An Insider’s Look: Reviewing My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Before I entered college, I knew that I was going to dive headlong into the literary world. Thankfully enough, I managed to find classes that specialized in editing and publishing fiction and non-fiction. I have learned much in these classes through my brutally honest and hilarious professor. As part of the curriculum, she had us read this particular novel. I went into it not thinking I would enjoy it that much but it ended up teaching me more than I expected.

My Salinger Year is an autobiographical account of Rakoff’s experiences working for a literary agency. To her surprise, she finds out that this particular agency represents the famed J.D. Salinger. Rakoff recalls as she tries to find a balance between the demanding and fast-paced work of keeping up with Salinger and her turbulent relationship with her boyfriend. She gives an in-depth look into the business side of literature and the struggle that college graduates go through when finding a life after school. Rakoff’s funny and honest narrative offers a relatable and cautionary tale for those looking into the literary field.

Though My Salinger Year is a rather short book (it’s just under 300 pages), it is full of depth and insightfulness. I like to describe as The Devil Wears Prada for book worms. Anyone who is interested in the literary industry will enjoy this particular autobiography. Rakoff’s writing feels as though she is telling you the story face-to-face and she is not afraid to get personal. I appreciate her open narrative and her message to just keep pushing through no matter how tough the problem is.

 

The Tale of the Lost Gods: Reviewing American Gods by Neil Gaiman

As I have mentioned in a previous review, I have been interested in mythology for a long time. American Gods seemed like an obvious choice for me to read. Since Starz has released the television adaptation of this book, I figured that I would give a review of it for anyone who is either not familiar with it or anyone watching the series. (Note: The Starz adaptation is excellent but it does take have differences, like any book-to-screen adaptation).

American Gods centers around Shadow Moon who is released from prison after finding out about the death of his wife, Laura. While traveling back home as a free man, he meets the enigmatic and quick-witted Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job as his assistant. Since Shadow realizes he has nowhere to go, he accepts the offer. Soon Shadow is thrown into a battle between the forgotten gods of the past and the new gods of the future. As the lines between reality and mythology blur, Shadow must decide where he stands and what he truly believes in.

First and foremost, what I love about this book are the interweaving narratives. Not only do you get to follow Shadow as he travels across America to meet with lost gods, but there are other narratives from across time that illustrate how beliefs travel across the world and either thrive or are forgotten. Gaiman isn’t afraid to be explicit or get a little philosophical. (Another note: this book is pretty R-rated, as is the tv show). Gaiman’s combination of dark humor and observations about mankind’s beliefs are thought provoking and eye opening. I had a tough time putting down this book when I first read it. I laughed and cried and gaped in awe at the revelations made by Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. It is many different stories stitched together into one beautiful and mysterious tapestry depicting personifications of human beliefs. American Gods is beyond unique and depicts a new kind of America where religion is put to the test against the future.

 

 

A New Kind of Ghost Story: Reviewing Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Ever since I was young, I have found ghost stories fascinating. No matter how far fetched they are, I still want to hear them. After a while, though, they begin to sound similar and the tropes wear out. Hollywood is still continuing to wring out as many horror movies focused on ghosts. The “creepypasta” phenomenon has swept through the Internet in a swift and it is hard to find something unique. Lauren Oliver, the author of the Delirium trilogy and Before I Fall, offers a fresh take on the idea of a ghost story. The ghosts, in this case, are not malevolent but sarcastic and friendly, while the living are the ones dealing with problems much darker than any haunted house.

Rooms is told from the perspective of two of the previous owners of the small ranch house in which the story takes place. Alice, the first deceased owner of the house, is as quiet and reserved in death as she was in life while Sandra, the second deceased former owner, is opinionated, stubborn, and talkative. Together, the two inhabit the house and reflect on their lives and deaths. When the current owner of the house dies, the two ghosts watch with anticipation as the estranged family comes back to deal with his death.   Secrets are revealed and relationships are further strained. The tension of the family drama and the backstories of Sandra and Alice make for an emotional and haunting (pun intended) read.

I love this particular novel for its unique story telling and intriguing characters. The tone offers a refreshing mix of realism and surrealism. It is definitely far from a horror story but more of a family drama. The story lines of the living and the dead are wonderfully interconnected through Oliver’s carefully thought out narratives. This novel provides chills and will keep you turning the pages in anticipation. Lauren Oliver’s Rooms is a unique, dark, and beautiful ghost story.

Beauty is Terror: Reviewing The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Note: This is all simply my opinion but I hope you find it helpful nonetheless. I am avoiding spoilers, as well.

The Secret History was the first novel by Donna Tartt I had read. I decided to pick it up again after finally finishing a rather generic but well written crime novel. (I had gotten that book for free so I couldn’t complain too much.) The Secret History, which was Tartt’s first novel, is elegant, cynical, dark, and gripping, It is told through the eyes of Richard Papen, who is reflecting on his years at Hampden College in New England (Connecticut, to be specific.) Richard moved from a boring life in California to start over at Hampden. While he is there, he is drawn to a private and elite professor who teaches a small group of secretive students about the intricacies of Greek and Latin. Richard soon finds himself in over his head in a world of murder, drugs, sex, ancient Greek rituals, and the private lives of upper class.

This novel is particularly unique in its writing style. Tartt, in Richard’s voice, describes rather mundane college happenings in a way that is Shakespearian. Richard, who is simply trying to reinvent himself, is relatable for anyone who has ever wished to get away from their hometown. Also, like other college students, he learns that looks are deceiving. While his experiences are a little more extreme than the average college students’, it is still easy to understand what he is going through. Tartt does an excellent job crafting characters who are complex, dangerous, and painfully human. Hubris is the word that comes to mind when describing the downfalls of the cast of characters in this novel. Anyone familiar with Greek tragedies can recognize the trademarks that Tartt weaves into her novel.

You don’t have to necessarily be interested in Homer or know Latin to enjoy this novel. While these drew me into the novel in the first place, anyone who is interested in dramas or thrillers will definitely enjoy Tartt’s novel. I highly recommend this book for those seeking an intelligent and well-crafted novel that keeps you wanting more. It’s combination of realism and drama is compelling and hard to stop reading. The Secret History is an engaging novel with a depth and eloquence that few can capture.

(Also for more images of Greek statues in modern clothing, check out this link: )

Intro to my New Blog

Hello everyone, this is my very first post on this blog. I have never really done something like this before so here goes nothing. I mostly want this blog to be about book reviews that are both honest and extensive. Hopefully, I can also talk about writing, authors, book-to-movie adaptations, and anything else happening in the literary world. I am not a professional author or anything like that but I am currently majoring in English and hope to enter a profession in the literary world. I will try to post something soon. I look forward to starting this new blog. Thank you for reading this and I hope you have an enjoyable day.

– Emily