book review · books · shanti

I Live At the Edge of An Island (like everyone else)

hello Virtually Readers! It has been A WHILE and it will probably continue to be A While between posts. Shar and I have made our peace with this, and for the time being this lovely blog holds years of effort and memories, while we keep reading and finding life in other places. So it goes, and I’m not going to apologise. But I’m currently indoors (because I can’t go outside, because virus), and I’m drinking tea, and it is rainy and I do not have any university work or journalism to do…so I thought I’d review a book I read yesterday.


All Who Live on Islands introduces a bold new voice in New Zealand literature. In these intimate and entertaining essays, Rose Lu takes us through personal history – a shopping trip with her Shanghai-born grandparents, her career in the Wellington tech industry, an epic hike through the Himalayas – to explore friendship, the weight of stories told and not told about diverse cultures, and the reverberations of our parents’ and grandparents’ choices. Frank and compassionate, Rose Lu’s stories illuminate the cultural and linguistic questions that migrants face, as well as what it is to be a young person living in 21st-century Aotearoa New Zealand.


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book review · books · discussions · features · shanti

‘Tis the Season of Rereading Strange The Dreamer

Welcome back to ‘Tis the Season of Rereading, people! I’m back where it all began (at least, this series) in India with wintry air and slow internt and a lot of gladness. It’s approprading and reviewing one of my favourite books of this year–Strange the Dreamer, and its sequel, Muse of Nightmares.

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book review · books · shanti

I Was Born For This

Hi Virtually Readers! I like to escape to other places, though I’m not good at doing it. I like books and cake and essays and blogging. I have never gotten deep into a fandom—I think you need a tumblr account for that—but I would still call myself a fan of many things. And I Was Born for This is a book about fandom. While I don’t see myself in the obsessive fandom that Angel has for The Ark, I still loved how Oseman writes about obsession and immersion in other people’s lives. After all, that’s why I read. (a copy of this book was provided for review by Harper Collins New Zealand, which was nice of them, but it has not impacted my thoughts because I knew I was gonna love it)

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book review · books · shanti

our chemical hearts and sadness

Now, I know I don’t talk about this all that much, but I am, in fact, a high school newspaper editor. I love doing this (even though it’s a chief stressor in my life as well) and it’s something I care a lot about. So of course, when I heard about Krystal Sutherland’s book Our Chemical Hearts, where the protagonist is a high school newspaper editor, I was BEYOND EXCITED. I bought the book, read it eagerly–and was sorely disappointed.The way  this story examined the manic pixie dream girl trope was interesting, and I get that it was a tragic love story (though I had a few issues with that too) but newspaper wasn’t a big enough part of the story.

The examination of the manic pixie dream girl trope and the love story worked, though I have quibbles, but the abandonment of newspaper let me down.
Grace *seems* like a manic pixie dream girl. It’s said explicitly–and then the truth is revealed. Manic pixie dream girls (aka, a quirky girl whose role in the story is to bring the ‘ordinary’ boy out of his shell) are ridiculous, so I did appreciate this. Henry is obsessed with her–and she does teach him a lot. But the key here is that Grace’s state of being: sad, frustrated, peculiar, inconsistent–it’s seen as a negative thing. It’s seen as her being broken, and not in a beautiful way. She tells him this. He knows it. He learns it. Maybe she’s a manic pixie dream girl, but she shouldn’t stay that way forever. However, while I appreciate some good trope reversion, this was sort of inconsistent. Grace comes out with these incredibly beautiful, wise statements, and I appreciated the writing, but the message was inconsistent. She was strangely self aware–she kept reminding Henry that he was in love with the idea of who she could be, not her as she was, so it didn’t really destroy the trope.
The love story is not going to go well. It’s pretty obvious from the inside flap: Love is an Epic Disaster, it reads. Henry wants Grace. He loves her. It’s not *quite* instalove, but it almost is. They laugh together and kiss and tease and message and make powerpoints (so the formatting was rather cool), and have sex, and you know it’s going to end terribly, because they aren’t quite right for each other. What I liked about the love story, though, was that there are lots of love stories, all at once. There was Sadie (my favourite character), divorcing, loving her child. Madison, queen, imperfect. Murray, obsessed with this one girl and making a fool of himself. Lola and Georgia are *seemingly* perfect. One thing did upset me, though, and that was the parents love story. The resolution of this in the novel really irked me, but no spoilers.
This book takes place in a bland, New-Englandish town (said the girl who has never been to the US). The setting didn’t even have a name, and that annoyed me. There’s high school, but the love story consumes everything. And while I know that first love can be that way, some of the things I was most looking forward to about this book were abandoned. Like, the newspaper. I read this book for the newspaper, and it was basically a barely developed afterthought. The whole story just didn’t seem quite cohesive. Stuff would happen (e.g. Henry going to Grace’s house), without clear lead up. (I may have been reading too fast?). and the drafts thing on Henry’s phone, what was the point of that? And the random parties? And the drinking? and SO MANY pop culture references. There was no clear flow, apart from the love story, in this novel, and everything (other than angst) just felt a little under nourished.
This book is funny, quirky, and anti-romantic in mostly good ways. But it didn’t work for me, because the tropes were still there, and lots of important things were ignored.

What’s a book that’s disappointed you? Are there any books with a good portrayal of high school newspapers (because believe me, I will read them)? And have you read this one?