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she's expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does.

What she's not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectible Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels.
Finally, an author who writes about the struggles of waiting in line and needing to pee! I've seriously wondered more times than I'd like to admit — when will authors start including characters who have bladder troubles? But I digress, it would probably make an uninteresting story. Maybe.

I read the first ten pages of Kindred Spirits at least five times because I couldn't commit to finishing it (note: it was only 62 pages. I know, I'm pathetic ...) but it was far from boring. Who knew a story about waiting in line could be interesting? You don't need to have seen Star Wars to read this one, but I think you'll appreciate it more if you are passionate about something. My only complaint is that I wish there was more. A couple of things were brought up (for example, Elena's dad being her gateway to Star Wars) that seemed to have significance but ended up being nothing much. Cutesy story, nonetheless. Not surprising, especially coming from Rainbow Rowell.

What did you read this past week?
If you've read any of these books, please tell me what you thought!
Do you like reading mini reviews? Or do you prefer a thorough review?

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