Carolina VonKampen

Editor. Reader. Writer.

Category: book review (page 1 of 2)

What I’ve Been Reading in Summer 2018

Summer: It’s too hot to exercise outside, and it’s also too busy to curl up with piles of books indoors in the sweet, sweet central air conditioning of our new apartment. I’ll admit: I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. Or maybe it’s more like a reading slowdown. And admittedly, I haven’t been writing blog posts or book reviews, either. So before you start asking, “What have you even been doing all summer?” (hint: so much work), here’s what I’ve been reading in summer 2018.

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Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

I’ve owned Four Seasons in Rome since fall 2016 after a professor recommended it to me, but I was waiting for the right time to read it. Back in 2016, it was too soon after my semester abroad, and I didn’t want to overwrite memories of Rome and Italy with Doerr’s accounts of it. I feared that I would never get to go back to Rome, so I would wait until I was much older to read about the place I loved but couldn’t visit. But then life took its course, and I returned to Rome for eight days in winter 2018 on my honeymoon. Now, my memories of Rome are multilayered; it is sometimes hard to remember which trip memories belong to. So I figured that summer 2018 was as good a time as any to read a writer’s account of Rome, even though I knew the book make me miss it.

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Hunger by Roxane Gay

In Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay explores the interconnectedness between her rape, trying to feel safe in her own body, and gaining weight. Gay writes: “This is a book about my body, about my hunger, and ultimately, this is a book about disappearing and being lost and wanting so very much, wanting to be seen and understood. This is a book about learning, however slowly, to allow myself to be seen and understood.”

Gay holds nothing back. As she says: “I’ve been forced to look at my guiltiest secrets. I’ve cut myself wide open. I am exposed. That is not comfortable. That is not easy.” She isn’t hyperbolizing here—this memoir digs deep into her self and her body. As a reader, I was initially uncomfortable being drawn into such a personal story, but Gay handles this intimacy well. She lays it bare without giving gratuitous details—she says it’s still hard to talk about. I can see why. It’s hard to read about the terrible thing that was done to her and how she’s still healing from it, but it’s important to read in order to understand Gay’s narrative throughout her memoir and the effect that these things have on women on a societal level. Continue reading

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba is a haunting novel about a little girl, Marina, who is sent to an orphanage after her parents die in a car crash that she survived. The other girls at the orphanage, however, aren’t so welcoming. They want to love her, but cannot; Marina wants to be accepted by them, but isn’t. Barba explores the inability to communicate and the heightened reality of childhood as his characters cannot break out of their fated roles and barrel on toward inevitable tragedy. It’s a short book at 97 pages, but the prose, mood, and intense characterization gripped me long after I put it down. Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

S. Jae-Jones, a host of one of my favorite podcasts, Pub Crawl Podcast, recommended the children’s book Un Lun Dun by China Miéville for readers who love Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth. I do love both of those books. I’ve reread Alice in Wonderland multiple times, and I strongly considered doing a book report on The Phantom Tollbooth in fourth grade but couldn’t figure out how to obtain the refrigerator box I felt was necessary to pull it off. So, I decided to take a look at Un Lun Dun and decide: To read or not to read? Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: The End We Start From

I first came across The End We Start From on a LitHub list of new releases in November. The initial description checked a lot of boxes for me: literary fiction, lots of overarching metaphors, beautiful prose. It sounded promising (and the cover looked gorgeous). When I saw it on the shelf in Barnes & Noble, I had to pick it up and decide for myself: To read or not to read? Continue reading

Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review by William Nelson

William Nelson gives the Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison ample historical context and addresses new interpretations of it in light of recent scholarship in Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review. Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

If you don’t know, Daniel Handler is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, aka Lemony Snicket. I love love LOVE A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I haven’t read anything else by Handler. His latest novel, All the Dirty Parts, was recently published by Bloomsbury, so I picked up a copy to decide: To read or not to read? Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

I admit, I’m already a bit biased toward reading Robin Sloan’s second novel, Sourdough. I enjoyed Sloan’s debut novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and I heard Sloan speak on an author panel at BookFest St. Louis. Naturally, he talked about this new novel, specifically about how food is such an interesting topic to write about and how he wrote his characters. I couldn’t resist picking this book up on a Barnes and Noble visit and to take a peek at the first few pages to decide: To read or not to read? Continue reading

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a young adult novel about an Indian boy, Junior, who decides to go to a white school off the Spokane reservation to get a good education. He is attacked by his own community for his choice and rejected at Reardan, the white school off the reservation. The book, told in a diary structure, tells of his struggles to fit in and find his identity. Continue reading

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